Who shall I be today?

Dumped by her trendy record label, Kylie Minogue is out to re- invent herself again. Actress? Model? Either way, she'll never escape Charlene.
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The Independent Culture
The news that Kylie Minogue has finally been dumped by ultra- hip record label, Deconstruction, comes as no surprise in the light of recent meagre sales. The 30-year-old actress and singer's last album shifted just 18,000 copies in the first two weeks, keeping it in the top 20 for only a week, and has sold a paltry 47,000 so far. In contrast, her first album sold 2 million. The split, apparently, was "amicable" and Minogue is now looking to concentrate on her film career.

Perhaps if she had embarked upon a career change five years ago - a TV presenter or a UN ambassador - she wouldn't be in this mess now.

But if punters have failed to be moved by her musical offerings, it is doubtful whether film-goers will now embrace Kylie, the movie star. It would take a remarkable performance, indeed, to erase some of the sartorial disasters of the last decade and her presence on screen is more likely to remind us of her shortcomings, than convince us of new-found success.

Bouncing onto the scene 10 years ago, Minogue was a wholesome wannabe thrust into the limelight thanks to the staggering success of Australian soap, Neighbours. As she chirped about how lucky, lucky, lucky she was, it felt like we already knew her intimately, from her eternal on-screen love dilemmas to her real life romance with her peroxide co-star Jason Donovan.

Under the watchful eye of the chart-hugging label Stock, Aitken and Waterman, a string of hit singles transformed her from the endearingly smudged car mechanic, Charlene, to a gloriously fluffy disco diva.

Minogue had all the makings of a conquering pop star. She always looked fantastic and her voice was no worse, and perhaps even a little better, than your average fabricated adolescent idol. But it was this display of shallowness that sanctioned Minogue's success, and of all her incarnations, she has always seemed most at home with this saucy, soapy persona. The plinky-plonky pop of her first hits appealed to a gay kitsch sensibility, while her girl-next-door innocence and repetitive choruses satiated the pre-teen thirst for tack. Substance? Who needs it when you can melt a thousand hearts in a feather boa and six-inch heels?

Her first mistake was trying to cast off the teen queen image. In attempting to come over as a "serious artiste", she has forfeited the very audience that has kept her in fluffy frocks for nearly a decade.

But in a bid to get hip quick, she signed with the indie dance label, Deconstruction, donned the wig and suspenders and began a relationship with leather-clad INXS singer, Michael Hutchence. But rather than being transformed into a raunchy dominatrix, Minogue ended up looking like an over made-up adolescent girl who had just raided her mother's wardrobe. Time to bring in the image consultants.

Pitching for a maturer market, Minogue played the soul diva for her eponymous 1994 album, sporting Miss Moneypenny-style specs and a suit and swapping Hutchence for the dreadlocked rocker, Lenny Kravitz. Since then, she has adopted musical styles as if trying on a selection of the season's best dresses. In her last album,she blandly steamed through every musical genre, from ambient, jazz and drum'n'bass to trip hop, Britpop, and rock.

Others have made the transition from tack teen-idol to creditable pop icon without a hitch, so why not Kylie? Madonna has successfully reinvented herself with each album and even after a year of rock'n'roll excess, Robbie Williams has transformed his seemingly doomed career into a triumphant return to the limelight. But for both Madonna and Williams, the wardrobe has followed the music, rather than preceded it. While Madonna maniacally maps out the path of her career, Minogue seems to be forever at a crossroads.

As well as furnishing her with lots of starry suitors, Minogue's dizzy malleability has also given rise to a sequence of impressive musical collaborations including Nick Cave, The Grid and the Manic Street Preachers. Through these partnerships we have been introduced to artyKylie, gothKylie, danceKylie and recently, indieKylie. But though they all afforded her fleeting flashes of musical credibility, in each instance it was clear that she was more than happy to have the script written for her.

But then imagination was never her forte. Just look at her album titles: Kylie, Kylie Minogue and Kylie Minogue. And the lyrics for this latest disastrous album were mostly penned by the pint-sized diva herself. When manufactured pop stars decide to get involved in the songwriting process, they can generally kiss their careers goodbye. Ironically, one of the album's better tracks is called "I Don't Need Anyone", a song which was co-written by the Manic Street Preacher's James Dean Bradfield.

Now Minogue has run out of collaborators and, style-wise, has left herself with nowhere else to go. Her recent excursion into the world of fashion as a model of H&M Hennes fashion store, following in the bra-modelling footsteps of Eva Herzigova, has been met with derision and viewed as further evidence of her quest for some sort of identity.

But against all the odds, the one area where Minogue has found success is in making us like her. Her desperation for acceptance makes her seem refreshingly human, compared to the chilly detachment of Madonna and the cocky enthusiasm of Robbie Williams. We feel frustration rather than malice when confronted by each erroneous incarnation and we genuinely want her to succeed. Even with our reluctance to invest in her albums, we remain fascinated by what could possibly come next.

After all, how can anyone dislike that sweet, grinning fuzzball that was Charlene? And who could resist those delicious lashes and that post- coital smile? For all her flaws, it is her innocent charm that has sustained her for over a decade and whatever misguided decisions she may make now, could well see her through another one.