Music

t.A.T.u: Dangerous and Moving

Roger Holland

If you don't like t.A.T.u, you don't like pop music. Simple as that. Straight outta Eurovision-East, t.A.T.u are the Abba for the new millennium.


t.A.T.u.

Dangerous and Moving

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2005-10-11
UK Release Date: 2005-10-10
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

If you don't like t.A.T.u, you don't like pop music. Simple as that. Straight outta Eurovision-East, t.A.T.u are the Abba for the new millennium. Following a split from svengali Ivan Shapovalov and a hype-confounding pregnancy, the t.A.T.u girls have regrouped and taken control of their own destiny, and now they're back with a collection of songs bigger, brighter and better than their Western debut, 200km/h in the Wrong Lane.

Rare flowers blooming from the rancid dustbins of modern pop, a contemporary Agnetha and Frida with no need for ugly geek muso husband sidekicks, Lena Katina and new mother Yulya Volkova have actually out-punched Abba so far. The Swedes' debut album had just two halfway decent songs and made no sort of international impression. 200km/h boasted two of the very best pop moments of the 21st century: the irresistible strained rush of "All The Things She Said" and the bunker-busting cover of "How Soon Is Now". And if Abba's second release took things up a notch with three good songs, Dangerous And Moving is still decidedly fabber than Abba.

You don't believe me? Just check out the new single, "All About Us". Yes, in many ways, it's "All The Things She Said - Part Dva". But so what? It packs more amateur operatics, more rock and more intelligent pop into a little under three minutes than Queen could shoehorn into the entirety of "Bohemian Rhapsody"; and it's by no means the best song on Dangerous and Moving. And if the sub-text is still the relationship between the two girls, then again, so what? Why was their exploitation of the haze surrounding their friendship any worse than Freddie Mercury pretending to be straight? If Joe Strummer could pretend to be working class to create a compelling rock theatre, then why shouldn't t.A.T.u's willful provocation be celebrated like the Sex Pistols?

tATuTruFax #1: t.A.T.u comes from a collocation of "ta" and "tu", two forms of a Russian feminine pronoun, that can be translated as "This female (does something to) that female." The implication is that "this girl fucks that girl".

Clearly, t.A.T.u understand that presentation and exploitation are intrinsic parts of their craft, but they also know it's easier to sell the truth. Lena Katina has said t.A.T.u have been essentially honest with their audience, attempting to express elements of a long lasting friendship that's been confused, difficult and ripe with sexual tension; and I see no reason not to believe her. Although in the context of modern pop music, the truth is supremely irrelevant, Dangerous and Moving seems very much an exploration of a friendship under stress. In the helter skelter "Loves Me Not", Yulya Volkova confesses "I complicated our lives by falling in love with him ... now I'm losing my only friend". In the gentle "Gomenasai" (from an abbreviated form of the Japanese phrase meaning "I'm sorry") she pleads, "I never needed a friend like I do now".

tATuTruFax #2: Tatu was the codename Che Guevara used during his time as a guerilla in the Congo.

Subversive pop firestarters in Armani Exchange hoodies, t.A.T.u do pop like Drew Barrymore does cute -- with effortless beauty, wit and personality. At times, their singing suggests Madonna circa Like a Prayer and, like the Equestrian Girl herself in her time, they're pretty much a perfect pop package; yet they also offer a deconstruction of the form that's pure punk rock at heart. Live, t.A.T.u shine with a shy playful glee, urging us to join their club. On video, they deliver drama, scandal and nightmare images of urban collapse. On Dangerous and Moving, they bring us alien-sweet, broken helium-honey harmonies besieged by vibrant pulsing instrumentation and classically theatrical pop dynamics. Sweeping Russian symphonies in electro-punk pop tempered with quieter episodes of quite bewitching delicacy.

tATuTruFax #3: When Beijing was the capital of the Great Mongolian Yuan Empire in the 13th and 14th centuries, it was known as Daidu, or Tatu.

Western pop luminaries such as Trevor Horn, Sting, Dave Stewart and even Richard Carpenter have all contributed to the making of Dangerous and Moving, but it's still an essentially Eastern work. Even Horn's impeccable "Craving (I Only Want What I Can't Have)" is a perfect Billboard moment seen through the glass of a Russian Standard vodka bottle darkly, and sung quite beautifully by Lena and Yulya. Partially, of course, it's the accents. Exotic voices singing in English have a special appeal. The phrasing is less glib, so the emotions seem more sincere, which perhaps explains why Agnetha and Frida got away with singing so much Euro-nonsense for so long. But there is something more here. Perhaps, at heart, t.A.T.u simply represent the tensions between their Russian traditions and the Western pop culture that brought down the Berlin Wall.

Whatever, t.A.T.u still sound best when they sing in their native tongue. Sadly, Dangerous and Moving has only one example of the otherworldly beauty and soul of their Russian language work. Happily, "Obizienka Nol" is magnificent. An electro-epic "Kashmir", it makes the very most of the different textures and emotions offered by Lena and Yulya's quite distinct vocal ranges and it touches places most pop music couldn't find with a map and GPS.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

Music

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Music

Becky Warren Shares "Good Luck" and Discusses Music and Depression (premiere + interview)

Becky Warren finds slivers of humor while addressing depression for the third time in as many solo concept albums, but now the daring artist is turning the focus on herself in a fight against a frightful foe.

Music

Fleet Foxes Take a Trip to the 'Shore'

On Shore, Fleet Foxes consist mostly of founding member Robin Pecknold. Recording with a band in the age of COVID-19 can be difficult. It was just time to make this record this way.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.