Monthly Archives: February 2012

S Club 7 – S Club (1999)

Simon Fuller.

You might not recognize that name. It’s ok. Lots of people don’t!

But you definitely are aware of his work. Oh yes. For better or for worse, British moneyman Simon Fuller became the driving force behind radio-swallowing pop music titans two times over: the Spice Girls and American Idol.

The names are recognizable, obviously. These are two commercial entities that were both massively popular in their time (although Idol’s ratings have been dwindling more than a little in recent years) and the subject of constant debate and scorn from anti-pop music snobs across the globe. But it’s all too easy to undermine their impact on pop music as a whole. The Spice Girls were maybe the first teen pop group of their kind to meet massive success in America in the late-90s, allowing for like-minded boy bands and pop idols to shape the sound of radio pop for the following five years or so. And right when that initial teenybopper pop thrust began to wane, the UK’s Pop Idol hit our shores as American Idol in 2002 and generated more chart-dominating stars than can be named.

So in more ways than one, it does not matter if you don’t know Simon Fuller’s name or the name of his (former) production company 19 Entertainment. Because he owns you. Completely. He is Your Pop God.

…well, alright, that’s an exaggeration. But he is a very rich man who has managed lots of popular music groups. So that is something.

But let’s talk about me for a second. Hi, I’m Sean Rose. Hey. I’m handsome and great. And for me, Mr. Fuller’s strangest and most interesting pop creation has to be the group he cobbled together in the years between the Spice Girls’ string of hits and American Idol’s TV domination: UK’s very own S Club 7.

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Backstreet Boys – Millennium (1999)

I want to admit something. I have approached the idea of reviewing the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium this early on in Digital Get Down‘s lifespan with some trepidation. This is one of the Big Ones, after all – perhaps THE biggest and most recognizable boy band album ever released – and I’m worried that it could all be downhill from here. Blowing my wad early. Screwing the pooch. Because how many other boy band records even come close to replicating the all-encompassing success of Millennium? If this is the Biggest Boy Band Album Ever (TBBBAE), why talk about any other boy band albums at all??

But no. I choose not to believe this. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m actually looking forward to getting The Biggest Boy Band Album Ever out of the way so we can get down to teen pop’s nitty gritty. Boy Band History after Millennium is mostly just malaise, earth-tones and soul-crushing anonymity. And what’s more fun than that??

I also want to tackle Millennium for personal reasons, because I feel like I owe something to the Boys themselves. My review of their self-titled American debut didn’t really give them the introduction I feel they deserved. I guess I can chalk that up to it being the first Digital Get Down post ever – a rookie mistake, if you will – but considering the in-depth intro I gave ‘N Sync, I feel like it’s more than fair to even the score. Even if the Backstreet Boys never had the sheer force of personality as many of their contemporaries, they still remain the archetypal American boy band. And that, to me, is an important thing!

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LFO – Self-Titled (1999)

From Wikipedia:

“In 1995, in Fall River, Massachusetts, Rich Cronin met Brian Gillis,[citation needed] who was also known as Brizz.”

And so, the story of the Lyte Funkie Ones begins.

Let’s be honest: does anybody give a fuck about LFO? Does anybody like LFO? Does anybody even tolerate LFO?

These are serious questions. I’m not trying to be mean. I swear!

I mean, let’s compare LFO to every other pop act I’ve reviewed thus far in this Digital Get Down adventure. Despite what you (or the public at large) might think about the likes of ‘N Sync or Hanson, the truth is that these acts enjoyed – at the very least – a brief flirtation with critical acceptance. Heck, even the Backstreet Boys had a critical “in” with “I Want It That Way,” which has popped up on more than a few “Best Pop Songs Ever” lists.

LFO do not have this. They do not have that one exceptional you-can’t-deny-that-THIS-is-a-classic hit single, that one member that became solo megastar, or even that one semi-hip producer they worked with in their early days that you never saw coming. LFO have never commanded even the tiniest iota of critical respect. And they never will.

Now you might find it strange that I would feel the need to qualify this in a blog solely dedicated to teen pop, but in LFO’s case I need to. Because no matter how many flim-flam pop acts I cover here, few will approach the immediate cultural marginalization that LFO experienced after boy bands became passe at the turn of the millennium. Offhand I can’t think of a single boy band that crashed-and-burned nearly as quickly or as despairingly. Do not let their sunny disposition fool you – the story of the Lyte Funkie Ones is a story marked by tragedy, depression and VH1 reality TV. LFO might be a joke, but they’re a cruel, awkwardly unfunny joke that you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling around your friends.

Why were LFO a joke, you ask. Because they were doofy as all hell? Because they were doofy as all hell.

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