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Attack of the Teenage Lesbian Pop Tarts

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Attack of the Teenage Lesbian Pop Tarts


It
was probably inevitable. After Britney draped a python over her Britneys,
after Christina strutted in her Moulin undies, after Tweet cooed, “Oops,
there goes my skirt — droppin’ to my feet,” like an innocent Bo Peep,
it was only a matter of time before some pop maestro figured he’d tempt
Americans with a sexy teenage lesbian duo.

    Meet
Tatu. They’re Russian. They’re big news in their home country, where they’ve
been stars for a few years, and now they want to break in here. Tatu consists
of two fresh-faced devotchkas named Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova,
who are so young they’ve only lately been able to buy tickets to R-rated
films. They’re managed by a guy named Ivan Shapovalov, a psychologist turned
pop svengali who advises Lena and Yulia and helps produce their music. That’s
some shrink.

    Tatu’s big breakthrough was a song called “Ya Soshla
s Uma,” or, “I’ve Lost My Mind.” (An English-language version of the song
has also been released in Europe as “All the Things She Said.”) “Ya Soshla
s Uma” tells the story of teen lesbians in love. “I’ve gone mad/I need her,”
sing Lena and Yulia mistily.

    Okay, so they’re not exactly a pair of Woody Guthries.
But Russia went nuts for “Ya Soshla s Uma,” and Lena and Yulia egged
on the hype by smooching in a video and teasing in interviews that the affair
described in the song may, in fact, be real-life. In a 2001 interview with
the Moscow Times, Lena said: “Before, this kind of love was forbidden,
but those people are just like us. Sometimes, I even think that with Yulia,
I feel more than friendship.”

    Now Tatu’s forbidden pop is coming to the States.
The duo is signed to Interscope Records — the makers of Eminem —
and producer Trevor Horn, the architect of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, has
been enlisted to spruce them up for a U.S. debut.

    It’s
going to be interesting to see how Tatu plays in America, or, perhaps more
urgently, if they play at all. Certainly their boundary-pushing feels like
a logical next step, following an era of hyper-sexuality in female pop,
from seemingly mandatory midriff baring in videos to come-hither lyrics
that leave so little to the imagination it’s amazing to think people used
to get worked up about Madonna. Really: if Khia can get a hit out of singing
“My neck, my back/Lick my pussy and my crack,” well, we should be well equipped
to handle “Ya Soshla s Uma.”

    One might think that Tatu could become genuine lesbian
icons, or that their candid pop could at least provoke a thoughtful dialogue
about same-sex relationships. But it’s not likely. Tatu’s lesbian tease
seems more of The Man Show, strippers-kissing-on-Howard-Stern variety;
it’s packaged to titillate and sell the heck out of records. (It’s worth
noting that Lena and Yulia were plucked, Spice Girls-style, out of a cattle-call
audition; they weren’t playing coffee houses in Voskresensk.) Though they
surely will have their female fans, Tatu appears far more likely to inspire
frat-boy nudging than any useful discussion about sexuality. Indeed, one
of the first U.S. publications to pick up on Tatu was the babe-ogling music
magazine Blender, published by the makers of Maxim. You can
hear the horny ghosts of Beavis and Butt-Head: Heh-heh. Huh-Huh.

    And that’s what’s disappointing about Tatu: even
if the Lena and Yulia are genuinely in love, their love comes off like shtick,
as cynically calculated as Britney’s buttcrack jeans or Christina’s teenie-weeny
skirts. Their arrival will do little to change the fact that female pop,
though thoroughly sexualized, keeps its bubblegum center thoroughly hetero.
Madonna’s laudable same-sex explorations didn’t really advance attitudes:
recently, an absurd gossip item forced the singer Alicia Keys to deny that she was gay. The reason for the suspicion? She’s always
wearing pants.

    There’s
evidence this empty nakedness is wearing thin. In the past year, female
pop has experienced a quiet but clear creep away from the sexy midriff.
Britney didn’t sell as many records as her handlers thought she would, Christina’s
been on ice, and newer princesses like Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Carlton and
Michelle Branch seem more interested in lyrics and instruments than in slathering
themselves in body paint. Pop’s young women seem more interested in getting
by with their clothes on, and Tatu may find itself unloved it if relies
on titillation alone. They’ll have to make good records, and that’s always
the hard part.


Tatu’s album, 200 Km/H in the Wrong Lane (Interscope), will be
released on Oct. 22. To buy it, click
here.

For Tatu’s official website, click here.

©2002 Ryan Tuthill and Nerve.com, Inc.