If Lady Gaga has proven anything, it’s that the realms ofteenybopper Hot 100 pop and delirious club-oriented electro are a lotcloser than music executives expected. As the 21st century hasdeveloped, more and more hitmakers are putting aside the soul samplesand brass players for an army’s worth of stomping, fist-pumping synthesizers.
Anyone observing the way in which Kanye West‘s music hasdeveloped since The College Dropout can see it. Enter The Saturdays,plying their trade as a pure-pop group in the Gaga era. Headlines, their third album, is a quick eight songlisten that’s as cozily charming as it is needless, never inducing areaction greater than a bystanding nod. Where once were Bananarama, The Spice Girls, Girls Aloud and the various and continuing incarnations of Sugababes now stalk their imitators.
Unsurprisingly for a girl group designed to appeal to tweens and manufactured to order, there is nothing provocative about The Saturdays; in fact, they’rerather retro in their way, evoking that late ’90s, pre-packaged,big business music that hasn’t dominated the globe sinceN’ Sync and The Backstreet Boys finished their run of success. This kind of synthetic pop has been thoroughly designed to burrow into unquestioning brains, and each of the tracks that make up Headlines areimmediate and easy to jump around to, with no emotionalbaggage (or any real sonic tension) to keep them from having any bufferbetween the head and the hips. It’s like a combination of the giantelectro of 2009 with the tame fluffiness of 1998.
But of course, nobody talks about the boy band era for its classicrecords. The same is true of The Saturdays, whose charm doesn’t translate wellover the weight of a full album’s listen. As individual capsules, the songs work well. Karma and the Starsmith remix ofOne Shot are both booming, speaker-cracking, club-banging, radio-friendly pop. But even thosehighlights are neutered when played back to back.
Other tracks sound over-borrowed. Forever Is Over in particularsounds markedly similar to a certain chart-topping Canadian’sSomebody To Love. There isn’t enough to these songs to merit morethan a cursory scan; the band’s sole moment of wryness, MissingYou, is only elevated because of a few unexpected lyrical quirks, andthat most certainly doesn’t carry the song into ‘essential’territory.
With Gaga, the listener is kept on the edge oftheir seat (if they’ve somehow refrained from leaping off it for a boogie); at any point the album could derail into silly, abstractmythology or uncomfortable imagery. There isn’t any of that risk withThe Saturdays, who stay at the same safe tempo, hit the same safe notes,and stick to the same safe themes for all 30 minutes of the album. Headlinesis partially saved by its brief running time, but when your (or whoever’s) music isalready running out of steam at the 20 minute mark, some reconsidering needs to be done.