Tag Archives: Scandipop

Great Forgotten Pop Songs: A*Teens – Closer To Perfection

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

Alphabeat – The Beat Is… album review

Alphabeat’s Fascination may well be one of my favourite songs of the last decade. Essentially Footloose re-spun Scandi-style, ground-breaking stuff it certainly wasn’t, but sold with such a boundless joie de vivre that you couldn’t help but smile (and the ‘Word is on your lips… say the word!’ section is just shiny pop brilliance). Sadly but perhaps not unexpectedly, there is nothing to match Fascination, or even some of This Is Alphabeat’s lesser moments, on new record The Beat Is

Whilst This Is Alphabeat saw the Danish band channelling the 80s in their inimitably feelgood fashion, The Beat Is… sees them mining the sounds of 90s dance acts (Black Box, Corona, Haddaway, Snap! et al) for inspiration. If you were frantically throwing shapes to Rhythm Is A Dancer whilst wearing shapeless clothes, perhaps you will fall for The Beat Is… but for me, the resulting marriage between house beats and sparkly Scandipop is far from successful. At times, some arrangements even seem to veer dangerously into pastiche.

Nevertheless, lead single, The Spell, does come close to recapturing Fascination’s magic (spell… magic – see what I did there?!), helped in no small part by the vocals of sole female Stine Bramsen, which retain their glorious radiance – shame these are often computerised to oblivion elsewhere. The other delight that remains in tact from This Is Alphabeat is the interplay between Stine and male vocalist, Anders; in an age where mixed-sex pop groups are an endangered species (in the UK and US markets specifically), this is a joy to listen to and it’s no coincidence that this occurs on pretty much all of the album’s best songs.

DJ and second single Hole In My Heart manage to turn the old-school beats into something new and alluring whilst Heatwave makes the most of the album’s unexceptional lyrics (mostly about being really really into someone… like really) by perfectly capturing the dizzy delirium of being in lust, but after a while, the beats start to grate. This is compounded by what feels like the vitality being slowly sucked out of the group throughout the ten-track duration – at times, it feels like a somewhat lifeless Alphabeat are content to let the beats do all the talking, resulting in dirge like Chess and Q & A that I have about as much desire to revisit as I do 90s fashion.

Remember those ads that had the Duracell bunny hopping about ceaselessly in contrast to the other one powered by the nameless-for-legal-reasons battery that slowly winded down after an initial spout of energy? Well, This Is Alphabeat is the Duracell bunny, still exuberant, fun and packed to the brim with joie de vivre two years on; no prizes for guessing which rabbit I’m comparing The Beat Is… to. Alphabeat could probably be catchy in their sleep – shame they seem to have taken me a bit too literally on this occasion.

3/5

Article also available at Teentoday.