Dee Dee (Dum Dum Girls) Talks Kylie Minogue’s Kylie Christmas

For our writer, Minogue’s new Christmas album evokes the ghosts of Kylie Past, Present and Future.

So you think you know me.

Some obscure Primal Scream B-side is my favorite song. I wear black on the outside cuz that’s how I feel on the inside. My livingroom is a shrine to the collected volumes of Girls in the Garage. And I loathe all Top 40.

Well, you’re wrong.

My favorite song is actually by Queen. Sometimes, as if on an emotional diet, I wear white. I pray to Soul Jazz comps — and I am legit obsessed with the Weeknd, landing me right among the masses.

I love pop music. I have always loved pop music. Like a good cliché, when it’s right, it’s just right. A scene-addled high schooler, I was a Venn diagram. Subculture and mainstream pop culture met in my middle. I reserved my Mariah Carey cassette for my Volvo and jammed Sonic Youth on my Walkman at lunch. But I grew up and now IDGAF. So many current artists get me off and that makes me happy.

Genre be damned.

Being jaded gets old. What does it say about me if, as an artist myself, I slag off contemporary music? Much better to have that PMA.

My earliest “crossover” obsession was Kylie Minogue. She’s a pop genius. Although a bit Svengali’ed at first, by the early ‘90s Minogue was keen to helm her own career. As Simon Price prefaced in an interview with Kylie in the Quietus, she has made an art out of the “heightened uber-self, a perfect pop THING [sent] out into the world.”

To date, I’ve had three key Kylie Moments, roughly twelve years apart: 1988, 2000 and 2013. Kylie Christmas is, for many reasons, not Kylie Moment Number Four — that’s not due for another nine or ten years — but listening to it did prompt a roll call of the previous ones.

A trio of bland holiday standards (“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Winter Wonderland”) starts things off, and I’m grateful when the fourth track kicks in, a cover of the Waitresses’ 1981 “Christmas Wrapping.” With this superficial nod to new wave, I’m reminded of Minogue’s impressive knack for sounding perennially teenaged. Iggy Pop even chimes in like a proper Bad Santa. The song, cheeky and repetitive, is a bizarro marriage of Blondie’s “Rapture” (1980) and Iggy’s “The Passenger” (1977). Your vehicle is a sleigh, your beverage is a Malibu Rum piña colada, and you yourself are a Mouseketeer.

This flash of spotted innocence brings me back to…

Kylie Moment Number One
It’s 1988 and you’re in first grade, precocious but practically mute: destined for the spotlight, but crippled by the shyness Morrissey warns about. Dance classes at B*Dazzled Studio are twice a week. Right now you’re learning a kiddie routine for Paula Abdul’s (incredible) new song “Cold Hearted.”

Back at school, lunch brings a few other girls to the yard and you, the wee-sized walking contradiction, the self-conscious future star, spend the break re-teaching choreography. You peak with your own adorable take on Minogue’s massive 1988 hit, “The Loco-Motion.” Mom said “no MTV” so the song spells it out for you:

1) You got to swing your hips now
2) Come on, jump up, jump back
3) Now that you can do it, well, let’s make a chain now
4) A chugga-chugga motion like a railroad train now
5) Do it holding’ hands, if’n you get the notion
6) So come on, come on, do the loco-motion with me

At the farthest edge of the grass — the playground just out of sight — and with extreme concentration, hips are swung, jumps are synched and the pop train chugs along. Do you remember Pocket Rockers? Normally, that’s how you’d play a favorite song, volume maxed. Alas, “The Loco-Motion” wasn’t released on mini-cassette, so it’s a sing-a-long, missing parts but impassioned:

You: Everybody’s doing a brand-new dance now!!!!!!
Them: Come on, baby, do the loco-motion!!!!!!!!!!!

Years later, you watch all the MTV you want (very little), own Little Eva’s original 1962 version of “The Loco-Motion” on vinyl, and Minogue’s version continues to reinforce your obsession with cross-generational covers.

Back to the (Christmas) Present
Only a few of the standards on Kylie Christmas are tolerable. Having grown up listening to a Celebrate the Season with Tupperware cassette, I know these songs on an essential level. “Winter Wonderland,” “Let It Snow” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” feel vapid, with stock arrangements — and Kylie’s voice goes largely underutilized. Her huge talent for phrasing and tone — knowing which lines to yelp, which to purr, which to draw out in a rich vibrato — is lost completely.

Her cover of Connie Francis’ 1962 single “I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter,” however, is Mark Ronson-lite. While it’s got nothing on a Phil Spector Christmasterpiece, the song is kinda fun and highlights my Kylie, which brings me back to…

Kylie Moment Number Two
It’s 2000 and you’re studying modern literature in Santa Cruz. Dressed as goth Audrey Hepburn, you demo bad songs on an old boombox and avoid all drugs and alcohol like a freak of nature. You form your first real friendships, based predominantly on music. You pine for a boy in your dorm, but date his friend, who later introduces you to Nick Cave in all his varieties. You want to both be and fuck the Bad Seeds frontman.

“Where the Wild Roses Grow,” a Cave-penned duet with Minogue from the Bad Seeds’ 1996 album Murder Ballads, hits you hard. It’s as much about the song itself as it is the meshing of these two polar artists. You learn Nick Cave also obsessed over the pop princess. He wrote and rejected a handful of songs with her in mind before landing a winner. Did she even know who he was when she received the unsolicited creation?

“Where the Wild Roses Grow” was a tender thing, their performance intimate, which later confused Minogue. When she joined him at a Bad Seeds festival gig in 1996, the rest of the set floored her. This was a different Nick Cave: “I was completely blown away,” she said in that same Quietus interview. “It was like my head came off…that energy, and his body language, the delivery, and the fury of some of those songs, just made him more amazing and more of a mystery to me.”


Talk about the ultimate validation for weirdos with pop fascinations and pop stars with weirdo fascinations. More cross-pollination, please.

Next you find the 1994 gem “Confide in Me.” This is of the era that launched a more focused and involved Kylie. It’s subtle, sexy and sounds like spy music. Had she actually provided a telephone number for viewers to call during its pop art music video, you would’ve rung her.

Back to the (Christmas) Present
Thank God that Minogue closes the album with a killer take on one of my favorite Christmas classics, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which Judy Garland debuted in 1944. Underslept and stoned, I’m the good kind of vulnerable. The instrumentation is subtle, contemporary and in tandem with her emotive voice. She doesn’t hold anything back. The line “faithful friends who are dear to us/Gather near to us once more” audibly distorts and I pang for the ones I know won’t be doing so. Her dynamics are spot-on and I get goosebumps when she signs off with “Merry Christmas.”

Kylie Moment Number Three
In 2013 you spend June in Los Angeles, rehearsing your new record with your band. With five members crowded into the rehearsal space, it’s pretty cramped. Stood facing everyone else, you spend that entire month making eye contact with the electro, Nancy Sinatra-esque promo poster from 2003’s Body Language.

That image helped you keep your eye on the pop. You dug songs “Chocolate” and “Still Standing” off Body Language, although no tracks on that record earwormed like 2001’s smash hit “Can’t Get You out of My Head,” a bona fide piece of perfection. When you see Minogue espousing her love of the New Romantic period in a 2004 VH1 interview, explaining the massive influence of British New Wave band Scritti Politti on Body Language, you realize you are in the same boat, just years apart.

 Back to the (Christmas) Present
So yes, I am a Kylie Girl. Christmas may be a miss, but you can bet your ass I will watch her Xmas special — and I cannot wait for 2025 and Kylie Moment Number Four.

Dee Dee is a New York City-based singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist. She records under the moniker Dum Dum Girls and is currently signed to Sub Pop. She runs a small label, Zoo Music, with twenty-six releases to date. She’s written theme songs for television shows, starred in a short film by Bret Easton Ellis, and has the nerve to cover the Smiths. She’s addicted to weirdos, non-weirdos, hash, pie and artist/Aquarius Alexis Penney. Having just finished what will be her fourth full-length album, tentatively titled Love.Is, Dee Dee is shooting for the Alterna Pop stars.


(photo credit: Jimmy Fontaine)