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Better the Devil You Know
Better the Devil You Know
Single by Kylie Minogue
From the album Rhythm of Love
B-side "I'm Over Dreaming (Over You)"
Released 30 April 1990 (1990-04-30)
Recorded London, England
Format
  • CD single
  • cassette single
  • vinyl single
Genre Dance-pop
Length 3:52
Label
  • PWL
  • Mushroom
Writer(s)
  • Mike Stock
  • Matt Aitken
  • Pete Waterman
Producer(s) Stock Aitken Waterman
Kylie Minogue singles chronology
Tears on My Pillow
(1989)
Better the Devil You Know
(1990)
Step Back in Time
(1990)
Rhythm of Love track listing
"Better the Devil You Know"
(1)
"Step Back in Time"
(2)

"Better the Devil You Know" is a song by Kylie Minogue, taken from her third studio album Rhythm of Love (1990). The song was written and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman and was released as the album's lead single on 30 April 1990 by PWL and Mushroom Records. "Better the Devil You Know" is known as the song that re-invented Kylie to a more sexual appeal, as her previous albums were presented with her "girl next door" persona, while her music onwards present an independent approach.

Musically, it is a dance-pop song that features elements of synthpop and disco influences. The song's title is referenced as an idiom. Lyrically, the song was said to be about Kylie's leaving of her TV series Neighbours and her relationship with her then-boyfriend, INXS frontman and singer Michael Hutchence. The song was lauded by music critics, who noted the imagery change in her music. They also complimented the song itself and felt it was one of Kylie's best, along as a highlight to, not just her studio album but her compilations as well. Commercially, it was successful. The song peaked at number two in the United Kingdom and four in her native Australia. In other regions, it managed to peak inside the top forty in all the countries it charted in, including France, Austria, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland.

The accompanying music video for "Better the Devil You Know" was directed by Paul Goldman and was filmed in Melbourne, Australia. Though its imagery was criticized for her mature-look, the video has also been iconic to Kylie's artistry style and imagery beyond the song. The song has been featured in most of Kylie's concert tours. The song has appeared in commercials, including Coca-Cola and the film If Looks Could Kill, and was later re-recorded in 2011 at the Abbey Road Studios for inclusion on Kylie's orchestral album The Abbey Road Sessions.

Background and CompositionEdit

"Better the Devil You Know" was written by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who also were the only producers and songwriters of Kylie's two albums after her debut. However, this album featured additional production by some minor producers. When the song wasn't first in the making, Kylie had announced she would be leaving the cast of the TV series Neighbours, to focus on her music career. After this, many fans of her role were upset and sadden by the leaving. Then, Stock, Aitken & Waterman lead member Peter Waterman said he was telling Mike Stock that Kylie had stopped going out with her Neighbours co-star Jason Donovan and said she was dating INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence. Waterman then commenting saying "how it was [better the devil you know] as they feared their lives were going to be hell as a consequence."

Musically, the song is a dance-pop song, which features influenced elements of electronica, pop music, Europop and synthpop. According to tabs.ultimate-guitar.com, the first verse features notes spanning from A-C#m-D-D2-Dm-E-Bm-D. When it reaches the chorus, the song spans from A-F#m-A-D, and repeats everyline. When it reaches the bridge, the songs chords span from A-F#m-A-F in each line. According to William Baker, a writer and one of Kylie's best friends, who wrote the book Kylie: La La La said "The song also featured a more mature sound, a more polished production and a vocal that was less layered than before." He then carried on saying about Kylie's persona as the Queen of Disco and Princess of Pop saying "The track transferred well onto the dance-floor and heralded a long reign for Kylie as the new queen of disco... a pop princess".

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

"Better the Devil You Know" is one of Kylie's most famous singles, and ever since its release it has received positive reviews from most music critics. Chris True from Allmusic highlighted the song as an album standout. Chris True reviewed her debut compilation Greatest Hits and said the song was "absolutely perfect for the unknowing." Johnny Loftus from Allmusic had highlighted it as an album standout on her compilation Greatest Hits. True then highlighted it from her compilation album Greatest Hits 87–97 as an album standout, as well as a highlight from Ultimate Kylie. Tim Sendra, however did not highlight it from her 2012 compilation The Best of Kylie Minogue but said "it's nice to hear 1990's "Better the Devil You Know" next to 2010's "All the Lovers" and realize that Kylie has never been less than a perfect pop star."

Jason Shawahn from About.com said along with "What Do I Have To Do" and "Wouldn't Change a Thing"; "are nothing if not pop masterpieces." Hunter Felt from PopMatters said along with "Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi" and "Shocked" are pure pop moments. He then described it "as almost soulful rave-ups".

Chart performanceEdit

"Better the Devil You Know" became Kylie's fifth non-consecutive top two single, being blocked by Adamski's "Killer". The song stayed at number two for two consecutive weeks. The single spent a total of 10 weeks in the chart, and was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and sold 329,000 copies there. In  Australia, the song debuted at number five on the week end of 10 June 1990 and eventually peaked at number four on the charts and spent a total of thirteen weeks on the chart. The song was then certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) with sales exceeding 35,000 copies.

In France, the song debuted at number thirty-eight, and after weeks on the chart it peaked at number thirteen for a sole week. The song stayed in the charts for a total of sixteen weeks. In the Netherlands, the song debuted at number ninety-six. The song was very successful in that country, and peaked at number sixteen on that chart. It spent a total of thirteen weeks on the chart. It was very successful on the Belgium Singles Chart (Flanders), where it debuted at number twenty-eight. The song then rose and peaked at number five, becoming one of Kylie's most successful singles in that country. It stayed in the charts for a total of sixteen weeks. Peaked inside the top thirty in countries including Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. The song topped the charts in Israel, number four in Malaysia and eleven in Spain.

Music videoEdit

The music video for "Better the Devil You Know" was directed by Paul Goldman and was filmed in Melbourne. The video caused some controversy as it presented Kylie in a much more mature image than videos from earlier years.

In the video, Kylie can be seen dancing more suggestively than in her previous efforts. At the time she was dating INXS singer Michael Hutchence, she is wearing one of his rings in the clip, a large silver 'M'. His mother, Patricia Glassop a make up artist did the make up. The video remains a major milestone in Kylie's career, for it was the birth of a more experimental and sexual Kylie.

Live performancesEdit

"Better the Devil You Know" has been performed on the majority of Kylie's tours;

It was added to the encore of the Enjoy Yourself Tour in the European leg of the tour; the song was also performed as the last song of the show in the Rhythm of Love Tour and the Let's Get to It Tour; the latter being an extension of the former. It was also performed as the final song of the show on the Intimate and Live tour in 1998, where Kylie was joined by an array of men wearing red briefs and devil horns. The song was then re-worked into a big band number for the On a Night Like This Tour, where Kylie wore a white tailcoat and top hat. The song was then performed as the last song of the main body of the show on KylieFever2002, where it followed a performance of "Burning Up". The song then opened the show in the Showgirl and Homecoming tours, where Kylie wore showgirl outfits for each. The song was not part of the setlist for KylieX2008 initially, but was added during the South American leg. This version of the song then opened the encore section of the For You, For Me tour, using the same version performed in the X Tour. The song was then re-worked into a latin/spanish influenced version on the Aphrodite Tour in 2011, where it preceded performances of "Better Than Today" and "Put Your Hands Up". The song was performed acapella on the Kiss Me Once Tour at several dates. "Better the Devil You Know" was used to open the show of her set at the 2015 Dubai World Cup; this version was then used to open the Kylie Summer 2015 mini-tour, preceding performances of "In My Arms" and "In Your Eyes". The song was then remixed and performed as the opening number at Kylie's performance at the F1 Grand Prix in 2016; this version used elements of "Skirt" in the intro and the countdown from "Light Years, and was also used at the 2016 shows of the Christmas concert series.

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