Annie Anniemal

[Vice; 2005]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: pop, dance
Others: Kylie Minogue, Richard X, Sugababes

Pop music got a bad rap in the '90s. For some reason, everyone became pre-occupied with "substance" and "authenticity" and denied themselves the simple pleasures of a three-minute slice of heaven. It's only been in the past few years that people have snapped out of it and realized that pop music is not only great, but actually has something to add to the musical landscape. It's thanks to artists like Annie that people have come to their senses and decided that it doesn't matter whether the music's popular or not, or if you're "supposed" to like it, just as long as it's good. And damn is Annie good.

It's hard to say what caused such a massive shift in tastes. Maybe people were bored with the stagnant bore indie rock has become. Or maybe the change wasn't all that great. Maybe people just got tired of trying to hide their guilty pleasures and gave up and said, "I like this. So What?" only to find that everyone else thought the same thing; they were all just afraid to admit it. People have finally started embracing what they think is good music; whatever it is they want to listen to, no matter if it comes from Billboard or underground.

It's a good thing too, because it'd be a shame if everyone was still too stuck up to give Anniemal a shot; I would've hated for this record to fall on deaf ears. Anniemal embodies everything pop music is, can, and should be. From the laser beams and music box (and, um, gurgling) of the aptly named "Intro," right down to the late-night jam of "My Best Friend," the whole album drips with humanity and emotion. And it's no wonder, Anniemal was made in the wake of the death of Annie's musical and romantic partner Tore Andreas Kroknes. That's something I really didn't want to bring up, but it's the only way to really put this album in perspective; to show that Anniemal isn't just some cold carbon copy plastic cut-out, but is a living, breathing beast all its own.

Most of the songs here seem like standard pop fare (not that that's a bad thing), that is until you listen a bit closer: the melodies become more melancholic, the lyrics begin to tug on your heart strings, and Annie's breathy angelic voice becomes a gift from above. In "Heartbeat," Annie describes the joy of just being lost in the moment, while the chords gently pulsate in the air and the drums mimic a certain part of the body. "Come Together" starts off slow with ethereal keys dancing in the background, then kicks it into disco overdrive and doesn't let up for a glorious six minutes. And I wouldn't respect myself in the morning if I didn't mention the gorgeous day-glo dance party of "Me Plus One."

Like M.I.A. (or is it the other way around?), Annie is largely the product of blogs and message boards, and it's still anybody's guess as to what will come of these two. Will the blogs have laid a solid enough foundation for them to cross over, or will it crumble just as quickly as it was built? We'll all have to wait and see, but in the meantime we can sit back and wonder with delight to the perfect pop bliss of Anniemal.

1. Intro
2. Chewing Gum
3. Always Too Late
4. Me Plus One
5. Heartbeat
6. Helpless for Love
7. Anniemal
8. No Easy Love
9. Happy Without You
10. The Greatest Hit
11. Come Together
12. My Best Friend

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