It was only a matter of time before Great Forgotten Pop Songs took on a distinctly Nordic air. Scandipop is one of my great music loves – so much so I dedicated a whole unloved month to it at Teentoday. Why? Those sneaky Scandinavians simply do pop better than everyone else and have been doing so ever since Abba Waterloo-ed their way to Eurovision victory in the 70s. Prime example – Closer To Perfection by The A*Teens.
For most acts, Closer To Perfection would be the jewel in their crown, the ace in their pack, the Berry in their Glee Club. For a Scandipop act, it was mere album filler. A glittering gem on their New Arrival album, Closer To Perfection holds the distinction of not only being a great forgotten pop song of our time but also one of my all-time favourites.
The A*Teens started life as a rather dubious Abba covers act, putting an eletro sheen on classic tunes to re-sell them to a whole new teenybopper market who found Marie/Sara/Dani/Amit attractive. Abba songs are so timelessly perfect that all covers of them lie on a scale somewhere between ‘unnecessary’ and ‘blasphemous’ so I don’t think I need waste much time on the group’s earliest incarnation. America actually thought they were various Abba members’ offspring, which just about tells you everything you need to know about their early marketing (and about America).
Having realised Abba covers weren’t a viable prospect for longevity in a pop group, someone decided that the A*Teens should start recording original songs. Hand that someone a biscuit and make it a caramel chocolate digestive because from then on, it was one pop glory after another. Fronting sunny, fresh and damn catchy tracks like Floorfiller, For All That I Am and Halfway Around The World (and I make no apologies if said tunes crop up on this series at a later date), A*Teens were ready to take their place amongst Sweden’s legacy for producing pop so good that you wonder why other countries still bother. They reached their pinnacle with New Arrival album track, Closer To Perfection.
Initially a slightly underwhelming vaguely electro number, Closer To Perfection somehow makes the transition to blissfully wonderfully perfect without you even consciously realising. I account this to a sprinkling of Swedish fairy dust but if you’re looking for more earth-bound reasons, I suppose I could bang on about the quietly empowering lyrics, the stunning synths, the shiver-down-spine key change from middle eight to final chorus and a chorus that exudes a hold stronger than Derren Brown doing his spooky stuff on an unsuspecting public.
Proof that break-up songs needs not all be clenched fists and feisty divas, the chorus of ‘I’m back in the light getting over you, now I got it together, I’m stronger than ever/Back on the track with a better view and I’m getting closer to perfection cos of you’ is as quietly uplifting as the best of them.
I challenge you to find a pop number from a teen band that, vocoder-ed to the hilt and as catchy as they come, exudes quite so much obvious class. Looking at A*Teens (generally terrible) promo photos, I’m not entirely sure how they managed it myself. Closer To Perfection? Pretty much as close as they come, actually.
UK Chart Peak: Unreleased
Key lyric: ‘I’m getting closer to perfection cos of you’
Get more A*Teens: For All That I Am, Floorfiller, Halfway Around The World