“She is the gay shorthand for joy,” Rufus Wainwright said of Australian superstar Kylie Minogue back in 2006. And thanks to an omnipresent, onomatopoeic electro-pop banger inspired by Édith Piaf, a whole new generation is now discovering this for themselves. Indeed, as all the “padamic” and “padamonium” puns would suggest, “Padam Padam” has swept the LGBTQ community this year like few other Pride anthems have before.
Referencing the sound of a lovestruck human’s heartbeat, its two-word title has already become firmly entrenched in the queer lexicon (it’s also been petitioned for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary). It was the track Andy Cohen played for Vice President Kamala Harris as she helped celebrate the 54th anniversary of Stonewall. It was chosen to soundtrack a teaser for Prince William's visit to London's iconic LGBTQ venue, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, on the royal's official Instagram account. It was even quoted by openly gay MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle in U.K. Parliament! (“So, happy Pride Month, let our hearts win over hate and, finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the words of Kylie, “Padam Padam”).
Co-written by Peter Rycroft and Ina Wroldsen, it was also the default sound of this year’s Pride festivities – you could barely go five minutes without hearing its addictive beats and sex-positive lyrics blaring out somewhere. “It is as if Kylie implanted these switches in the brains of all the gays that were set to turn on the first time they heard “Padam Padam,” remarked DJ fur trap to The New York Times in a piece about its sudden dancefloor ubiquity. “And now we’re all her “Padam” zombies.”
Of course, much of Kylie’s decade-spanning output has been synonymous with the queer scene. The three albums she made with hit factory Stock Aitken Waterman from 1988-1990 were rooted in the Hi-NRG sound that emerged from San Francisco’s SoMa district. And who can forget “Your Disco Needs You,” her 2000 Village People homage deemed so ridiculously camp that her UK label refused to release it as a single? The difference with “Padam Padam,” though, is that its success occurred in the age of streaming and social media.
Buoyed by a number one placing on Spotify’s just hits playlist (2.8 million followers) and multiple Top 20 weeks on Happy Hits! (6.2 million), Pop Rising (3 million), and Hot Hits UK (3 million), the first taster of Kylie’s forthcoming 16th studio effort, Tension (set to be released on September 22), has already racked up more Spotify streams (50.1 million) than any of her previous lead singles from the last decade. The title track from 2013’s Into the Blue, for example, petered out at just 17.1 million. And although “Dancing” from 2018’s country-tinged Golden (36.7 million) and “Say Something” from 2020’s Studio 54 throwback Disco (33.9 million) fared better, they still didn't make significant enough waves beyond her usual fanbase.
Admittedly, “Padam Padam” still has a long way to go to beat Kylie’s biggest hit, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” The beloved synth-pop track gave the Antipodean her first U.S. Top 10 single in 13 years upon its 2001 release and has since amassed an impressive 391.3 million Spotify plays. But, with 50.1 million streams, it’s on course to surpass other enduring favorites, “Spinning Around,” “Love at First Sight” and “The Loco-Motion,” all of which are hovering higher above the 50 million mark. Another major promotional push should see it overtake “In Your Eyes” (69.7 million) and Taio Cruz collaboration “Higher” (75.8 million).
Kylie’s more visible U.S. presence has undeniably helped boost her numbers this time around. The star first performed “Padam Padam” on American Idol just four days after the track’s May 18 premiere, and the show’s 5.7 million viewers no doubt helped kickstart a first-week total of 2.8 million streams. Since then, Kylie has headlined iHeartMedia 103.5’s annual summer gig KTUphoria, guested at New York pop-up party Horse Meat Disco, and been interviewed on Andy Cohen’s Sirius XM radio show where she went viral for her uncanny impersonation of TikTok’s AI voice.
Furthermore, on July 17, the day of its Chartmetric Track Score peak at 671, it was declared by Pitchfork as a contender for Song of the Summer. In fact, Kylie’s stateside profile is now so high that she’s been able to announce an October run at The Venetian’s new, 1,000-capacity venue Voltaire, her first-ever Las Vegas residency.
It’s perhaps little surprise, therefore, that Kylie has made the Billboard Dance/Electronic Songs Chart for the first time since it was created in 2013. But that’s not the only “Padam Padam” milestone. On the other side of the Atlantic, its No.7 peak saw her join Cher, Lulu, and Diana Ross in the exclusive club of female artists to have U.K. Top 10 hits across five consecutive decades. And back in her Australian homeland, she scored her biggest hit since “Timebomb” back in 2012.
TikTok has been particularly instrumental in the rise of the Padamic, with more than 31.3k posts featuring the song at its center. Two behind-the-scenes clips uploaded by Kylie herself have attracted nearly 30 million views alone, the first showing some backstage action from her surprise appearance at the Capital Summertime Ball at London’s Wembley Stadium (June 11) and the other some impromptu street dancing (June 25).
@kylieminogue You look like fun to me ❤️❤️ #Padam #NewMusic #Pride ♬ Padam Padam - Kylie Minogue
While Eurovision winner Loreen, Little Mix vocalist Jade Thirlwall, and actress Suki Waterhouse have all racked up seven-figure view counts lip-syncing to the bop, one of the TikToks that’s gained the most media traction was posted by a team of largely middle-aged retail workers. Capitalizing on their easy access to red fabric, the Wimbledon, London branch of arts and crafts store Hobbycraft deservedly went viral on June 2 for their enthusiastic recreation of the Sophie Muller-helmed “Padam Padam” video. In fact, they even attracted the attention of the idol they were paying tribute to.
After giving Hobbycraft a massive shout-out for their efforts on radio station KISS FM, Kylie once again proved her good sport nature by dueting them in a TikTok video which quickly amassed a further 1.3 million views. “I feel like I have one foot in the old world and one foot in the new,” the star recently said about her new-found love of the platform. “Now I think it’s amazing and I do wonder what it would have been like if it had started with my career.” With 344.3k followers on the app, 100.5k of which have been accrued since the May 18 release of “Padam Padam,” Kylie is the perfect example of how artists who once relied on traditional media can still thrive in the online world.
@kylieminogue #duet with @Hobbycraft Wimbledon #hobbycraft ♬ Padam Padam - Kylie Minogue
Of course, Kylie is still slaying when it comes to the old-school metrics, too. “Padam Padam” made headlines on June 23 when the U.K’s biggest youth-oriented station BBC Radio 1 finally relented to all the pressure and wisely added Kylie to its playlist for the first time since 2010’s “Get Outta My Way”: this also made the Aussie the oldest ever female to be playlisted by the national institution.
As you’d expect from a country that (bar a brief flop period in the mid-’90s) has always embraced Kylie as one of their own, the U.K. is responsible for the lion’s share (38.8%) of the song's 38.6k radio spins, with London’s radio stations hammering it 910 times in June alone. But further evidence of her increased transatlantic appeal comes with the fact the U.S. is the third most Padam-struck radio nation with 9.25% of the total airplay. And most impressively, the U.S. (2.8 million) has now overtaken the U.K. (2.2 million) in terms of Kylie’s monthly Spotify listeners.
Indeed, the unexpected success of “Padam Padam” has also sparked a renewed interest in Kylie’s career as a whole. Close to dropping out of the Top 1000 before its release, the star has since climbed up Chartmetric's Artist Rankings, peaking at No.221 on June 11 after receiving a significant boost in her Chartmetric Score in the wake of her May 22 American Idol performance.
Since the song's release, Kylie has also enjoyed a notable boost in followers on Spotify (+4.6%), Instagram (+6.3%), and YouTube (+8.3%), with the biggest growth, unsurprisingly, coming from TikTok (+41.3%). On the day the revived talent show brought Kylie back into the prime-time spotlight again, her Wikipedia page received 46.6k views, likely from many new fans who wouldn’t have even been born yet when she released her first single in 1987 just now learning of her illustrious career.
“Padam Padam,” therefore, has attained a much bigger crossover appeal than most of this year’s new Pride or Pride-adjacent releases. Of the 25 tracks that appeared in Billboard’s Best LGBTQ songs of 2023, for example, only two come close to its massive number of Spotify streams. Dove Cameron feat. Khalid’s moody ballad, “We Go Down Together” (40.1 million), however, is unlikely to get many parties started. And although Doechii feat. Kodak Black’s “What It Is” (46.6 million) boasts far more playful energy, it hasn’t gripped the gay scene in quite the same way.
There is now one major challenger to “Padam Padam,” though. After dropping on July 13, Troye Sivan’s “Rush” accumulated 28.5 million streams within its first two weeks of being released – 21.8 million more than Kylie achieved in the same time frame. And thanks to a headline-grabbing video – an unapologetically queer celebration of summer that’s sparked a discourse over body diversity – its first 14 days of YouTube views (7.3 million) also more than doubled Kylie’s (3.3 million).
That said, “Rush” undoubtedly skews more toward Gen-Z. The remarkable thing about “Padam Padam” is how it’s cast a spell on audiences of all ages, from those who can remember her playing tomboy mechanic Charlene in the soap opera Neighbours to those who, until very recently, believed a certain Ms. Jenner was the only famous Kylie around. What’s even more exciting is, according to her BMG label, there’s plenty more where “Padam Padam” came from, too. As the video’s most-liked YouTube comment perfectly summarized, “She’s not just an icon, she’s a legend.”
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of Aug. 4, 2023.