Nobody could claim that time and changing norms have rendered t.A.T.u. problematic; they were glaringly, undeniably skeevy from the off. Executive producer Ivan Shapovalov – who masterminded the duo’s anime schoolgirl look and teenage lesbians on the run schtick – seems like a more honestly sleazy Malcolm McLaren (Bow Wow Wow edition). All the trolling, none of the philosophy.

To which Shapovalov might say, well, you let me get away with it. His follow-up to t.A.T.u. was niqab-wearing “terrorist pop star” N.A.T.O., a bit of Islamophobic pantomime. It touched on much rawer symbols and taboos and the project was a flop. With t.A.T.u., on the other hand – conceived in the year “….Baby One More Time” smashed charts worldwide – the group were surrounded by a teenpop culture where suggestions of underage sex worked like a black market currency. If time has changed how t.A.T.u feel, it’s by shrinking the measurable difference between them and the pop that surrounded them. Shapovalov was just saying the quiet part loud.

I wanted to touch on the controversy first because it was so obviously central to “All The Things She Said”’s success. The scandal, the look, the video, the grubby are-they-or-aren’t-they gawping around whether Julia Volkova and Lena Katina were ‘actually’ lovers – all this stuff is why we get to talk about this record. But this song also launches t.A.T.u. ‘s violently distinctive sound, which is what makes it worth talking about.

t.A.T.u’s records fall into a tradition – the Crystals, the Shangri-La’s – of trying to capture an idealised immediacy of teenage emotion in sound. Their particular speciality is a panicked defiance, a stark conflict of we two (Lena and Julia, or the listener and whoever they want the record to be about) against a remorseless world. This is crisis pop, its melodrama outlined in the punishing glare of a searchlight. “All The Things” works as a kind of origin story – the realisation of love as a cataclysmic turning point.

It’s an origin story musically, too – t.A.T.u. songs deal from a limited, but highly effective, deck, which “All The Things She Said” sets up on its Russian original and which Trevor Horn’s production on the English version turns into a winning hand. There’s the high, vulnerable solo singing set against dual-attack chanting and shouting; and the cyclic rhythms of club music used to create an impression of desperate motion which can never end in escape.

For me, subsequent releases – including the group’s work after they gave their Svengali the push – ramped the melodrama up even more effectively than this did. As the sensationalism around the group died down, the sensation in the music was dialled up: “Not Gonna Get Us” and “All About Us” are the same basic idea as “All The Things” but distilled to an even higher proof.

Whether any of this – by accident or, less likely, design – speaks to anything specific in lesbian or LGBT experience isn’t a call I can make. I’m not sure, if I’m honest, it resonates all that well with teenage experience. I can’t remember my emotional life as a teen being this dramatic – but I can remember wanting it to be. There’s a tendency in pop writing to back-project life-or-death intensity onto youth, which overlooks the way most of it is frustrating, or confusing, or just boring. But that very monotony creates the gaps which vicarious extremity like “All The Things She Said” can fill. Its emotional voyeurism is as potent as its actual voyeurism is gross.

Score: 7

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