Good pop music seems like a dirty oxy moron. Pop music is style over substance, glitz over guts, computers instead of instruments. Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga—all have tapped into the formula and have ridden the wave of Top 40 radio and veiled sexuality to super stardom. Every agrees that those artists are talented, but in a drone-like coma. Sure the songs are catchy and you have fun dancing to them, but they don’t mean anything. Their music is plastic, cloying, disposable. I’ve long argued that the world is getting dumber and this is just one symptom. How did we go from Jackson 5, The Beach Boys and The Police to this? Pop music isn’t just for teeny boppers and Ryan Seacrest. Just because ‘NSYNC names one of their albums Pop doesn’t mean it all has to suck. So why would a group like Tegan and Sara willing and wantingly throw themselves into this world? Listen to Heartthrob.
Tegan and Sara have been around since the late 1990’s and their sound has evolved on each of their seven studio releases. The twins started as a Canadian folk-rock duo and have became alt-indie darlings with The Con and Sainthood. On both those albums you could hear the seeds of Heartthrob. The synth bridge on “The Con,” the dancey “Alligator” and its subsequent remixes. More recently, their work with club DJ’s Tiesto, Morgan Page, and David Guetta. Point being, Heartthob should not be a surprise to fans and should not be considered a musical departure. The Quin sisters knew what they were doing and intentionally are trying to make the leap from hipster favorite to mainstream powerhouse.
Heartthrob is the most intelligent and exciting pop record of the year. It’s slick, fun and a ready-made dance party. It’s also vulnerable, honest and empowering. Just because the music is shiny and perfect for your local KISS station doesn’t mean Tegan and Sara have dumbed themselves down in an effort to be more accessible.
“Closer” kicks off the record and is pure, innocent spin-the-bottle excitement. Two mid-tempo tracks—”I Was A Fool,” and “Now I’m All Messed Up”—all pack power ballad punch. “How Come You Don’t Want Me” feels like it was written specifically for the final scene and end credits of an episode of Girls. “I’m Not Your Hero” is an expert examination on the burden of responsibility. “Drove Me Wild” is a puppy love story that would make Cyndi Lauper proud.
Tons of credit should go to producers Greg Kurstin and Justin Medal-Johnsen for cultivating and curating the sound for Heartthrob. The mission was clear and the resulting collection is creative and cohesive; a powerful exhibit that in the right hands, pop music doesn’t have to be one note.
It’s no coincidence that Tegan and Sara decided on the title “Heartthrob.” This is their pop opus. They are putting themselves out there to be the next objects of our musical desire. If these songs don’t make your heart feel something, you’re a lost cause.
Tegan and Sara have swung for the fences. They crushed a hanging curve and the ball is on it’s way out of the park. It’s now up to the fans in the bleachers to try and reach out and grab the greatness of Heartthrob.
Listen to Heartthrob