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The Not-So-Teenybopper Fans - TIDY POP
July 2001
Or, "What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part III"…

Ah, well. In honor of our incredible good fortune in concert tickets, I really have no choice but to devote a Special Blather Album Review to *NSync's Celebrity.

Go Boy Bands, go Boy Bands!

Celebrity came out the day of the show here in LA, but Kelly and I were far too busy with chrome nail polish and Duran buttons and general dorkiness to go pick it up that day. (Had I not been driving that low-end rental Geo with no CD player, mind, I mighta made the effort for the trip out to the Rose Bowl.) So my first listen of most of these songs was, shucks, from our FRONT ROW SEATS at the concert. But rest assured, I picked up the album that weekend and gave it a couple listens without all those distracting lasers and costumes and choreographed dance moves and flashing lights and stuff. Heh.

I was already familiar with the first single, "Pop," which I find incredibly catchy… but which I also think heralds the beginning of the end. I mean, once a band has to start singing songs about how REAL they are and how they're HERE TO STAY and they're JUST DOING WHAT THEY LOVE AND IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, TOO BAD and are basically trying to argue a case for their head-spinning commercial success paired with the questionability of their actual musical talent, (see: The Spice Girls, Forever), they're usually on the slippery slope to being full-on N-KO'd-TB.

So, track-by-track:

Track 1, "Pop": As I mentioned, this song is majorly catchy; it epitomizes everything I crave in Teen ["Dirty"] Pop: it's slickly produced- nay, slickly overproduced, has lots of kickin' drums and techno samples and appealingly cheesy RockLite riffs, has mondo-silly lyrics ("Doesn't matter/'bout the car I drive or the ice around my neck/All that matters/is that you recognize that it's just about respect"), sounds great blasted in the car when I'm tearing around the 405, and just boots it (TM me… it's my new phrase for "kicks ass" :) ), in general. On the down side though, um, who thought bringing back human beat-box was a good idea…? Can't you just see the meeting at Jive Records? "I know, I'll do human beat-box!" "…Why… sure Justin! That'll be FAB!" [inwardly: …and the 12-year-old tards will spend billions of dollars on you no matter HOW stupid you sound, you little pigfart!] Of course, overall, this song is about as hardcore "dirty" as a sweet 3-year-old playing in the mud after a gentle spring rain… but, hey. Boy Band.

Track 2, "Celebrity": This is the title song, and, truthfully, I expected something different from an *NSync title song. You know, all "No Strings Attached" and whatnot. But "Celebrity" is mellow. Yeah, it has the groovy, syncopated drop-beats I dig, and those cheese-wad Diet Techno samples… but it's a quiet, trying-to-be-cool-and-funky song. I guess it's worth it for the giggle factor. I mean, the narcissistic lyrics sound like they came from Mrs. Wilson's 6th-grade creative writing class. "If I couldn't buy you diamond rings/And all those other expensive things/Would you be so into me/If I wasn't a celebrity?" Yeah, Boyz. Life is tough for sensitive artist men like you. And they didn't even thank Duran Duran for the inspiration with the oh-so-"Girls On Film" camera samples.

But I can top the Celebrity Narcissism; I'll bet y'all didn't know that *NSync loves me, did you? To wit: "If I couldn't have cheese like everyday/Would you still wanna be with me?" CHEESE! Coincidence? Ha! Hardly!

Track 3, "The Game is Over." This is the fucking GREATEST SONG OF THE YEAR 2001! Dudes! The Pac-Man samples are studly; surely Buckner and Garcia are quivering in paroxysms of inferiority under the counter at the McDonald's where they're assistant managers. And yeah, this is the song that JC proudly proclaimed on some KIIS FM interview was "a love song inspired by the movie Tron"! HOW could it get better than that?! As I hit the back button on the CD player yet another time and shake my azz, I'm more than willing to overlook the fact that this song is, essentially, just "Digital Get Down" with video game noises.

Track 4, "Girlfriend": Uhhhh. "I like you, right/Would you be my girlfriend?" No. No I will not. This song blows. Too slow, too stupid, lame vocals. Uch.

Track 5, "The Two of Us": Okay, take "Strawberry Fields Forever," and turn it into a trite, sophomoric piece of crap, and you've got "The Two of Us."

Track 6, "Gone": Admittedly, I loathe Boy Band Ballads. But this one starts off with a sample of an all-1920s-sounding scratchy record playing some anachronistically sweet something-or-other, a nice touch, before easing into the mildly rhythm-laden song itself. From there, it's everything I've come to expect from a Boy Band Ballad… sentimental, heavy on the "girrrrl" stuff, lots of Justin Earnestness and Sincerity, plenny o' harmonies during the bridge, all enough to make any prepubescent heart pitter-pat. But then as the Boyz head into the chorus, they hit that "gone… gone… gone" an octave higher, creating an unexpected, mournful and even fairly poignant mood. I don't like this song, but I have to admit it has… something. Then the mood is ruined every time I start giggling at the Boyz singing "do my best to be a man and be strong"…. They just left themselves wide open with that one.

Track 7, "Tell Me, Tell Me… Baby": Okay, hang on… I gotta shake my groove thang again! Yeah! This song does amusingly hokey (hokily amusing?) things in the beginning as the intro is interrupted by Chris going "Hold on… uh, you know what? …Can we back it up just a little bit?" and then all this, I guess, track-scratching, with Justin's vocal on "Say I" and "whyyyy" and rewind-sounding stuff before the rhythm track start up. The lyrics are consistently hackneyed, but the VERY SPECIAL features - namely, 1) the rhythmically incorrectly sung "There's just one THING… the part that is misSING," and 2) Justin's trademark pronunciation of "me" as "maaaay" - ease the pain. At least in my world they do.

Track 8, "Up Against the Wall": The disco ball song! Woo hoo! Again, catchy, lots of those heavy drop-beats… but hearing JC sing "we started grindin'" gives me heebie-jeebies. My pants, emphatically, are NOT bustin' for JC! And another thing… what's up with callin' your girlfriend "Shorty"? I mean, first in that stupid "Angel of the Morning"-sampled song about "closer than my peeps you are to me, baby," and now here…? What is the origin of this particular trend? I guess I'm just old, but the "Shorty" thing is really, really silly. And speaking of silly, hang on… I gotta turn up the volume for this bit….

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Whose the cutest one you saw?
She's underneath the disco ball,
disco ball, the disco ball
Standing next to strobe lights
Dancin' hot, looking tight
The freaks sure do come out at night
Out at night, out at night

WOO HOO!

Track 9, "See Right Through You": Ooooh, SO EDGY, guys! They say "pissed off"! How… how DIRTY! This song is about three steps above the ballads, but one crucial step below songs like "Pop" and "The Game is Over" and even "Up Against the Wall." It'll do, with the rhythm fills and scratching samples, but it's nothing special.

Track 10, "Selfish": Eyew. Ballad. Ick, ick, ick. Boring, boring, boring!

Track 11, "Just Don't Tell Me That": Otherwise known as "Digital Get Down, Part Three." But it boots it! Plus, Justin does that "maaaaay" thang again.

Track 12, "Something Like You": Oh, God… not only is it another ballad, but it has this HORRIBLE cheeze-wad clarinet intro. Boyz? Put away Lionel Ritchie albums! I actually thought this was "Penny Lover" at first, and I don't appreciate being scared like that, okay?

Track 13, "Do Your Thing": *NSync has a habit of ending albums with a Grody Ballad/Upbeat Near-Ballad combo, and this is no exception. This pabulum, meant to inspire generic self-esteem in 8-year-olds, is totally lame. We can skip this one, too.

So? Um, well, I think it's worth it. I can skip those 4-5 icky songs and focus on the dance stuff. Listening to the album as a whole, I can tell the Boyz're trying to do the "mature" thing; every song is unique and different (to a certain Teen Poo degree), as if pointedly offering critics and adults a taste of their (ahem) musical diversity. But that isn't what this album should be about. It's REALLY about doing dance moves from the videos, about 20-year-old billionaires thanking God, their families and their fans in liner notes and then singing songs about all the trappings of mondo-commercial success. It's about concerts with six costume changes and lasers and fireworks and stage sets that take days to set up and break down. It's about banal lyrics and catchy beats and hooks and twenty layers of samples and drum machine tracks and overproduction in the extreme. There's a certain kind of energy to all that and, while not in the musical virtuoso category, Celebrity fills a definite niche. And that's fine with me.

Now excuse me… I have some "Dirty" Pop-ing to do before the Teen Poo craze dies its inevitable death.

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