Still Me Still Now
nnie was for the hipsters, Robyn was for the lovers, and Marit Larsen was for those whose love of Americana is borne from years of cinema adverts for Jack Daniels. Amy Diamond, on the other hand, is strictly for the kids. Heck, she's got the cross-youth appeal sewn up: at age 14, she looks 10, and sings like she's six. Last year she conquered Scandinavia in two fell swoops. The single was “What's In It for Me,” a slice of breezy summer ska-pop that Lily Allen is far too cynical and rubbish to ever come close to. This Is Me Now was the album, and it tore across Northern Europe marking the birth of a new teen-pop saviour, making her the youngest person ever to win a Nordic Music Award. In 2006, she conquers you.
She is a pop star. She's a damn good one too, with all the trappings that entails. Of course, when anyone (especially so young and early into their career) masters pop it becomes impossible to describe exactly what they sound like: the first responsibility of any pop musician is to play chameleon. However, if you're that desperate for the pull quote, imagine Tiffany fronting a cocktail bar Steely Dan—except half the age. It's saccharine, but it's such fantastically, precisely, clinically put-together saccharine that you won't find an ounce of gristle on the entire disc. It's the hymn book for the temple of the three-minute pop song: not a single track on here is under 2:30 or over 3:30.
Take “Big Guns,” honky-tonk piano plays host to a battle of The Youth, led by Amy Diamond, vs. Old People Telling Us What To Do, as led by the people actually writing these songs. Imagine Billie's “Because We Want To” redone as a West Side Story outtake. “Heads high my young allies / Raise your voice / And scream.” Diamond, unlike your common-or-garden Amy Studts, can do "grown up" themes without ever seeming like a little girl dressed up in her mommy's clothes. This isn't the maturity of steadiness and mortgages though, more the maturity of a cabaret diva dropping philosophy between each song after her two vicodin and three Mai Tais.
The appeal of Scandi-pop, hyper-pop (or whatever we're calling this new movement emanating from Kalmar Union) is how accurate it is. It’s a hearkening back to latter 1980s pop, when everything had to be technically perfect—OCD pop if you will. It's a reaction against laziness in music, against not combing your hair, not tuning your guitar, and not smiling in band photos. It's a revolution that we need to embrace fully if we're going to pull ourselves out of any haircut indie mire. This Autotune kills fascists, y'know?
Oh, but don't take Amy as a person you should love because of what she stands for, love her because she gives you nothing but the hits. “Diamonds” is straight up drag-queen Liza, 1940s stripper music with 2010s production and 1980s S.A.W. lyrics. “That's Life” is part Lene Marlin, part Steve Miller Band, and part six litres of Diet Coke with Lime sugar rush. And again with the philosophy: “whatever will be will be” sings a girl who still has her milk teeth. The ballads aren't too downbeat: “Don't Cry Your Heart Out” is danceable, “It Can Only Get Better” is your traditional Robbie Williams fourth-single-from-an-album sung with far too much passion and bitter experience from a girl who is younger than both the Premiership and the LA Riots. There's even a track called “No Regrets” which waves a lover on their way with the jollity and bonhomie of Ernie teaching Bert that “H” is a letter and not a number.
I mean, don't bemoan the fact that we don't make music over here, or that if we did it would never sell, or that we have to go to Viking territories now to get pop music. Just be happy that someone, somewhere, is finally bringing the lab coat approach back to pop.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2006-06-08