If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can buy . . . the A*Teens.
If nothing else, you have to at least give the A*Teens credit for one smart move: if you’re going to commit commercial suicide at some point during your recording career, you might as well do it with your first album and get it out of the way.
Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly commercial suicide to put out a CD full of nothing but ABBA covers and call it your first album. I mean, after all, the album wasn’t exactly a flop; a couple of the tracks scored some airplay on major stations, and I’m led to understand that the A*Teens were in regular rotation on Radio Disney.
Nonetheless, how do you follow up an album like that?
Do you follow the Swedish pop motif and begin selecting tracks from the collected works of Roxette to re-record? Or maybe you switch from ‘70s pop to ‘60s pop and do an album’s worth of Lennon/McCartney numbers? Surely switching from covers to original material isn’t a wise move; when you’re a teen-pop band, the odds of producing anything even remotely comparable to the compositions of Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, well, they’re not exactly stellar.
Nonetheless, A*Teens gave original material a try with Teen Spirit, which didn’t include any ABBA covers (nor, despite the album title, any Nirvana covers, thank heavens for small favors) and, as a result, wasn’t nearly as much of a commercial success.
So, now, they’re back with Pop ‘Til You Drop, which, last I checked, wasn’t really setting the charts on fire, either. The group’s cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” continued their desperate flirtation with the Disney demographic by appearing on the soundtrack to Lilo & Stitch, but, even by cow-towing to the under-12 crowd, there’s no report of platinum album sales making the music trades.
Still, as a whole, Pop ‘Til You Drop doesn’t sound any worse than anything else being released by prefabricated teenybopper bands nowadays; in particular, the lead track, “Floorfiller”, could be remixed into an instant dance classic with very little trouble. A lot of the material has a very ‘80s sound to it, but, hey, it’s cool to like the ‘80s or, at least, that’s what VH-1 keeps telling me. And for one of the guiltiest pleasures I’ve experienced in recent memory, I feel obligated to nominate the album closer, a cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”, which features not only a few lines sung through a vocoder but, honest to God, there are even freshly-recorded guest vocals from our man Alice himself! So my question is this: given that the general record-buying public has a tendency to purchase pretty much any old piece of crap that’s given even a halfway-decent publicity budget, why has Pop ‘Til You Drop slipped so far underneath the commercial radar of the American public?
Maybe MCA spent their advertising dollars on hyping the group to the under-12 set, not realizing that the kids didn’t have enough allowance to buy the album. Or maybe it’s because S Club 7 got the jump on ‘em and cornered the market on teen pop groups with both males and females in their line-up.
Or, hey, speaking of S Club 7, maybe the A*Teens need their own TV show. Perhaps that would help.
Probably couldn’t hurt.
If you’re a parent looking for something to keep your young’uns entertaining without being concerned about disconcerting lyrical content, rest assured, you’re safe with the A*Teens. It’s hard to enthusiastically recommend the entire album to anyone over the age of 12, but if you see singles for either “Floorfiller” or “School’s Out”, and they’re not too pricey, you might take a chance.
If nothing else, they’re good, clean fun.
// Notes from the Road
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