Before I see Kylie Minogue, I wonder if she really exists, or whether she'll turn out to have been a tiny delicious pop android after all. Years ago, a 2.4m-tall raver robot in the comic 2000AD described her as a "Vera Lynn for the Third World War", and the impression has stuck, because it's what I want her to be.
I can hear her coming then the lift doors open, and lo! She does exist. Here she is, trit-trotting out with a clutter of chattering PRs and managers, the hotel manager and the guest-relations person, who are in a total dither at her star power, and off she goes into a suite, with me following.
Where, though, are the frills, the sparkles? Where's the lame? We're on the 25th floor of a tower in King's Cross in London, one of those touristic instahotels that thinks it's the Burj Al Arab.
She looks surprisingly straight and grown-up - all nice hair, simple black trousers and a good blouse. She could be your favourite teacher.
Into the Blue, the first single from her new album - Kiss Me Once, due out next week - has just broken on YouTube, and it's a dance floor destroyer; Minogue exactly as we know her.
But there's something about the Minogue in this room that makes me think she has been - is - Going Through Something.
"I can become a hermit when I've got the luxury to do that," she says. "See nobody and do nothing. I love it. I feel so rock 'n' roll."
This fondness for me-time, it turns out, extended to spending New Year's Eve on her own.
"It was just what I wanted to do. Last year was so ... brrrrr. I don't wanna say it was heavy. I was just very quietly excited about midnight arriving. I was sitting there thinking."
"I don't know how to describe it," she says, choosing her words carefully. "It was bordering on the existential! But there was something so great about being on my own for the stroke of midnight.
"Last year was a big year of change. I had an epiphany about change and new horizons and new landscapes. It was all about putting on the brakes and separating myself from everything that was normal to me the year before."
These upheavals included the loss of her maternal grandmother, leaving her manager of 25 years and signing to Jay-Z's Roc Nation and temporarily moving to LA to record her album.
In the middle of all that she parted ways with her younger model lover of five years, Andres Velencoso. The tabloids were reporting that the split was because of work commitments, but that didn't ring true. If you're properly in love and you've already conquered the world - and if you're 45 - can "work" ever be the only reason? "Work was definitely an aspect of it, but it wasn't just that," she says. "I had a great number of years with him, and he's a really, really good, good guy."
Some assume it's Minogue who has always been left, and isn't it sad she isn't married with children? But I suspect they are mistaken. Now I think it's she who calls time.
"I hate being boxed in," she says. "In tight clothes, tight relationships. I need to feel free in my mind. Not to go anywhere, because I'm a serial monogamist, but put a little box around me and I'll be like a wild horse. It's a mindset, a Gemini thing - you need to know you can bust out and do different things."
Does she not believe in the redemptive power of love?
"I do. I'm a romantic and I love it, and when it happens I can definitely fall hard. You're in a spin, arranging everything else so you can see that person. But it's not so much the picture frame with the perfect couple. I don't know if someone is gonna change all that and I'll be walking down the aisle one day, but I've never really seen it. I'm totally fluid. For me, love is the people I work with, it's my family."
Her career, as we all know, is paramount. She says that she was "hell-bent" on making this album work, which sounds as if it didn't come as easily as she might have liked.
"There were definitely points when I thought, 'This is too hard'. You also have surges when you go, 'That's it, we're out of the gates', and you find you have a body of work.
Then you get some clarity and see that what you thought was 10 steps was actually one."
Through the window beside us is a big view of London under a grey sky. "Isn't it handsome?" I say.
"Ha ha, no, it isn't!" says Minogue.
It's true. In the drizzle, it isn't, and Minogue is actually a very pragmatic person. If she weren't, she wouldn't still be here, and Kiss Me Once would not be her 12th studio album, her first original one since 2010's Aphrodite (in 2012 she released The Abbey Road sessions for Britain's Radio 2 market).
Kiss Me Once, she says, is "the DNA of my recording career. It's what people like to hear from me".
Well, the gays seem pleased. One described Into The Blue as "three and a 1/2 minutes well spent on the dancefloor", which is almost all you could ask of a pop song.
And the video has been directed by Dawn Shadforth, who directed Spinning Around and Can't Get You Out of My Head - arguably the moments Minogue best fulfilled her promise - and it's all black-and-white frolics in oversized white shirts and suspenders with rugged French models.
"I wanted it to be a bit 1970s, a bit soft-focus. I love Dawn's work. It's a woman's vision of a woman. She always manages to make it look really hot. Hotter than guys do, for sure."
Then she says: "It goes back to Fever, which was the last time I was most myself. Later on, after I was ill, I wasn't confident. I put on a lot of things to hide behind so I could be a character. But now ..."
For her upcoming world tour, which starts in May, she has taken on the role of creative director.
"This one will be more feminine, stripped back, less harshness. I'm taking off the mask."
Does that mean the gold hot pants are revving up for another star turn?
She says that every year she thinks "that" is over, but "I can't fight who I am. I will always be the one who, you know ..." She shimmies around in her chair. "This sort of thing happens. That's my personality; it isn't artifice, it's what I'm like."
There is an oft-repeated story about the day last year in LA when Minogue turned up to write some songs with Pharrell Williams for her new album. But she felt so miserable, she didn't want to work.
"Pharrell was very sweet and sincere with me, and talked me through the whole thing.
And he got I Tried To Cancel out of it, which is about when things go wrong, you dust yourself off and get out of bed. I sang through the tears! "Pharrell was happy. He got the poppiest song on the album."
She isn't a moper, not after everything she's been through.
"I'm pretty quick. I go through the sadness, then I snap out of it. I have a million things going on, and that makes it easier. In the solitude, there's the silence and then you can hear them, all the voices in your head, but that's cool."
She keeps coming back to the word "non-traditional".
"It's disguised as work," she says, "but I am quite eccentric in my own way. As I get older, I hope I care less and less about it."
She says that some of this happier, frill-free Kylie Minogue owes itself to her stint on The Voice, for which she dressed "simply, as myself". It was 30 cameras, everywhere, all the time.
The producers said, 'The more you're you, the better. Don't try to be something. We have you on the panel because we want you'. That invited a whole self-acceptance process, which was kind of cool."
One of the most desired and admired women in the world has taken until the age of 45 to get comfortable with herself.
Last year, after their grandmother died, she and her sister, Dannii, both got into the habit of carrying a handbag everywhere in her honour. Kylie's is a grey-blue one by Nina Ricci.
"I call it the Nana clutch, because when you're stressed and you get in the car and think, 'Why am I still clutching my bag?' you realise you've got the Nana clutch on."
When you're 45, you can have gold hot pants and a proper handbag. That's good to know.
Kylie Minogue's single, Into the Blue, is out now; the album, Kiss Me Once, will be released on march 14.