A*Teens: The ABBA Generation

A*Teens: The ABBA Generation

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Album: The ABBA Generation
Label: MCA

Rarely have best-selling pop constructs seemed as prefabricated as Britney Spears, the 17-year-old behind such virtually identical hits as "...Baby One More Time," "(You Drive Me) Crazy," and the new "Oops!...I Did It Again." Processed, airbrushed, (allegedly) augmented, and bleached of anything resembling charisma, Spears is a true cipher, a dress-up doll programmed to satisfy as many different fans and fantasies as possible. So it's no surprise that, like the single that bears its name, Oops!...I Did It Again is a joyless bit of redundant, obvious, competent cheese, recycling itself at every turn and soliciting songwriting from such soulless hacks as Diane Warren and assorted Swedes. So you like "Oops!...I Did It Again" and the hits from Spears' debut? Well, then, you won't be disappointed with "What U See (Is What U Get)" or "Can't Make You Love Me," which work off a virtually identical musical template. As for Spears' cover of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (or "Lucky," on which she hypocritically laments the perils of fame), the less said the better. Similarly bland and photogenic but far more fun is A*Teens, an ABBA cover band made up of four 15- and 16-year-olds from their inspiration's hometown of Stockholm. A*Teens makes a lot more sense as a live draw than a studio act—if you want to hear ABBA songs, pick up ABBA Gold or any of the countless recent reissues—but it's hard to argue with the group's infectious enthusiasm. Pop music doesn't get more marginal than a collection of overdriven dance-pop covers (especially when the originals are themselves overdriven dance-pop songs), but The ABBA Generation succeeds on its own modest terms. Speaking of modest terms, S Club 7 is a British teen-pop group that could have been grown in a laboratory: Brought together by a lengthy audition process led by Spice Girls Svengali Simon Fuller, the seven good-looking, fresh-scrubbed actors and models are already huge in Britain, where their TV show S Club 7 In Miami propelled them to stardom last year. Now on the Fox Family Channel here, S Club 7 is looking to break big in America, catering to the same mixture of pubescents and pervs who've latched onto Spears. If it succeeds, God help us all: S Club 7 makes Spears and The Backstreet Boys sound like Coal Chamber. Every word of S Club is a horrific cliché: "Bring It All Back" recalls the false uplift of Up With People ("Don't stop / Never give up / Hold your head high and reach the top"), "Viva La Fiesta" is a stunningly inept stab at Latin flavor, "S Club Party" unironically includes repetition of the words, "Ain't no party like an S Club party," and so on. If you think teenybopper pop has reached its nadir with Spears, 'N Sync, and the others, you have no idea how much worse it can get.

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