There’s a clear hierarchy to the sex songs -- the songs, that is, with the word “sex” in their titles -- on Kylie Minogue’s new album, “Kiss Me Once.”
The finest is “Sexy Love,” an irresistible disco-soul number with onamatopoeiac slap bass, followed by “Les Sex,” in which the veteran Australian singer makes what sounds an awful lot like a reference to Viagra: “Take two of these and meet me in the shadows,” she suggests over a thumping robo-funk groove. (Do not confuse “les” with “less.”)
Then, quite a few notches below the others, there is “Sexercize.”
Perhaps the least inspiring workout song of all time, “Sexercize” matches harsh dubstep synth squelches with words about stretching it out and feeling the burn; the tune gives a widely enjoyed activity all the appeal of something one does to satisfy a New Year’s resolution.
As bad as it is, though, the inclusion of “Sexercize” on Minogue’s first set of new tunes since 2010 feels like some kind of victory for listeners who reject the notion that sex (and pop music) belong to the young.
At 45, Minogue is more than twice as old as Miley Cyrus, who helped steer pop back toward raunch in 2013 following several years of propriety from the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen and the Lumineers. Not unreasonably, Cyrus, 21, characterized her perceived indiscretions as a function of her age; Justin Bieber did the same after he was photographed in bed by a woman said to be a porn star.
Yet that rationale implies that such behavior lies beyond the bounds of acceptance for people (especially women) in their 30s and 40s -- a dishearteningly pervasive idea that Minogue beats back on “Kiss Me Once,” as sex-drenched an album as she’s ever made. More important, it’s one of her most natural too, “Sexercize” aside.
Minogue isn’t the only middle-aged free spirit at work right now. Enrique Iglesias, who will turn 39 in May, also has a strong new record out this week, his first since 2010. And like “Kiss Me Once,” “Sex and Love” embraces lust with no shame or apology.
“Day and night, I just imagine how you put your love on me,” Iglesias admits in “I’m a Freak,” “Lights off, lights on, ready for some action.” No wonder the two singers teamed for a duet, “Beautiful,” that appears on both albums.
In neither case does all the satin-pillow talk preclude other topics, or other modes.
Minogue’s disc, for instance, opens with “Into the Blue,” a whooshing club-pop pep talk about staying the course; she goes self-help motivational again in “I Was Gonna Cancel,” which rides a frisky beat from Pharrell Williams. And “If Only,” produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, strikes a woozy, introspective note with glazed vocal harmonies a la Rechtshaid’s other clients Haim.
On the bilingual “Sex and Love,” Iglesias delivers on the latter half of that title with a handful of tender ballads he sings in Spanish.
“El Perdedor,” featuring the Mexican singer-songwriter Marco Antonio Solís, actively downplays a sense of bravado in lyrics that present the two men as heartbroken losers. Later, “Loco” uses the gentle rhythms and dainty guitar work of bachata -- not to mention guest vocals from that Dominican style’s biggest star, Romeo Santos -- to put across a similarly lovelorn quality.
But you don’t invite Pitbull to appear on two separate tracks, as Iglesias does here, unless you’re looking to set a certain mood, one characterized by an excellently lewd (if unprintable) joke Pitbull tells in “Let Me Be Your Lover.”
Minogue makes more or less the same pun in “Feels So Good” -- both involve the words “come” and “go” -- before she takes a step back, mock-admonishing herself for expressing the kind of desire some might say she’s not to express.
“I will start behaving right,” she promises with an audible smirk. But only because, she adds, “I don’t have anything to tie me down tonight.”