In these post-fun days of the pop world's rehash and rehab years, it's hard not to greet new teen "talent" with all of the charm one might summon for a skeet shoot. It's a fact that tight-suited PR agents are well aware of, stacking odds in favors long before the public even has a chance to sigh "been there" dismissal, as if to say "you're going to love them, if only because their corporate sponsorships/collaborators do."
Meet Play, a toothsome foursome of 14-year-old girls, freshly imported from Sweden for a play on your obvious senses and "American Girl" sensitivity. Except they're Swedish.
Crafted to stroke the affectionately titled "tween" market of post-pigtail/pre-sex femininity, Play is already marked for success by a Limited Too sponsorship and a, ahem, Dana Carvey film tie-in. Here on the heels of their debut LP (just seven songs, including a nauseating revisit to Olivia's "Hopelessly Devoted to You," and a track previously featured in a Mary Kate and Ashley film), the girls have drawn a hundred or so rubbernecks to Virgin Megastore for a cute and quick performance and some superfluous CD-signing.
Which brings us to me.
"So, what exactly are you doing here," leans the wary Virgin rep. "Kiddie porn," I slime, dressed a little ridiculously ... as if to look the part.
Actually, I want to be in the band.
Anyway, post-soundcheck, preperformance, I'm invited upstairs for a sit down with the tweens as they put on their makeup and suggestively rip their jeans, which, of course, makes me inexplicably nervous. I mean, what does one ask 14-year-old girls who they don't care about? Somebody pass the rouge. I'm feeling a little pale.
Generalities, then. How did it all happen, princesses?
"It started with Lila, our manager. She saw Anais and Anna in musicals," breezes redhead, Faye, "and then picked me and Rosie from auditions. We've been best friends for, like, five years!"
I've been dead for six ... but I've got vodka.
How do you maintain your sprightly charm?
"Well, of course, we have to go to bed early," of-courses Anais. "They don't make us do things that we're too young to do," she winks, perhaps uncomfortably. "We want to do promotions, but we don't work too hard."
Obviously, you entertain no notions of writing, creating or even choosing your own music. Who's got the time?
"They give us a song and we say if we like it or not," chuffs Anais. "Then, it's up to the producers. I mean, the producers we work with, they've been doing a great job."
That's what I'm missing: producers. If only somebody else could write this tongue-twisted drivel, then I could spend all my valuable time smoking cigarettes, bleaching my hair and flirting. Still, these girls, like most, do offer some sense of false propriety over what it is they're doing. They're not writing their songs, but they really do mean them.
"We're saying stuff that we think," matter-of-facts Anais, who is, perhaps, the only one who knows any English. "Our album is pretty much what's happening in a teen-age girl's head: love, boys, friends, having fun."
"We like to give messages in our songs, too. We have another song called Ã?Watch Me Now' that's about standing on your own two feet, even if you're young."
I like to give messages, too: Usually drunken convoluted limericks of love me/hate me all wrapped up in a tail chase of 30-something futility. Codependence is cute, after all. Certainly cuter than standing on your own two feet at 14. Watch me twirl, ladies. Take notes.
Dead silence is oozing from the clogging pores of Play as my head dances selfishly around myself. They don't appreciate me. OK, so tell me you fight -- that it's not all cheeky ABBA sisterhood in choruses loving glee.
"We're like sisters," smooths Anais. "We experience great things together. We're awesome together."
Awesome. So, is one of you the bitch, then? "I'm the bitch," she coohs, potty-mouthed at 14. No kidding. "Nooooo, just kidding. I'm a sweet girl."
"We even call our fans," perks Rosie, finally saying something.
I used to do that, too. Corey Hart still has my mom's number, although she never takes his calls. Who would you give your number to?
"I think we're kind of open to every kind of music. We listen to rap, like Nelly, pop, Michael Jackson!" with the last one all in deafening Euro-unison.
Bitter old bag-a-bones Michael Jackson, it turns out, was at Virgin the night before. Reportedly he was wearing a cape and buying Chet Baker CDs. How is it that 14-year-old girls from Sweden still find appeal in the creepy upturned nose of Sony's invincibly unpurchasable ice princess?
"Heheheheh," they Village of the Damned, simultaneously closing in on me in a tight-knit, if somewhat sinister, friendship circle.
"Oh my god!" my voice cracks, "You're all getting so close. Um, group hug!"
I'm so in the band.