In 2000, Minogue signed to the Parlophone Records label and released her seventh studio album, Light Years. The disco and Europop inspired album was a critical and commercial success, and was later certified four times-platinum in Minogue's native country Australia for shipment of 280,000 units, and platinum in the United Kingdom for shipment of 300,000 units. "Spinning Around" was released as the lead single from the album, and it was a commercial success, attaining a platinum certification in Australia for shipment of 70,000 units, and a silver certification in the United Kingdom for shipment of 200,000 units. She promoted the album by embarking on the On a Night Like This tour. Minogue premiered "Can't Get You Out of My Head" by performing it during the tour, and soon after, discussion regarding the song "quickly set online messageboards alight." "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was chosen as the lead single from Minogue's eighth studio album, Fever, and it was released on 8 September 2001 by Parlophone in Australia, while in the United Kingdom and other European countries it was released on 17 September.
"Can't Get You Out of My Head" was jointly written, composed, and produced by Cathy Dennis and Rob Davis. Dennis and Davis had been brought together by British artist manager Simon Fuller, who wanted the duo to come up with a song for British pop group S Club 7. The song was recorded using Cubase music software, which Davis ran on his Mac computer. Davis began playing an acoustic guitar and ran a 125 beats per minute drum loop, on which Dennis, herself a singer who had enjoyed chart success in the United States, began singing the line "I just can't get you out of my head" in the key of D minor. After three and a half hours, the demo was recorded and the vocals were laid afterwards. Dennis called their recording setup for the song "the most primitive set-up you could imagine! Different producers work in different ways. But it's good to be reminded you don’t have to be reliant on equipment. A song is about melody and lyrics and being able to take something away in your memory that is going to haunt you." She also regarded their production as a "very natural and fluid process," saying: "We know how hard we work sometimes to write songs and then spend months picking them to pieces, but this was the easiest process, the chemicals were all happy and working together."
But after Fuller heard the demo, he felt it was wrong for S Club 7 and rejected it; English singer-songwriter Sophie Ellis-Bextor also turned down the offer to record it. Davis then met with Minogue's A&R executive, Jamie Nelson. After hearing the demo cassette of the song, Nelson booked it for Minogue to record later that year. Nelson was impressed by the "vibe" of the song and felt it would please the "danceheads." Although Davis was initially under the impression that the recording deal would be called off later, Minogue became enthusiastic to record the song after hearing 20 seconds of the demo. The whole song, including Minogue's vocals, were recorded at Davis's home studio in Surrey. The music, excluding the guitar part, was programmed using Korg Triton workstation via a MIDI. Dennis later remarked: "Even though Kylie wasn't the first artist to be offered the song, I don't believe it was meant to go to anyone other than Kylie, and I don't believe anyone else would have done the incredible job she did with it, with the video, looking super-hot!"
"Can't Get You Out of My Head" is a "robotic" midtempo dance-pop song, with a tempo of 126 beats per minute. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by EMI Music Publishing, the song is written in the key of C major, with Minogue's vocal range spanning from C4 to D5. Minogue chants a "la la la" hook in the song, which is often heralded as its most appealing part. BBC Radio 2 noted that the composition of the song is "deceptively simple, but its veins run with the whole history of electronic music." They described the song's bassline as "pulsing," and recognised influences of English rock band New Order and German electronic music band Kraftwerk. The song does not follow the common verse-chorus structure and is instead composed of numerous "misplaced sections." Dennis reasoned that these sections "somehow work together" as she and Davis "didn't try to force any structure after the event. The seeds were watered and they very quickly sprouted into something bigger than any of us." Likewise, Davis commented: "It breaks a few rules as it starts with a chorus and in comes the 'la's'– that is what confused my publisher [Fuller] when he first heard it."
Through the lyrics of the song, Minogue expresses her obsession with an anonymous figure. Dorian Lynskey from The Guardian termed the song a "mystery" as Minogue never reveals the identity of her object of infatuation. The critic suggested that the person Minogue is referring to is either "a partner, an evasive one-night stand or someone who doesn't know she exists." Writing for the same newspaper, Everett True identified a "darker element" in the simple lyrics and felt this sentiment was echoed in Minogue's restrained vocals. Further, True emphasised that while Minogue's 1987 single "I Should Be So Lucky" had presented an optimistic romantic future, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" focuses on an "unhealthy" and potentially destructive obsession. He also noted that in the former song, Minogue played "the wide-eyed ingénue with alacrity," but in the latter song she is aware of the harmful nature of her infatuation, calling it a "desire that is wholly dependent on her own self-control."
In late 2012, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was re-recorded by Minogue for inclusion in her orchestral compilation album, The Abbey Road Sessions. On the album, Minogue reworked 16 of her past songs with an orchestra, which, according to Nick Levine from BBC Music, "re-imagine them without the disco glitz and vocal effects." The Abbey Road Sessions-version of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" features a "more dramatic, fully fleshed out" musical arrangement, and follows a pizzicato playing technique, in which the strings of a string instrument are continuously plucked.
The song received overwhelming critical acclaim, subsequently being cited as one of the greatest songs of the 2000s. Chris True from AllMusic picked the song as a highlight of Fever, commenting that it "pulses and grooves like no other she's [Minogue's] recorded." Jason Thompson from PopMatters described Minogue's vocals as a "sexual come on" and called the song "trim and funky, certainly something that couldn't miss anywhere." Dominique Leone from Pitchfork Media praised the commercial prospect of the song, saying that it "exudes a catchiness that belies its inherent simplicity, so reassuring during an era when chart acts sound increasingly baroque and producers race to see who can ape electronic music trends first." Jim Farber from Entertainment Weekly said that the song "fully lives up to its title" with "every sound a hook," and compared it to the works of Andrea True. Michael Hubbard from MusicOMH labelled the song "one of 2001's best singles," saying that it "predictably beat off lesser 'competition.'" In 2012, The Guardian critic Everett True defined "Can't Get You Out of My Head" as "one of those rare moments in pop: sleek and chic and stylish and damnably danceable, but with a darker element hidden in plain sight." Billboard's Jason Lipshutz felt that "the metallic production wouldn't carry quite as much of its impact if Minogue had attempted to outshine it; wisely, her voice operates alongside it, finding renewed power in its drive", concluding that "almost 15 years after its release, it still sounds fresh, forward-thinking and alive".
The Abbey Road Sessions–version of the song received generally positive reviews. Tim Sendra from AllMusic felt that "most interesting reboot" in the album took place on "Can't Get You Out of My Head," saying that the "insistent strings push the song along with a tightly coiled electricity that is impossible to resist." He also picked the song as a highlight on the album. Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine chose the song as one of the "standouts" on the album, saying that its arrangement "compensate for the lack of synthetic dance beats and vocal effects." Tania Zeine from ARIA Charts described the track as a "powerful violin ballad with the accompaniment of a large orchestra throughout the remainder." Simon Price from The Independent said that while the original version of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" would be "impossible to improve on," the reworked version "turns it into a pizzicato thriller score." Jude Rogers from The Quietus, however, felt that the song does not "respond well to this [orchestral] treatment." Louis Vartel from the LGBT oriented website NewNownext, called it "a pulsing march through the most hypnotic beat of the past 20 years [...] Kylie's American breakthrough still holds up as a cool, streamlined dance-floor magnet". He ranked the track on the second position of his list of the singer's 48 greatest songs, in honor of her 48th birthday. John Russell, from LGBT magazine Queerty, concluded that "If 'La-La-La' didn't make Kylie a household name in the States, at the very least it introduced her to a whole new generation of adoring American gays".
In Minogue's native country, Australia, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" entered and peaked at number one on the Australian Singles Chart, on the chart date of 23 September 2001, and remained at the position for four weeks. During its last week on the chart, on 9 December 2001, the song was at number 48, and had spent a total of 12 weeks on the chart. In this region, it was certified triple-platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association for shipments of 210,000 units.
In both the Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia regions of Belgium, the song peaked at number one on the Ultratop chart, spending a total of 22 and 24 weeks on the charts, respectively. In Belgium, the song was certified double-platinum for sales of 100,000 units. In France, the song entered the French Singles Chart at number 14 and peaked at number one, spending a total of 41 weeks on the chart. In this region, it was certified platinum by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique for sales of 500,000 units. As of August 2014, the song was the 22nd best-selling single of the 21st century in France, with 542,000 units sold. In Germany, the song remained at number one for one week on the German Singles Chart. In this region, it was certified platinum by the Federal Association of Music Industry for shipments of 500,000 units. In Ireland, the song entered and peaked at number one on the Ireland Singles Chart, spending a total of consecutive 19 weeks on the chart.
In the United Kingdom, the single faced competition in a hugely hyped chart battle with Victoria Beckham's single "Not Such an Innocent Girl." On the chart date of 29 September 2001, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart with first week sales of 306,000 units, while "Not Such an Innocent Girl" debuted at number six with first week sales of 35,000 units. It spent four weeks at number one, and a total of 25 weeks inside the top 40 on the chart. The song spent a record-breaking eight weeks at number one on the airplay chart of the country and became the first to garner 3000 radio plays in a single week. Subsequently, it became the most-played song of 2001 in the region. "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry for shipments of 600,000 units in 2001. The certification was upgraded to double-platinum in 2015, denoting shipments of 1,200,000 units.
In the United States, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" peaked at number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Minogue's best selling single in the region since her interpretation of "The Loco-Motion." Additionally, the song peaked at number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart, at number 23 on the Adult Top 40 chart, at number three on the Mainstream Top 40 (Pop Songs) chart, and number eight on the Radio Songs chart. In this region, the song was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of 500,000 units.
The accompanying music video for "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was directed by Dawn Shadforth, and featured dance routines choreographed by Michael Rooney. Early in Minogue's career, her youthful look, slim figure, and her "proportionally" large mouth attracted comments from various critics, with British red top newspaper News of the World speculating that the singer could possibly be an alien. Later while discussing the video, Shadforth and music critic Paul Morley took this "bizarre suggestion" into consideration to comment on Minogue as a "creative, experimental artist." Shadforth blocked some shots of the initial driving scene based upon similar shots of Shirley Manson piloting an airplane in her award-winning dogfight clip for Garbage's "Special."
The video was released on 11 August 2001. It begins with Minogue driving a De Tomaso Mangusta sports car on a futuristic bridge, while singing the "la la la" hook of the song. The next scene consists of a number of dance couples performing a dance routine dressed in black and white costumes; they are soon joined by Minogue, who is seen wearing a white tracksuit. The setting changes to a room where Minogue is seen striking various poses sporting bright crimson lipstick and a hooded white jumpsuit with a neckline plunging down to her navel. The outfit was designed by London-based fashion designer Fee Doran, under the label of Mrs Jones. Minogue then performs a synchronised dance routine with several backup dancers, who are wearing red and black suits. As the video ends, she performs a similar routine on the top of a building during the night, this time wearing a lavender halter neck dress with ribbon tile trim. Various scenes in the video show Minogue's face "unusually" close to the lens of the camera, thus it "subtly distorts, yet remains glamorous." Shadforth felt the shot gave a "sort of sense of intimacy and as you say a sort of strangeness," again drawing upon the suggestion of Minogue being an alien. Similarly, Morley opined that it was "the side of Kylie that suddenly reveals itself as being experimental, she is prepared to push herself into positions and shapes that might not be conventionally attractive [...] She becomes alien Kylie as well."
At the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, the music video was nominated for Best Dance Video, while Michael Rooney won the award for Best Choreography. The hooded white jumpsuit Minogue wore in the music video is often considered to be one of her most iconic looks, particularly due to its deep plunging neckline. British fashion designer and Minogue's stylist William Baker described the choice of the outift, saying it was "it was pure but kind of slutty at the same time." The outfit was put on display at Kylie: The Exhibition, an exhibition that featured "costumes and memorabilia collected over Kylie's career," held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, and at Kylie: an exhibition, a similar exhibition held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia. It was also included in Minogue's official fashion photography book, Kylie / Fashion, which was released on 19 November 2012 by Thames and Hudson to celebrate Minogue's completion of 25 years in music.
The music video served as an inspiration for Morley while writing his book Words and Music: the history of pop in the shape of a city. In the book, Morley "turned the lonely drive she [Minogue] made in the song's video towards a city [...] into a fictional history of music," referring to the opening sequence of the music video. The critic takes a ride with Minogue through a city and encounters various musicians and artists like the ghost of Elvis Presley, and Madonna, Kraftwerk, and [Ludwig] Wittgenstein. Academics Diane Railton and Paul Weston, in their 2005 essay Naughty Girls and Red Blooded Women (Representations of Female Heterosexuality in Music Video), contrasted the music video of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" with that of American singer Beyoncé's 2003 single "Baby Boy." Railton and Weston concluded that while both videos focus on two singers performing seductive dance routines, Minogue is presented in a calculated manner and "is always provisional, restricted, and contingent," whereas Beyoncé displays a particular "primitive, feral, uncontrolled and uncontrollable" sexuality embodied by the black female body. The two felt that the videos were representative of the raced depictions of white and black women in colonial times and pop culture, respectively.
On 2 August 2001, Minogue performed "Can't Get You Out of My Head" at the BBC Radio 1 One Big Sunday show held at Leicester, in the United Kingdom, along with "Spinning Around;" for the performance, she wore a black trilby hat, a sleeveless T-shirt upon which a picture of Marilyn Monroe had been printed, knee-length black boots, and trousers with open zips placed on both the thighs. She performed "Can't Get You Out of My Head" on 8 November 2001 at the MTV Europe Music Awards ceremony in 2001. At the 2002 Brit Awards held on 20 February 2002, Minogue performed a mash-up version of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" and British band New Order's 1983 song "Blue Monday" conceived by and also produced by Stuart Crichton. The mash-up was soon released as the B-side to "Love at First Sight," the third single from the album Fever. The live performance of the mash-up ranked at number 40 on The Guardian's list of "50 Key Events in the History of Dance Music" in 2011. The mashup was dubbed "Can't Get Blue Monday Out of My Head" during its inclusion as the B-side to "Love at First Sight" and as a remix on Minogue's remix album Boombox. On 16 March 2002, Minogue performed "Can't Get You Out of My Head" along with "In Your Eyes," the second single from Fever, on Saturday Night Live. On 4 June 2012, she sang "Can't Get You Out of My Head" at the Diamond Jubilee Concert in front of the Buckingham Palace, held in honour of Elizabeth II's completion of 60 years as Queen. Minogue wore a pearl-studded black jacket and hat for the performance. The dance troupe Flawless, who had been finalists on the British television talent show Britain's Got Talent, served as Minogue's backup dancers. More recently, Minogue has performed a version of the song remixed by Steve Anderson. She performed the version during her "MasterCard Pricless Gig" and other mini-concerts to promote her twelfth studio album Kiss Me Once. It was performed during her seven-song set at the 2014 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, as the final song of her performance. She also performed on the French TV show Le Grand Journal along with "I Was Gonna Cancel."
Following its release, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" has been performed by Minogue during all of her concert tours as of 2013, with the exception of the Anti Tour in 2012. In 2001, the song was included in the setlist of Minogue's On a Night Like This tour, which was launched to promote Light Years. According to Tim DiGravina from AllMusic, the performance was infused with an "almost tangible passion and fire." The song was included in the encore segment of the KylieFever2002 tour, which was launched to promote Fever. In 2003, Minogue performed the song on the one-night only concert Money Can't Buy, which concert was used to promote her ninth studio album, Body Language, and was held at major entertainment venue Hammersmith Apollo in London. During the performance, "a visual flurry of quasi-Japanese symbols" was projected onto large digital screens set behind the stage, and dancers wearing bondage costumes carried out a "robotic" dance routine.
In 2005, she performed the song on her Showgirl: The Greatest Hits Tour. But Minogue was unable to complete the tour, as she was diagnosed with early breast cancer and had to cancel the Australian leg of the tour. After undergoing treatment and recovery, Minogue resumed the concert tour in the form of Showgirl: The Homecoming Tour in 2007, and she included "Can't Get You Out of My Head" on the setlist. In 2008, she performed the song on the KylieX2008 tour, which was launched to promote her tenth studio album, X. The show was split into five acts; "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was featured on the first act, titled "Xlectro Static," in a mashup with the song "Boombox." In 2009, she performed the same version of the song on the For You, for Me tour, which was her first concert tour in North America. A more rock-oriented version of the song was performed during the Aphrodite: Les Folies Tour, which was launched to promote her eleventh studio album, Aphrodite. It was regarded as "seemingly inspired by the crunch of Janet Jackson's "Black Cat." During the performance, male back-up dancers in "S&M dog collars" danced with female back-up dancers, who were dressed in red ballroom gowns. In 2012, Minogue promoted The Abbey Road Sessions by performing on the BBC Proms in the Park at Hyde Park, London. During the event, she also sang the orchestral version of "Can't Get You Out of My Head." More recently, the Steve Anderson remix was performed on Minogue's Kiss Me Once Tour and Kylie Summer 2015 Tour. It followed a performance of "Sexercize" in the fourth section, and an interlude dubbed the "Sex Segue." She also performed this version during the 2015 Royal Albert Hall performance as part of her "Kylie Christmas" concert.
Following its release, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" peaked at number one on the charts of every European country (except Finland), Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The song reportedly reached number one in 40 countries worldwide, and as of 2013, it has sold over seven million copies. In the United Kingdom, the total sales of the song are accumulated to be around 1.16 million units, thus making it the 75th best-selling single in the United Kingdom of all time. It is Minogue's highest selling single as of 2013 and also one of the best-selling singles of all time. As of June 2015, it is the 28th best-selling single of the millennium in the United Kingdom. The song is notable for being Minogue's biggest and strongest commercial breakthrough in the United States, a region in which Minogue had previously managed to achieve little success. The commercial success of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" in the US is often considered to have piloted its parent album Fever to achieve similar success in the region. The album would later peak at number three on the Billboard 200 chart, and attain a platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of 1,000,000 units. Fever reportedly sold over six million copies worldwide, becoming Minogue's highest selling album as of 2013.
In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Can't Get You Out of My Head" at number 45 on "100 Best Songs of the 2000s" list, noting that Minogue had "seduced the U.S. with this mirror-ball classic" and that "we've been hearing it at the gym ever since." NME ranked the song at number 74 on their "100 Best Track of the Noughties" list, saying it "encapsulated everything enviable in a well-crafted song" and heralding it as Minogue's best single. In 2012, Priya Elan from NME ranked the song at number four on his "The Greatest Pop Songs in History" list, saying: "It was unlike any song I remember hearing before." In 2012, The Guardian included the song in their list of "The Best Number One Records," labelling it to be "sleek, Arctic-blue minimalism, like an emotionally thwarted retelling of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." In the same year, PRS for Music, a UK copyright collection society and performance rights organisation which collects royalties on behalf of songwriters and composers, named "Can't Get You Out of My Head" the "Most Popular Song of the Decade" as it received the highest airplay and live covers in the 2000s (decade).
In 2013, a survey of 700 people was conducted as part of the Manchester Science Festival to find out which song they considered the "catchiest," and "Can't Get You Out of My Head" topped the poll. Lee Barron, in his essay The Seven Ages of Kylie Minogue: Postmodernism, Identity, and Performative Mimicry, noted that the song "further established Minogue's cultural and commercial relevance in the new millennium." He remarked that the song "with its hypnotic ’la la la’ refrain and the deceptively uncomplicated, catchily repetitive beats and synth-sound, marked yet another clearly defined image transformation from the camp-infused Light Years to an emphasis upon a cool, machine-like sexuality, a trait clearly identifiable within the promotional video for ’Can’t Get You Out of My Head.’" Similarly, Everett True from The Guardian wrote that the song continued the "change in the marketing and public perception of Kylie" and her transition from the "homely girl-next-door" to "a much more flirtatious, sophisticated persona" that started with the release of "Spinning Around" in 2000. True also felt that the success of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was one of the motivating factors behind "manufactured" pop music gaining a "new postmodern respectability" and marked a "clear shift in attitude towards pop music among the 'serious' rock critic fraternity: the idea that (manufactured, female) pop music might well be the equal of (organic, male) rock music after all, that each has their high points and their low." In 2011, Minogue's official website posted a special article marking the song's 10th anniversary on 8 September, the release date of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" in Australia. "Can't Get You Out of My Head" is recognised as Minogue's signature song.
"Can't Get You Out of My Head" garnered Minogue a number of awards. At the 2001 Top of the Pops Awards ceremony, the song won the award for "Best Single." At the 2002 ARIA Music Awards ceremony, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" won the awards for "Single of the Year" and "Highest Selling Single," and Minogue won the "Outstanding Achievement Award." In 2002, it won a Dutch Edison Award for "Single of the Year." In the same year, Dennis and Davis won three awards at the 47th Ivor Novello Awards for their composition of the song; they won the awards "The Ivors Dance Award," "Most Performed Work," and "International Hit of the Year." At the inaugural Premios Oye! in 2002, the song received a nomination in the category of "Song of the Year." In the 2007 episode of The Simpsons, "Homerazzi", the track is heard playing in a celebrity-packed nightclub into which Homer storms.
These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Can't Get You Out of My Head:"CD single
- "Can't Get You Out of My Head" – 3:50
- "Boy" – 3:47
- "Rendezvous at Sunset" – 3:23
- "Can't Get You Out of My Head" – 3:52
- "Boy" – 3:48
- "Can't Get You Out of My Head" (Kiss Me Once Tour studio version)