Jul 16, 2012

Monday Music Duel #5: Breathe

A narrow victory to Garbage in last week's Monday Music Duel, winning four votes to three. Don't forget to have your say in the comments; it's always nice to know what people think.

This week, a tribute to the one activity we all share on a daily basis - the inhaling and exhaling of air. One way is soft and sexy; the other primeval and pumping.

Breathe by Kylie Minogue

Kylie is a legend, really. Her songs are perennial favourites; great dance tracks and fantastic sing-a-longs. Her 1997 album Impossible Princess came about after some "personal growth" time for the Singing Budgie - she'd cast off her bubblegum image, received street cred thanks to a creepy duet with Nick Cave, and gone trekking in China. Much of the album is a direct confrontation of her past and her fame, such as the poppy/pouty Did It Again; or an embracing of new directions, such as the eastern/western odyssey Cowboy Style.

Breathe, however, is a gorgeously indulgent change of pace from both of those. It is what it says it is - a moment, a middle point, a pause, a reflection, a prediction. "Don't blame me, just because I am bored," Kylie begins, her voice sultry over the low-tempo electronica beat. "I'm needy, I need to taste it all". She goes on to reflect on how she's being a bit lost, trying to work herself out ("I'm sorting everything inside"); but she's getting there ("I'm making my way through the muddy minutes/The pull is in my muscle"). The simply chorus call to "Breathe, breathe/it won't be long now" is a piece of advice just to herself: relax, it'll all come good in the end.

Suitably, the video clip features the chanteuse spinning around in space, clothed in gossamer strands of nearly-nude fabric, swimming through the atmosphere, tumbling towards - or away from - what looks vaguely like a camera lens.

The almost trance-like quality of the music - and the many close-ups of Kylie's luscious lips in the clip - - gives the initial impression that Breathe is purely a song for sexy times. But it's also comforting, and quietly reassuring. It's like a hot bubble bath. Hell, let's all strip off and slip in.

Breathe by The Prodigy

Of a similar vintage to Kylie, but turning the electronica up to 11, Breathe by British beat punk band The Prodigy is a descent into dance floor hell, complete with devilishly pierced and tattooed frontmen Keith Flint and Maxim. Instantly recognisable from its opening, twanging riff, it's a firm favourite of the dark and spooky types, and even those who just like to join in on the declaration "Breathe with me" while trying to lool cool at a bar.

The lyrics explore a ramped-up experience of and meditation on madness, fear and stress. "Breathe the pressure/Come play my game I'll test ya/ Psycho-somatic addict insane" goes the famous refrain. The bridge is the conflicted internal dialogue of the sufferer; "Come play my game/inhale inhale inhale you're the victim" is followed by "Come play my game/exhale exhale exhale". It's frantic, furious and Freudian.
The film clip is set in some sort of institution, overrun by odd creatures like alligators and centipedes. There are cracks in the walls and ceilings; muddy water splurts from the taps and gravity doesn't always apply. The Prodigy frontmen work through their demons in song - only to realise, possibly, that they are their own demons.

Verdict: I adore the Kylie song, I really do, and prefer it lyrically to The Prodigy. But for musicality, the latter is startling and confronting; particularly if you remember back to 1996 when it first debuted, before it became so entrenched in pop culture depictions of insanity. So The Prodigy by a triple-pierced nose.

Now it's over to you -what kind of breathing do you prefer?


  1. I really do think that Kylie is awesome but there's not much in her music that I enjoy. I could say the same about Prodidy's music but Breathe happens to be one of the ones I enjoy so Prodigy for this one.

  2. It has to be the prodigy. You hear that guitar and you just want to bop...
    And smash stuff up...

    And regret the fact that you're way too old and unfit to ever do parkour.

  3. I like Kylie's chorus but the rest of the song is a bit boring. So I too will go for the angry (and interesting) punk.

  4. I did parkour before it was even called parkour. Now know it's name, my ankles can do it no more.

    I can still pogo like a mad bastard to Prodigy tho, so Prodigy wins my vote.

    Recall - I can instantly remember the chorus and riff to Prodigy, and I can't recall how Kylie's song goes, and all attempts simply default back to "Confide in me".

  5. I remember seeing the Prodigy film clip on Rage and thinking it was like a transmission from another planet. It's weird but also totally catchy.

    I think Impossible Princess is actually a really solid album, but Breathe isn't my favourite song from it, and the whole album was fairly standard in a broader pop context. The Prodigy was like some weird underground poison bubbling to the surface of the top 40 charts. It gets my vote easily.

  6. Prodigy. That one is firmly in the zeitgeist. Kylie's not so much.

  7. I'm with Disco Stu on this - I too remember seeing this on Rage, followed by Tool's Stinkfist and being totally blown away by both the videos and the music. ...although now that I think about it, it might have been Firestarter that I remember...

  8. Some good arguments have been made against Kylie, but in the end I just can't stand performers who attempt to sound "hardcore" by singing through their nose. Axl Rose is another one of them. I just want to turn them off as soon as I hear them. So Kylie for me any time.