Nevertheless, were X the collection of brilliant pop songs that it was supposed to be, Kylie's triumphant comeback could still be salvaged. Unfortunately, this safe, frequently uninspired LP isn't quite up to the job. Though Kylie's never been the most charismatic recording artist, it's still upsetting to hear her feasting on the sonic scraps of other, lesser artists. 'Speakerphone' features a wonderfully knowing Kylie lyric – "Drop your socks and grab your mini boom box" – but sounds like an outtake from Britney Spears' Blackout album; 'All I See' could be a Janet Jackson track from seven years ago; and 'Nu-Di-Ty', a woefully-dated R'n'B filler, features Kylie doing her best impression of the Harajuku Girls. After ten albums, 30 top ten hits and 40 million record sales, she's reduced to impersonating Gwen Stefani's backing dancers.
X's anonymity wouldn't be quite so crippling if its songs were imbued with a bit more risk, a frisson of modernity or anything resembling an edge. However, much of the album sounds as though it could have been recorded at any point in the last five years. A case in point? The bland dance-pop of 'Stars', which sounds like a track from the Fever sessions with a few modish guitar riffs thrown into the mix. Tellingly, X's most memorable moments come when Kylie decides to update the exuberant disco-pop that's been her stock in trade since that landmark album. 'In My Arms' marries some electro bite to a fantastic arms-aloft chorus; 'The One' adds a bit of techno dressing to some 'I Believe In You'-style glitter-disco, and 'Heart Beat Rock', the album's much-hype Calvin Harris production, is a triumph. With its staccato synth stabs, minimal beat and economical raps, it's X's one properly modern moment.
X's other stumbling block is Kylie's refusal to give anything away. After all she's been through over the last couple of years, this album offered a terrific opportunity for her to bare her soul. As it is, two decades after noticing that everybody was doing a brand new dance now, Kylie's still "making sure I'm looking hot" as she gets ready "to hit our favourite spot". It's no coincidence that 'No More Rain', the album's one nod towards the recent trials of Kylie, is X's most affecting moment. "Have you ever thought the sky was there to see dark?" she wonders from her hospital bed, fantasising about her return to the stage. "Then you look up, and see a million stars". When she performs it on X's inevitable spin-off tour, there won't be a dry eye in the house.
X has enough winning moments to keep Kylie in the charts and in our hearts – 'The One' and 'In My Arms' will make fabulous singles - but it's hard not be disappointed by the tenth album from our adopted pop sweetheart. "I wanted the right to misbehave," she croons over dreamy piano chords on 'Cosmic', the album's closing track. After two decades of sterling service to pop music, she's earned the right to do just that. Sadly, on X, she seems too frightened to exercise the option.
> Want more Kylie? Click here for the pop princess' essential singles