The Secret Life of…
couple of years ago TaTu were on the VMAs, singing the words "They’re not gonna get us." By their finish, they were accompanied by an army of schoolgirls, all in uniform, all making out. Yeah, it was a show for the boys and it was intended to be spectacle, and TaTu weren't really lesbians at all—we all know that now. But it doesn't matter. Pop's entire point is desire and power filtering through a lack of authenticity. Those fake lesbians by the dozen had a dangerous, vaginas-run-amuck feeling, even if we were painfully aware of manipulation. It’s like Ashlee Simpson yelling in a punk snarl, or Green Day's nine-minute epics about the downfall of the American empire. If the feeling is there, nothing else matters at all.
The first track of the Veronica's new album is a perfect example of this. “4ever” is ideal in its pop fury, in its rhythmic guiding, in its hard drums, its harder vocals. These two sisters from Brisbane have committed one of the great 3-minute odes to casual sex. The hook rests on the line "Come on baby / We ain't gonna live forever / I know you want to be together / But I want to spend the night with you" and they deliver it with the teenage sultriness of Britney Spears telling me to Hit Her One More Time and the aggressiveness, the cocksure swagger of Mick Jagger commanding that we spend the night together. It gave me a hard on, one so engorged I could have opened tin cans with it—a feeling I haven't had since TaTu. Their intense self-awareness continues on “Everything,” where they refuse to be "losing themselves for anyone else," and to play games of competition for someone who treats them without respect.
On “When It All Falls Apart,” she feels that she should have "Kicked his ass again" and the whole meltdown teenage-angst-bullshit should come—the grand-emo whining of those loved and unloved. But it doesn't come at all. Of course it’s all falling apart, but she asks him "What do you do when it all falls apart?" with this Phil Spector on amphetamines wall of sound tip, and she figures out the answer herself. What she does is very simple: "Pick myself up / I just got to start / ‘Cause I can’t turn to you / When things fall apart." That's the grand theme of girl-pop: emancipation from the patriarchy…though they would never reflect it that way.
It continues—the fuck you to those in power, to those who have love to offer. The rejection of commitment and the desire towards pleasure is central. She can ignore "A million letters confessing to me that I am the girl of your dreams" but it doesn't matter because "I always thought you were gay" (“Secret”) or how "She is tired of love / So get it out my face / Leave me alone" or the perfect, lonely, and gorgeous ballad “Speechless,” which transforms all those clichés of comfort and home into something more crystalline.
The instrumentation combines the swooning strings, the angry, throttling guitars, and the Farisfa organs going into hard synths, the rattle-tat-tat drums, and the rise/fall/rise soft/hard/soft that is expected in every pop song. However, the rises and falls occur five or six times in one song, and the softness/hardness envelop into each other so that they are forever irremovable. All of this and Australian accents that sometimes come and sometimes go, depending on the need to employ them. It’s horribly sophisticated in the most self-aware way. It's almost meta-pop.
This is the best pop album of the year and what Ashlee Simpson wishes to be, and I imagine that they might even last longer than this album, seeing as how they are produced by uber-svengali Max Martin. But even if this is the only album that they create, it’s well worth having. The self-awareness that requires independence is ideal for this age, horribly confused about pleasure and its products.
Reviewed by: Anthony Easton
Reviewed on: 2005-12-02