A few months ago, we asked the question, “How folk is Taylor Swift’s Folklore?” The answer may not come as a surprise to most. After all, Taylor Swift famously has her songwriting roots steeped in the kindred essence of country, not folk.
Kylie Minogue may well do one better, as we examine her latest blast to the past release, DISCO. Does our late-80s and disco-influenced pop star of yore call back to her rosey, glitzy past? How might it compare to the iconic vinyls of disco tradition?
We’ll put aside our rose tinted nostalgia goggles for now and let our AI give DISCO its fair shake. We’ll be comparing Kylie Minogue to the Queen of Disco herself, Donna Summer. Placing DISCO and Summer’s tour de force record, Bad Girls, side by side, alongside Minogue’s 1989 sophomore album, Enjoy Yourself, we’ll look at the mood, emotional valence and genre tags generated by our AI for every song in each album.
For disco (the genre), mood is a great place to start. That infectious dance floor energy and the pure joy it brings is a hallmark of great disco records.
To our surprise, a majority of tracks in Bad Girls are tagged with “relaxed”, a stark contrast to the absence of “relaxed” in both Enjoy Yourself and DISCO. The “happy” tag numbers are more in line with our expectations; it is present in around half of both Bad Girls and Minogue’s Enjoy Yourself, but in a much smaller proportion of DISCO. Examining the “energetic” and “exciting” tags brings yet another curveball; DISCO sees many more of both tags, compared to Bad Girls and Enjoy Yourself.
The “relaxed” tag being in such high numbers in Bad Girls certainly challenges our expectations of the disco genre. What is clear however, is that Minogue’s DISCO differs greatly from our traditional disco records in multiple facets of mood, but does that make it less “disco”?
Mood valence tags (or mood positivity/negativity) show a similar trend, while our expectations of the disco genre are upended, the disparity between Bad Girls, Enjoy Yourself and DISCO remains. Our classic disco records see “positive” in two-thirds of its tracks, but are one-uped by DISCO, with nearly all of DISCO’s tracks tagged as “positive”.
On to the main event, what does our AI’s genre classifier make of these three albums?
These charts certainly don’t require much breaking down. In short, though its disco influence is unmistakable to most listeners, DISCO is not really disco at all, and our mood and mood valence tags follow in this same vein.
That is not to take anything away from Kylie Minogue, DISCO is very much the glitzy and glamorous “ode to the dance floor” record that critics have proclaimed it to be. Though disco may change its face and form over the decades, disco never dies.
This article was written by Shaun Goh, also known as the artist Brittle Bear.
Check out Brittle Bear's Spotify here.