Today’s POP RESCUE from an obscure fate, is the 2001 second album Teen Life by four-piece Swedish pop group, A-Teens. Would listening to this turn your life Upside Down? Read on…
This 15 track album bursts open with third UK single and hit Upside Down. The song gave them a #10 UK hit single, which would have undoubtedly benefitted from their similarity in musical style and format to their contemporaries – including the likes of Steps, Hear’Say, Billie Piper and Britney Spears. This is 2000’s stabby drama-pop-by-numbers. Both the guys and the girls get equal microphone time, including a soft set of vocals for the latter at about 2mins where they’re pitched against piano and nothing else, just before the song kicks back in.
This is followed by …To The Music, which opens with the dedication of ‘to all you music lovers out there‘, before the song bursts in. This is a more mellow song from Upside Down, and makes use of some 80’s sounding electric piano. The end result is quite a nice little mid-tempo sing-along song.
Fourth and final charting UK single Halfway Around The World is up next and this musically reminds me a LOT of 1998’s Feel It hit single by The Tampera ft. Maya with a dash of the Backstreet Boys. Despite this, it’s still a pretty catchy song, and there’s oodles of vocal harmonies here. This song gave them a #30 UK single.
Firefly opens with a gently breathy set of vocals, with chorus and tinkling piano, before giving aside to bass and gentle pop beats. For a moment it’s a bit of a lullaby, but by 40s we’re back to the stabby drama pop approach. Vocals are rich and purring from Marie Serneholt and Sara Lumholdt, with the guys more of a backing vocal seat. The song kind of meanders along.
Some wonderful sounding synths open next song Sugar Rush, ushering in the pop candy vocals of Marie and Sara. This song was released as a single, but it failed to chart in the UK. It’s quite a softer song that’s laden with acoustic guitar and a gentle beat. There’s plenty of backing vocals and harmonies here too and, aptly, a load of saccharine lyrics. This could rot your teeth.
Rockin’ follows this, ‘we’ll be rockin’ till the end of time‘ they declare, as a load of dance beats and synths swarm around their vocals. This track gives Dhani and Amit a chance to show off their vocal power. This reeks of Backstreet Boys and Billie Piper (think a weaker version of Day And Night), and whilst it feels like it ironically misses the ‘rock’ element, there is what sounds like an electric guitar every so often. The song closes with what is presumably meant to be a stadium rock audience cheering.
Acoustic guitar leads Around The Corner Of Your Eye. A slightly odd song title, but the song gives the girls plenty of space to show off their vocals until about 40 seconds in. The track is nauseating in the chorus. It reminds me a little bit of Boyzone‘s hit cover of The Osmond‘s 1973 hit, Love Me For A Reason.
This is followed by the puzzling named Slammin’ Kinda Love. I’m not sure whether a ‘slamming’ kind of love is a good thing, but I know that the song itself is pretty weak. There’s a few awkward key changes here in what is trying to be an almost garage track. It’s not good.
All My Love follows with distinct latino sound, laden with guitars but it feels pretty weak. Whilst it’s only 3m 17s, it feels slow and boring.
The pace picks up for For All That I Am, which feels like it’s a return to the Upside Down style. This is a bouncy song, with soaring strings, strong vocal harmonies, vinyl scratches, and is actually really quite catchy. Okay, so we’re safely back into drama pop again, but this really should have made it as a single.
This is followed by That’s What (It’s All About), which reminds me a lot of Larger Than Life by Backstreet Boys or Britney’s Oops!… I Did It Again hit. That aside, it is quite a nice harder pop track. This probably could have been a hit for them too, but sadly they had other singles to release.
Twelfth track, Morning Light takes a much softer approach. ‘Once upon a time I was a young man‘ one of the guys sings at the start.. which feels odd considering he’s only about 12! This is a gentle mid-tempo track pop song, reminding me a little bit of one of the lighter Ace Of Base tracks. There’s some nice little acoustic guitar hooks and a rich bassline. The ‘I believe in the morning light‘ is sung a bit weirdly, and kind of detracts a little.
Back For More follows this, and it opens with Marie and Sara, affirming that ‘they’d be coming back for more’. Their vocals pitched against piano sound a bit ABBA at times. This song is quite catchy, although it’s certainly not single material. It feels like an early S Club 7 track. ‘We’ll be coming back for more‘ they sing. Little did they know.
Penultimate track, sees the group show off why they were formed – originally the ABBA Teens, they hastily changed their names to A*Teens.. but covered ABBA’s hits relentlessly. This is Mamma Mia, an upbeat dance cover but vocally lacks the power of the original, or even the clout of cover by dance act Abbacadabra. This was actually released as their debut single in 1999, and gave them a #12 UK hit. It was taken from their debut album which consisted entirely of ABBA covers.
The album closes with another ABBA hit, this time Super Trouper. By contrast, this cover is far more credible. The vocals are stronger and richer, and the over all result is more a respectful nod to the original rather than a bulldozer. Swirling synths occasionally chirrup in amongst the steady dance beat, and this reminds me of Erasure‘s own 1992 Abba-esque EP hits with Take A Chance Of Me. This version of Super Trouper reached #21 in the UK when it was released as a single in 1999. Again, it was taken from their previous album.
Over all, A*Teens were thwarted by a crowded chart of other acts who were carrying a similar sound. Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Bille Piper, and to some degree S Club 7, were all channeling this same kind of sound, and with their perhaps younger sound and style, and their ABBA hook, they ended up losing out.
The album is patchy, with some great dance/pop songs, but it is padded out with some boringly formulaic or wafty tracks that don’t really give anything memorable. This 15 track album needed 5 tracks chopping off, and the likes of For All That I Am, and That’s What (It’s All About) should have been released as singles – then it may have given them a hit in the UK.
Where are A-Teens now?
A*Teens continued their success, but not in the UK. They released two further singles from this album – Heartbreak Lullaby (which carried a co-writer credit from Cathy Dennis) and featured on another version of this album, and Sugar Rush.
The group have not charted in the UK singles or album charts since late 2001, but have remained more successful in other parts of Europe and particularly in their native Sweden.
The group released two further albums before a Greatest Hits saw limited release in 2004, and they split up in April 2006.
All four members have embarked on solo music careers, but these have not repeated the success that they found as a group.
Sara hinted of a reunion back in 2010.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 REVIEW: 2 / 5
- 2001 UK CHART PEAK: Did not chart.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.19 from an eBay seller.