Ashlee Simpson vs. Tatu (Slate Magazine)

Time of publication: 01.11.2005
Guess who made the better new album.

The band Tatu was a product that one could only sell, or buy, once. Even as the goth-chipmunk ardor of their 2002 single "All the Things She Said" was steadily denting stateside radio playlists, it was safe to assume there would be no competing teenage-lesbian Slav duo that year. Lena and Julia took the waning Britney-vs.-Christina debate and resolved it as only a reeling post-socialist mind would—Both! Making out! In a way, they formed the ultimate, albeit belated, punch line to the 1990s: liberation as political correctness as farce. Not bad for two girls in Catholic-school uniforms, especially considering there are no Catholic girl schools in Russia. The highbrow reaction was a mix of bemusement and horror, with Gary Shteyngart doing the requisite hand-wringing in The New Yorker. His conclusion: The girls were in need of deprogramming, and the duo's manager, Mr. Shapovalov, was a man capable of mesmerizing Mesmer.

One small detail spoiled the otherwise immaculate picture of corrupted youth, hair-raising exploitation, and proto-capitalist greed run amok: "All the Things She Said" was a terrific song. Tightly constructed by craftsmen unknown and given a steely sheen by the celebrated producer Trevor Horn, the killer single ostensibly about same-sex lust was, in fact, a valentine to all of us who like a bit of a challenge with our pleasure. In an era when one good hook is enough to hang an album's worth of filler on, "All the Things She Said" contained at least five distinct parts, each catchier than the other. What's more, it drew freely from disparate sources, both above- and underground: goth rock, industrial, sleek '90s techno. In short, it was a ubiquitous hit that also doubled as a hip discovery—a phenomenon that hasn't recurred until Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone."

Second albums by pop groups always demand a shift in narrative—Clarkson "matures," Pink "goes punk"—but how do you follow up an act that involves strategically timed onstage snogging during guitar solos? For their sophomore disc, Dangerous and Moving, Tatu have bravely downgraded love to very, very tight friendship. The video for the first single binds our heroines in blood as they violently dispatch a date rapist: The new template is a buddy movie, not Girls Gone Wild.

Michael Idov
Slate Magazine,
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