Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You expect me to be there, but we never get nowhere

Day 2 of the a1 special. a1's second album, The A-List, found them at the peak of their success, earning two #1 singles (and a #6 single) and a Brit Award for British Breakthrough Act. It's also the album with the most noticeable resemblance to the two biggest boybands of the time: Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. However, the album overall remained different from anything either of those groups would release, featuring songs that would hark back to their first album, or at least a cheesier, campier style ("Celebrate Our Love," for example) and a single that was a cover of an already famous song ("Take On Me"), a move that the US-based 'N Sync or BSB would be unlikely to ever consider. On songs like "Too Bad Baby" and "No More," though, a1 would try to mimic the attitude of 'N Sync, and, though they were never quite as convincing about it, their songs were none the worse for it.

Take On Me--the a-ha original must surely be one of the greatest songs ever. How do you improve an already amazing song? Get a boyband to cover it! Though the two versions are fairly similar, a1's has some more electronic effects, giving the song added energy and danceability. The video (which I've resisted the urge to embed) has the boys flying around in a futuristic virtual reality videogame environment.

Same Old Brand New You--epic. Positively epic. And yet pure pop, at the same time. I know songs have verses, bridges, choruses, etc., but "Same Old Brand New You" really feels like at least three songs in one, all adding up to what sounds like one of the best and most ambitious pop songs ever. I'm a little let down by the video (above), to be honest--it gets better by the end, but this phenomenal song deserved a video focused around a killer choreographed group dance routine, full of sharp, crisp, clean, aggressive movements, not leaning on cars and looking moody. I do like the dance when they actually do it, though, and there was some good art direction going on. For more dancing, you can watch their performance on Top Of The Pops, though sadly the credits cut in before the song is over.

No More--aah, now, video-wise, this is more like it (even if the song isn't as good)! More choreographed dancing and posing in a more aggressive or attitude-filled song--it even has the "I'm-so-in-despair-what-will-I-do" two-handed headclasp. To be fair, the first time I saw this video, I thought it was very 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye"-esque, and it sort of is, but upon rewatching the actual "Bye Bye Bye" video, it's more like what I remembered the "Bye Bye Bye" video being like than what it's actually like.

To buy a1's second album, The A-List, go here (physical) or here (digital; you'll have to search for "a1").

Next up: a1's third album and their most radical change in musical style.


Paul said...

I only retroactively got into A1 when their second album came out and I had seen them support Steps in their massive Hyde Park concert and of course fell in love a little bit with all of them at one point or another...at the time i really liked their balls to the wall pop sound of the second album, even if they did look particularly uncomfortable performing No More's dance routine on CDUK. But there are some great ballads on that album too that showcase their writing talents and a knack for a gorgeous melody... i still think Make It Good is their best cd so will await your comments on that....

Poster Girl said...

Did they really look uncomfortable doing the dance routine? Aww, poor boys--I'm all for the choreographed dance, but it has to be something you want to do, not are forced into. There are some really good ballads on The A-List ("She Doesn't See Me" is really, really great, as is "Tomorrow," and more). Make It Good really is excellent...so many good songs; I can't wait to write about it! :)

J'ason D'luv said...

Can I just tell you that in summer '99, when I'd just been in L.A. for about a month, I was sad and lonely one day at work, so I got on the internet to see what was "hot" overseas, and drove straight to Virgin Megastore on Sunset to pick up three singles I'd researched... "Viva La Radio" by Lolly, "Never Knew Love" by Nightcrawlers and "Be The First To Believe" by a1! The latter two were produced by Metro who where the hot producers back then, after doing up Cher's "Believe."

Anyway, I didn't really follow a1 after that, so it's nice to catch up here. And again, since this Ben Adams/a1 posting is turning into a weeklong lovefest, I'm convinced you probably took a tumble in the hay with these boys at some point, you groupie!

Poster Girl said...

I am coming off as a real fangirl, aren't I? I don't kiss and tell, so you'll never know ;) I promise I draw the line before Upper Street, though!

(I'm intrigued enough to go look up those other songs you mentioned now...)