I recently watched a great video from a breadtuber about how he realised he was bisexual, which made me ponder my own journey to discovering my sexuality. I never did the big coming out thing – I told friends pretty early on, and updated my family on the information once I started dating a man. The rest of the world just learned either by osmosis or by an updated relationship status on Facebook. Whilst I regret not telling my family sooner and on my own terms, I’m pretty pleased I went with the low key route overall.
A lot of this was related to the fact I just didn’t know for a long time. I dabbled with the notion of being bisexual for a little bit before starting uni but locked that away until the end of 2015, a mere few months before moving to the other side of the world for a bit, where I told a bisexual friend and then eventually the rest of them. It wasn’t until 2019, after an abusive relationship, various other traumas and a prescribed dose of therapy that I settled with the idea of being a gay man.
When I say settled, I mean that more as a sort of relief. It fascinates me how long this whole thing bothered me. I took moving to New Zealand for most of 2016 as an opportunity to experiment, but it didn’t really help. Sometimes it really is a case of just waking up one day and going “ah, yes, this feels right.”
Experimenting didn’t just come in the form of dating. I like to investigate culture and media as a form of gaining a sense of self. This started by doing an essay on the representation of bisexuality in film (which also resulted in a night-long deep dive into homosexuality during the golden era of Hollywood). It got a low mark and I almost accused the lecturer of biphobia but alas, it passed and didn’t even dent my final grade. After the big move I also decided to explore popular gay music. Given I was now in the antipodes, this very quickly threw up Dannii Minogue.
It isn’t exactly shocking that the Minogue sister that is often unfairly shunned by the elite in favour of the other sister would become a cult gay icon, but even better is the fact that she has widely embraced it. She attended multiple Pride events in Australia, is an ambassador for Terrence Higgins Trust in the United Kingdom and eventually shifted her entire music career to cater to the gay club scene. Dannii doesn’t want you to have to change pronouns when singing power ballads. Dannii wants nothing but the best for all her queers.
After a long hiatus, Neon Nights truly solidified her shift towards the club scene. Bop after bop, it goes underappreciated by the current wave of homosexual men and that is nothing short of a shame. Dannii would give the world for you. Have some respect!
So, as a bit of a DanStan and a recent convert to the vinyl record revival I decided to purchase the vinyl edition of this album. Dannii Minogue had a weirdly significant role in my self discovery, and she deserves more than the Sp*tify pittance I’ve been throwing her way for a few years. I’m aware this is already a wordy blog, but I invite you to come along with me on a journey of self discovery, hedonism and auditory joy as I review the vinyl re-release of this iconic album track by track.
Put The Needle On It
A satisfying first song for a vinyl record, Put The Needle On It sets the tone for this album. Already a clear departure from the more typical pop anthems of her previous records, it still harks back to classic Dannii in a way that makes this an accessible album for all her fans.
Nevertheless, the retro feel of this record is well coded for her gay audience, whom arguably are the main intended audience for Neon Nights. “Put the needle on it” is clearly a reference to old school DJs, but “I’ll tell you where I want it” is such a thinly veiled innuendo that it should be crowned in the camp hall of fame.
This track leads on smoothly from Put The Needle On It. It has a bit more of an updated feel, but isn’t all that memorable. Given it is sandwiched between two of the best known tracks, however, it doesn’t really need to be.
I think it’s important to remember when this album was first released. This song just *feels* very 2003, a crowning jewel of a generally milquetoast decade for pop music. Everything was over-produced and commercialized, and the fact this is a filler track means it is allowed.
I Begin To Wonder
This is it. This is the hit of the album. Even if you aren’t a DanStan, you will be able to vaguely recognise this song. When I first started exploring Dannii Minogue, this song immediately evoked memories of sitting in front of the TV at eight years old and watching the ultra-modern music video in awe.
Reaching number two in the UK, it was her most successful single. It’s accessible, but is a clear departure from the bubble-gum pop of her early career. This feels very much like Dannii starting to grow into her own style, and it’s a shame nothing more came of that.
As a young gay man first exploring your sexuality, this will be your first foray into her work. This is the song you will listen to whilst on the bus home from your first hookup. You will cringe at this memory for a long time, but as you grow older you will cherish it. So young. So naïve. The fleeting simplicity of youth.
Hey! (So What)
Another classic noughties filler track, this is nevertheless far catchier than the second song on this album. It’s laid-back, it’s fun, there is literally a bubblegum popping sound throughout.
If this song had a music video, it would involve a lot of sexualised imagery that you wouldn’t understand or have any real reaction to as a child. Why are men so into this video, but barely listen to the song? Why aren’t *you* into this video, but want to buy the album it comes from? One day, the answer will smack you in the face.
For The Record
This is another obvious filler track, but god I love it! It’s upbeat. You can strut to the bus stop whilst listening this song. All your cares will be lifted. So you walk a bit…funny. Why should you care? Dannii Minogue is asserting her femininity in your ear, and she f***ing loves it.
There is a certain youthful innocence to this record. The tales of first loves. You will remember your first love, the joys as you gazed into their eyes for the first time. Eventually it soured. It destroyed you, in a way. You will never be the same, but this song is always there to help you forget.
This sounds an awful lot like Groove Is In The Heart by Deee-Lite, but I’m absolutely here for that. Neon Nights is steeped in nostalgia, and that’s why I would argue it is a much better album to listen to in 2019 than it would’ve been back in 2003 – a mere four years after the decade it harks back to.
Sometimes you ponder what life was like back in the 90s. You weren’t old enough to have any cognition of the time – certainly not for people like you. It was a very dark time for the LGBTQ community, despite increased liberation, and that is often brushed over. It wasn’t Mighty Fine, but nostalgia – even for a time you never lived – is a powerful drug.
On The Loop
The second side of the record is absolutely the weakest song wise, but has some interesting references to her previous work. On The Loop is classic Dannii, and a real treat for her more hardcore fans. This isn’t for the discotheque, this is for you DanStans.
This is the point of the album – especially if you have already listened to it a few times over – where you start to ponder if she had a general story planned for it that went unnoticed. It gets darker, but this segment is very positive and sings of love. On The Loop, at least, is aware of the dangers of attachment. It also doesn’t care about them. Neither will you.
Honestly, I didn’t want to say it. I really didn’t. I think it’s one of the cruelest things the media ever did to the Minogue sisters. But this song sounds a lot like Kylie. And that’s OK! We often draw influence from those around us, and in an album that comes with this many songs it is totally understandable that this would become apparent.
We often compare ourselves to others as a way of understanding ourselves. It’s natural, but it’s also often quite unhealthy. How masc are you? How toned are you? How much body hair should you have? Why were you never this self conscious before…y’know? The male gaze is a toxin.
Maybe she was born with it…maybe it’s gaslighting. The inherent paranoia of this track is intoxicating and cringe-inducing in equal measure. Rumours are often just that, but I know you want to eavesdrop on those phone calls, Dannii. It happens to the best of us.
Don’t! If you ever feel so mystified, and have so many reasons for feeling that way, just leave. You’ll both be better for it. Dannii knew that wasn’t her perfume. You knew that was someone else’s smell on the pillow. It’s over, and that’s OK.
Don’t Wanna Lose This Feeling (Al Stone’s Radio Edit)
It would be easy to write this off as another Kylie influenced track, but that would be a major disservice to both Dannii and the disco genre in general. Kylie has been known for her appropriation of the genre, and it doesn’t take that much of a stretch to imagine her sister grew up with similar influences and has an equal appreciation.
In a dark world, understanding our similarities and helping each other to grow as a result of them is a radical act. I started Pride Month 2019 by watching Pride with some other queer pals, and the way LGSM were able to overcome their own traumas to help striking miners in an act of solidarity against a common oppressor is nothing short of inspiring. Don’t let the world divide us. Like the Minogue sisters, we must unite and tell them to f*ck off.
The opening bit is a clear reference to Baby Got Back. Dannii takes this cultural reference and subverts it to tell her own story. On the surface it sounds like a pretty vapid club track, but there’s a lot of deeper meaning here. Dannii is reclaiming her femininity, and presenting it to the world on her own terms.
Reclamation is another radical act, and one I am certainly familiar with. Learning to meet taunts of “you walk like a penguin” with a schpiel about how amazing penguins are might seem like a fairly innocuous childhood memory, but it certainly prepared me well for an adulthood filled with people shouting ‘faggot’ at me on the street. No I won’t censor that word. It’s mine. It’s ours.
A Piece Of Time
This is the most mediocre track on the album. We can’t expect constant perfection, so I’ll allow it, but it’s enough to make me wish skipping tracks was easier on vinyl. That being said, it’s only 3:21 seconds, so your attention span doesn’t suffer too much.
A facetuned society makes us all strive for perfection, but once you get past the vapid desires of your youth, many of which are falsified by years of growing up in capitalist paradise, you will grow to love imperfections. Give me squint teeth and moles any day. Don’t be attracted to someone’s cosmetic expressions of wealth.
Who Do You Love Now?
Side three is the best part of this record. Dannii has found her home with these Eurodance inspired bops, and updated them for the pleasure of a wider audience. If you don’t believe that Dannii had real potential as one of the most creative artists in the world, I challenge you to listen to side three of Neon Nights.
Who Do You Love Now? could just as easily find a home in the techno clubs of Berlin as it would in the mainstream bars in your local city centre. This is the People’s Dannii, and could’ve set the tone for the rest of her career. The loss of potential is saddening, but I’m glad that we at least got this delight.
It Won’t Work Out
Sadly, it didn’t work out. This track unveils the mesmerising tones of Dannii’s vocals, as well as the sheer power she is capable of with her singing. This is the song you hear at the end of the night as the club is winding down.
My advice is not to buy that 16th drink. Did you know that alcoholism is a major problem in the gay community? I mean, really it’s a major problem in this country as a whole. When you hear this song, that’s your cue to head to Macca’s before grabbing a taxi home. And what a beautiful cue it is.
Just Can’t Give You Up
For those of you that chose to stay and order a peach schnapps and lemonade (I worked in a club once, I know what that means), this is a little pick me up. Enjoy the euphoria, inhale the music, let it take over your senses. You’ll hate yourself in the morning, but that’s for your future self to deal with. At least give him some nice memories.
In all seriousness, this song simply begs you to dance – and you can’t help but respond in kind. Those synths, man. They’re intoxicating. Dannii is a master of the club scene, she knows what her people want.
Come And Get It (Radio Version)
Honestly, I swear, I’ve never loved a collection of songs as much as I love side three of Neon Nights. At the risk of sounding repetitive, this is another song you can’t help but dance to. This is bigger than Dannii, it’s an entire movement in its own.
It’s also the song you probably dance to whilst waiting in a queue for the toilet because a couple of guys are sucking each other off in front of the sinks. Have a little patience – it’s a tough life for a gay that can’t host. At least they’re being safe and had the sense not to do it on the dancefloor. Right in front of my cocktail? No, they know better than that.
Hide And Seek
This is my favourite Dannii Minogue song. I am biased, because I love the Eurodance genre and this is the most obvious evocation of that. You don’t just dance to this, but you’re singing along to the hooks. Hide and Seek is a song that begs to be listened to on repeat.
It’s very reminiscent of the Eurodance genres popular in Eastern Europe. It reminds you of the song you listened to in a random loft in Sofia. You’d both had a great night drinking some beers, discussing shared traumas, and the invite to check out the amazing views was frankly too good to pass up.
You both *love* techno, you both know how to kiss, you’re both deeply depressed but learning to accept it. The hint of beer on his breath triggers some unresolved memories, but you’re capable enough to suppress that for now. Enjoy the company, marvel at the views, don’t fall in love.
This is the breakup anthem you didn’t know you needed. You’ll listen to this on the flight home, you’ll sing this in the shower, you’ll be pleased to hear that Dannii also gossips with her therapist. The love she experienced at the start of the album? It’s over, and she’s never felt better.
Life has its highs and lows, as do relationships. It’s a common thing within the gay community for people to fall in love quickly, and for it to fizzle out just as quickly. We need these songs to get through the worst of times, and to accompany the best of times that follow them. You don’t worship the ground he walks on anymore.
Put The Needle On It (Jason Nevins’ Freak Club Creation Mix)
Ah, side four. The remix part of the vinyl re-release. I can’t decide whether I like this more or less than the original presented at the beginning of the album – it’s like a beast on its own.
At 8:16, this is one for the peach schnapps and lemonade crowd. You’ve stuck the night out this long, you deserve a little treat. That song you liked from earlier? Here it is, longer and dancier. The DJ knows what the crowd wants whilst they all pulse as one homogeneous group. Not a single undilated pupil among them.
Begin To Spin Me Round (Extended Version)
Here you go, gays! This song is for you. Dannii sat down in her Melbourne mansion pondering how she could reward her large gay audience. A shot of tequila, a huff of Amsterdam Gold (she’s far too classy for Rush) and a stroke of genius later, she cracked the code. She took her most recognisable hit and remixed it with You Spin Me Round, the gayest of the gayties anthems.
You’ll listen this on the bus from your small provincial town to the pride event in the nearest city. This gets you in the mood. This song should be more recognised with the gays than it currently is. I want this requested in every bar. I want to see this performed at Sydney Mardi Gras. I want a queer exhibit in the Louvre, with this as the only backing track.
Don’t Wanna Lose This Groove (Extended Version)
Wait, she also did a remix with a popular Madonna bop? Dannii, hen, you’re too nice to us. If anything, this confirms my relief that Dannii Minogue’s foray into queer culture was almost two decades ago and not now. She doesn’t deserve a bunch of twinks asking her to sign their douches at meet and greets. Neither does Charli, but we’re in the cursed timeline now.
I actually like this better than the original track. The Kylie influences are less pronounced, presumably because it doesn’t have the same disco atmosphere. It’s 80s cheese restored for the 2003 crowd, and it’s surprisingly masterful given it’s literally just an earlier track that’s had the backing replaced with Into The Groove.
And that’s the entire album! A lot of people will write off Neon Nights, and indeed Dannii Minogue’s entire career, but I really implore you to explore this contemporary masterpiece. Ahead of her time, and wrongfully mistreated by the industry, I’ll forever have a special place in my heart for Dannii Minogue – and this album in particular.
Something about the comments section. I dunno, what album has had a profound impact on your personal identity? That’s a good one. Also, please share. I know it’s a big boi of an article, but I hope it was worth reading enough that you want others to also check it out.