Review Summary: This album resulted in a music video where both of the girls get naked and that has to count for something.
If you’ve ever done a Google search for “Russian school girls” you’d know that it gives you over 3 million results. If one were to browse through those sites (in the name of research, of course) you’d wind up stumbling across this duo. This Russian act’s whole image was based around a lesbian schoolgirl theme. Their videos featured everything from girls making out to both vocalists sporting their birthday suits (link to follow). The huge emphasis on style over substance might lead some to believe that t.A.T.u.’s music was basically generic, throw-away crap; simply background noise for music videos and internet pictures, but it wasn’t. It turned out that the hard push to sell their image really clouded the fact that their music was quite good and even unique for its genre.
Musically, t.A.T.u. succeeded because they were doing something different than their contemporaries. Of course, the core of their sound was simply dance pop, but they dressed it up with an electronica edge and even some modern rock influences. Not only was the music sufficiently different enough to set them apart, but the song writing was also very strong, featuring hooks that people could never get out of their head (try listening to “All the Things She Said” and tell me it’s not in your head the rest of the day). So, when the girls revealed that the lesbian thing was simply an image it gave them a great opportunity to showcase their music without anything else getting in the way. Instead they’ve released an uninspired collection of songs where they seem to simply be going through the motions.
The subtle experimentation, strong choruses and electronica edge have almost entirely been tossed aside in favor of standard club beats and bland vocal performances. This change in direction wasn’t entirely unforeseen as the girls had made mention of a more dance club-friendly direction in interviews, but they never mentioned dropping most of the elements that got them where they are today. With the exception of the first single, “Beliy Plaschik”, the songs are as generic and forgettable as anything else you’d hear while drunk on the dance floor. The simple formula that seems to be used on this album is to take a strong beat and then place just enough synth and keyboard sounds over it to make it seem like maybe someone gave a damn about this release. Basically, after the beats everything else is secondary including any attention to vocal melodies, hooks or anything else.
I do have to point out that later in the album things begin to pick up ever so slightly starting with the tenth track, “Fly on the Wall”. That song manages to combine a dance-friendly beat with some thick synth melodies and an actual memorable vocal performance complete with a strong and impressive chorus. The song following it, “Vremya Luny” even brings back the rock influence that was most noticeable in their cover of the song “How Soon is Now” from their debut album. It is quite literally the only song that contains any kind of fire or energy. Its beat is rhythmic and layered and the guitar riff is a welcome addition as are the unexpected changes throughout the song. Unfortunately, two good songs are not enough to save this album from being instantly forgettable and easily discarded.
It is obvious that this album was geared towards the club crowd, but too many things were lost in the execution. If I was out there doing my best white-boy shuffle and something from this album came on I would use that opportunity to go back to the bar or maybe unload the drinks I’ve already ingested and nothing more. I have a feeling, though, that most people listening to this album are going to do so in their car or at home and that is when its weaknesses are going to become even more apparent. Simply put, this album lacks any kind of substance. The beats are strong, but that is the only thing it has going for it. The vocal performances are forgettable and lackluster, and musically things have been stripped down to a bare minimum. Due to this glaring lack of quality, I can’t see this being played in any club and it definitely lacks the staying power that active listening would require. Whether you were a fan of this band before or not I would suggest saving your money/bandwidth and seeking out something else.