All this weeping in the air
Who can tell where it will fall?
Through floating forests in the air
'Cross the rolling open sea
Blow a kiss, I run through air
Leave the past, find nowhere
Floating forests in the air
Clowns all around you...
I find it funny how rapidly music changed from year to year when I was still in school. And if you were to ask me the defining angst pop record of my graduating year that truly "knew how we felt", I'd have to eliminate all of the power emo-pop groups that exploded during high school. If you want real angst, there is nothing creepier than the manufactured, over-sexed girl group t.A.T.u. (pronounced Tattoo). Comprised of two spunky, sexy young ladies, t.A.T.u. was a grimy look at just how severely corrupted the Russian music industry is. They hit the scene with a biiiiiiig ol' gimmick: lesbianism. They would run around in booty shorts and bras, caressing each other and making out. In all actuality, the girls were not lesbians. When their debut record was translated and re-worked in English for the Western market, the girls were pawns. They had hands up their asses-- puppets. Whenever they gave interviews, they would fall all over each other because they couldn't sit still long enough to answer a question (perhaps also a tool to distract from their horrendous English). Now, I don't know if they ever claimed to actually be lesbians or portray them-- in English interviews, I remember giving the vague response "We love each other," which could go either way (like these girls! HEY OH!) It's difficult to put artistic merit on this project, because it doesn't deserve it. At the same time, with their passionate vocals, which are both melodic and just shouting matches, and the state of the art dance-rock sound, I can't think of any other album that actually got to the soul of what it's like to gay and a teenager. They got away with having two girls make out on television-- women objectivity at its worst, in my opinion, but regardless of the reason, I saw people like me.
This record deals with a lot of teenage issues that go outside of the box of just a break-up or sex. This record deals with suicide, missed connections, being abandoned by your parents, ostracism, and homosexuality. And on that level, I don't care that it was all a "hoax" or just the brainstorm of a creepy Russian music producer-- particularly because the girls eventually left their manager and started making records on their own terms with different songwriters. This record is very short. Compared to the original Russian release, this version, 200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane, only features six of the original songs, two new tracks, and then some remixes tacked on to the end. And as much as I love some of the songs from the original record (Ya Tvoy Vrag, I remember being incredibly infectious), there's something very cinematic about the way this record plays. Because it's so short, it's a picture of two teenage girls who decide, last minute, to run away from their parents and start a torrid affair together, which eventually ends in complete disaster. It would have made for a great book. By trimming all the fat from 200 Po Vstrechnoy, the Teat t.A.T.u. did something I don't think they really meant to do: they created the perfect pop record. To lay it down for you at the start, this record was very well produced, infusing some of that Russian techno presence into the American rock scene, then making it synth-based and crunchy. It's hyper, schizophrenic, and chaotic-- above all, it's dramatic. Though repetitive on some songs like All the Things She Said, it builds the suspense. These chicks kind of sound like they are being tortured, which, I guess, is the mood of the entire project. No other teen-pop act has ever made these topics sound so real and vivid. It's difficult when you have bands like Simple Plan ruining it for the rest of us. These topics do have merit if done in a skilled way, and there's a hidden artistic facet to this record.
The good-girl-gone-bad motif has been done before, sure, but t.A.T.u.'s management took it to an entirely new level-- and that's where this project fails. The girls had almost nothing to do with it! They didn't contribute to the songwriting, and something tells me that the Russian management was far to strict with them. As my ex-boyfriend liked to say, "I don't want to like slave-girl music." (Not that it stopped him from loving every second of it). So, on one hand, I can't blame them. On the other, they still just had their vocal performances to rely on. And though they aren't the best singers in the world, they are emotional and hot. They have this raw edge to them-- ying and yang. Lena is the quieter of the two. She's the one in control. Yulia hollers and has a more vapid quality to her vocals, which sound as if they are fueled by fire. And when you mix the two, you get the effect that something on this plastic album is actually real and gritty. Clowns is a song that makes absolutely NO sense in English, but then again, confusion is also a recurring theme, and this time the listener gets to come along for the ride. But if I were to point my finger at any song on this record for praisin', it's How Soon is Now?, which is a classic, moody song from The Smiths, who were the original emo (not they were as whiny as the acts today are). Morrissey, one of the songs original songwriters, called their version "magnificent," and I agree. The way it was crunched and kicked around makes the song sound FAR more desperate than the original, which is far more subdued and wishy-washy. This is one of those songs where the vocals make the track, and this is one of those moments where I can praise the girls for bringing something to table. The way Yulia SCREAMS the final chorus is spine-shattering: YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH! HOW DARE YOU SAY!...I go about things the wrong way...
This record has been praised and ridiculed, because it is one of the biggest jokes in pop music history. That said, I cannot deny the severe strokes and daring concept: it's dance, it's rock, it's pop, it's original. Whether or not they meant it to be, 200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane is an album that defined who I was in 2003. I was just coming to terms with the fact that I was, indeed, a homosexual-- learning the word for it, and what it actually meant that I liked to look at men in their underwear. And this record was the one that helped me get through it. It showed me the absolute bottom you can hit, and the absolute top you can hit. This record was not afraid of sexuality, and even though it's creepy as Hell and it sounds like the two girls are chained to a cage, I cannot deny that it was important to a lot of people, particularly myself.
01. Not Gonna Get Us [5 Stars]
02. All the Things She Said [4.5 Stars]
03. Show Me Love [5 Stars]
04. 30 Minutes [4 Stars]
05. How Soon is Now? [5 Stars]
06. Clowns (Can You See Me Now?) [5 Stars]
07. Malchik Gay (ENG: Gay Boy) [4.5 Stars]
08. Stars [4 Stars]
09. Я сошла с ума (US Remix) (ENG: I've Lost My Mind) [4.5 Stars] -- All the Things She Said
10. Нас не догонят (US Remix) (ENG: Not Gonna Get Us) [5 Stars]
11. Show Me Love (Extended Version) [5 Stars]
BEST: Show Me Love, How Soon is Now?
WORST: 30 Minutes
SCORE: 5 STARS (4.6)