Meet the Transparents

It may not be saying much, but t.A.T.u. have to be the grumpiest fake lesbians in history. The Russian pop duo rose to mid-level infamy thanks to a few modest hit singles and a few decidedly immodest videos featuring all-girl make-out sessions and simulated masturbation. Their debut, also simulated, sold reasonably well, and t.A.T.u. probably should have left it at that.

Their sophomore effort, released after their Svengali decamped and one half of t.A.T.u. became a mother, is wan and rudderless, lacking the carefully calibrated Eurodisco hooks of its predecessor or the sanitized sauciness of that album’s core conceit (they’re lesbians! gone sort of wild!). The girls, who never seemed in on the joke even on the first go-round, when there was a joke, sound surly and miserable throughout.

As any halfway attentive Stuff reader knows, the Pussycat Dolls are a Los Angeles burlesque troupe turned pop stars; in other words, the gift that keeps on giving. Unlike the hapless t.A.T.u., the Dolls, fronted by Nicole Scherzinger, a veteran of fake pop group Eden’s Crush, know exactly what they’re doing. Their debut, PCD, is snappy and brisk, a pop-meets-disco charmer filled with chipper odes to self-sufficiency, some of which the Dolls actually co-wrote.

Judging from the it-took-a-village album credits, though, the Dolls, unsurprisingly, didn’t have all that much to do with the making of PCD. You don’t have to be Andrea Dworkin to be troubled by the thought of half-naked girls miming their way through lip service odes to feminism, but what saves the Dolls is the same thing that doomed t.A.T.u.—the utter transparency of the exercise. That they’ve assembled a crack team that includes Timbaland, Diane Warren, and “Crazy in Love” conjurer Rich Harrison doesn’t hurt, either. The most t.A.T.u. could manage was Sting. He should be ashamed of himself.

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