113. Pet Shop Boys & Kylie Minogue – ‘In Denial’ (1999)

“How do you know if you’re going mad?”

Taken from the album Nightlife

This could be subtitled “A Gay Tragedy In Three Movements”. When you think about what a Pet Shop Boys collaboration with Kylie Minogue from an album called Nightlife would sound like, it would be the absolute opposite of this. But what came out instead is probably better than a dance epic: an intimate portrait of a number of characters, open for interpretation and delivered with a complete understanding of what can make melancholy and sadness so beautiful.

‘In Denial’ tells the story of a man who is, you guessed it, “in denial” of his homosexuality. Kylie plays a voice-of-reason type, giving advice and telling Neil to give up the “queens and fairies, and muscle marys”. Due to an incredible synthetic-voice-and-beats backing, the song has a cinematic, theatric feel that fits in perfectly with Kylie’s recent work on Impossible Princess and the direction the boys went in for Nightlife.

I’ve known, as I’m sure we all have at some point, people who were trapped in the closet, and I don’t mean R. Kelly. It’s difficult, hard to watch and frustrating, and ‘In Denial’ pulls together the mess of feelings to create something truly special, among the best work of either of these artists. Kylie was embracing her gay icon status here like never before, and she plays the wise character that she has played to a lot of gay men through her music over the years. Neil Tennant, similarly, has also been an icon for the confused and the disillusioned. The only time in this song where both voices mix together is on the line “Could you love me anyway?” – it may be hard to explain but I know lots of people aside from me feel like that line is packed full of meaning, especially coming from these two singers, on a song as great as this.


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