Shakespearean "Juliet and Juliet." A Cry For Freedom! (Western Herald Review)

Time of publication: 15.01.2003
CD Review: t.A.T.u -- 200 km/H In The Wrong Lane

by Jason Albaugh
A&E writer

Just like its debut album title suggests, Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. hijacks the norms of popular music and takes off 200 km/H In The Wrong Lane.
t.A.T.u, made up of Julia Volkova and Lena Katina, two Russian sirens with a penchant for screaming like angry pixies more than singing, is one of the most unexpected pop groups in a long while. The group has quickly become more and more popular throughout Europe and Western Asia, with its first single "All The Things She Said" selling thousands in many countries, but has denied many of the sanctions of American pop.

t.A.T.u. has a style that is distinctively European, with more faith in the dance music of England and Germany than the candy-coated Max Martin-style production that drove early albums by Britney Spears, NSync, and others in the United States. This European attitude often also includes blazing guitars and driving beats that when mixed with the passionate vocals of the girls make the music extremely aggressive. All this added to the fact the girls are also allegedly a lesbian couple creates just the right combination of allure, intrigue, and great music to make the album one of the best of 2002.

The album that was released in December was merely the English version of the album, and the Russian version has been out for several months, burning its way throughout Europe. It is rather small by comparison to most albums, composed of merely eight English songs, and three alternate versions of songs on the album, but it is still an incredible disc. The album begins with an anthem for new beginnings and defying normal conventions entitled "Not Gonna Get Us." This song, beginning with the distinctive European sound and both of the girls screaming their lungs out, is not only a triumphant cry for freedom, but also a loving promise between a sort of Shakespearean "Juliet and Juliet."

Contrasting between the aggressive dance of the chorus and the gentle touch of the verses, "Not Gonna Get Us" lays down the framework of t.A.T.u.'s distinctive style. The album then continues with the single "All The Things She Said," a love song between two girls that continues the t.A.T.u. style with blazing sincerity and beats. This song has done incredibly in Europe, reaching gold and platinum status in several countries, and working its way near the top of the charts in others.

The rest of the English songs alternate between more forceful dance tracks and quiet love songs, albeit a little different than most love songs. One highlight of the album is the cover of "How Soon Is Now?" originally by The Smiths. This song was also covered by the American group Snake River Conspiracy, but t.A.T.u. stays closer to the dance nature of the original.

After the conclusion of the English songs, t.A.T.u. also includes Russian versions of "Not Gonna Get Us" ("Nas Ne Dagoniat") and "All The Things She Said" ("Ya Soshla S Uma.") The Russian lyrics can add to the song in great ways, because not only is it mysterious for the non-Russian speaking listener, it can also appear much harder because English is a more lyrical language than Russian. Following the Russian songs is a remix of the song "Show Me Love," a powerful track that explores the relationship that Volkova and Katina share.

Interestingly enough, even with songs like "Show Me Love" and "All The Things She Said," the sexual orientation of the girls is still an elusive mystery. Granted, the girls do kiss during every concert and speak of their love frequently in lyric and interview, but there are still questions. For one, none of the songs that t.A.T.u. perform are actually written by the duo, and sometimes it seems like the girls" homosexuality is just a gimmick. Furthermore, the song "Malchik Gay" is about a straight girl lusting over a gay young man, which would lead some to believe that it was all an act. Whatever the case, merely showing the strength, solidarity, and courage of these girls as gay young women is exceedingly cool.

Whatever the case with the two singers, t.A.T.u. does much more norm breaking than just their love, and this unexpected treat of a pop group has made a great album.

Grade: BA
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