Thursday, 21 April 2011

6: Annie, “Chewing Gum” (no.25, 2004)

Thank heavens for string theory. In a parallel universe - one where there is no such thing as N-Dubz, and none of us would have the misfortune of seeing Lady GaGa’s arse every five minutes - the Norwegian formerly known as Anne Lilia Berge Strand would be the biggest pop star on the face of the planet. In this alterna-universe, due notice would have been paid to her two fine albums, “Anniemal” and “Don’t Stop”, lovingly and shimmeringly compiled as they were with Richard X and the same Xenomania crew who’d been responsible for Girls Aloud’s numerous hits and the recent renaissance of all things Kylie; and “Chewing Gum”, the lead-off track from Annie’s first album, would have gone to number one forever.

Back in our miserable grey world, however, we’re left pondering the locked-room enigma of how the attractiveness of a female pop performer could actually come to count against her; and it’s true, I think, that the music industry came to think of Ms. Strand as just another passing, pre-packaged attraction: Holly Valance with a better developed sense of irony, say, where in fact, Annie’s work on record to date suggests she might well be the unlikely lovechild of Wallander and Siobhan Fahey from Bananarama. (Wallander for the undercurrent of Scandinavian melancholy that runs throughout her albums: Tore Kroknes, the DJ boyfriend with whom she first recorded, died suddenly of a heart defect in 2001, and his spirit presides over at least the first album.)

Of course, it doesn’t help when even your record company - in videos like the one above, or during appearances on Popworld - is marketing you as another interchangeable blonde clone, or licensing your best songs for use in mediocre-to-forgettable romcoms. (One of the few redeeming features of the Sex and the City sequel was its airing of the tremendous “Songs Remind Me of You” in the background of an Abu Dhabi nightclub scene.)

In a marketplace where any number of 80s copyists (La Roux, or the insufferably twee Ellie Goulding) have recently been forced down our throat, Annie may just have to content herself with being the connoisseur’s choice: the go-to girl for thinking pop kids with a sweet tooth. The perfectly angular and breathy “Chewing Gum”, which sounded as minty-fresh during the Glee pilot as it did upon the song’s original release, is as fine an introduction as any: a cautionary tale aimed at those men who come to think they’re indispensable when, in fact, once masticated, they’re every bit as likely to be spat out on the kerb. In other words, folks: chew it, wrap it, bin it. It’s a pity the industry keeps doing the same to Annie herself.

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