Annie- Anniemal (Nettwerk)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Intro
2. Chewing Gum (Vocal Mix)
3. Always Too Late
4. Me Plus One
5. Heartbeat
6. Helpless Fool For Love
7. Anniemal
8. No Easy Love
9. Happy Without You
10. Greatest Hit
11. Come Together
12. My Best Friend

Pop music has taken a beating this last decade. Done in largely by the boy band apocalypse of the 90s, pop music has largely deteriorated into an effort to push image over music. Mariah Carey and the Backstreet Boys currently have not one, but TWO top 50 pop tracks right now, if that is any indication of where things stand. Annie's debut Anniemal is a different beast. It's dumb, catchy pop. It's overproduced. But it's also the most refreshing release since Avril Lavigne's debut.

From the opening tracks: the synth-driven Chewing Gum, the post-Stefani funk of Me Plus One, and the staccato rhythms of Always Too Late, it's clear that Annie is locked into something different here. Her delivery is consistent and unique- layered vocals often interspersed with a half rapped/ half rambled choruses. Her singing voice is pleasant without being too distinctive, lilting in places and sensual in others- but really nothing to write home about. The real kicker are the beats. They are usually simple, generic effects, but perfectly placed. It's old school stuff, and perhaps that's why it works so well.

The highlight here is My Heartbeat. One of the most infectious tracks to be released in some time, Annie's helium-laced vocals soar above the big beat and synth rhythm track. There's nothing at all complicated here. Just 3 minutes of pop bliss. Guaranteed better than anything in the Pop Top 20 right now. Whenever you're reading this.

Even 10 tracks in we have like the Kylie does Saint Etienne Greatest Hit. It's like Kim Wilde all over again, but 20 years later. And the following track, Come Together, is the album's most ambitious. At almost 8 minutes, Annie goes downtempo with a triphop track that recalls fellow Norwegian acts Royksopp, who actually produced a few of the Anniemal's better tracks. When then beats kick in almost two minutes in, it's clear we're in for a treat on this one.

Lyrical substance has never been the domain of pop, and Anniemal is no exception. A-B-C and 1-2-3 are lines that can only be gotten away with in pop. Even the wonderful Heartbeat contains lines like "There was a time, everybody was around, and I was dancing with you. We all went down, to the party Friday night, and had a drink there or two." I am not making this up. Nevertheless, who cares.

I like Annie because, for now at least, she puts the music first. No new ground is broken here, even though there is clearly something subversive about this release. Whatever her image, her music sounds like something more than just Product. She sounds like an artist that hasn't been Gotten To yet, and her music has a freshness and immediacy that belies its genre.

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