Pop Music Redemption
Everyone’s favorite Canadian lesbian twin sisters have evolved on every album since their 1999 Ani DiFranco-esque debut as naïve teenagers. From release to release, they discovered melody, guitar rock, and electronic experimentation. On 2009’s Sainthood, they combined these elements. Having accomplished everything except sell millions of records, they intentionally set out to make their latest, Heartthrob, as mainstream as possible. Ladies and gentlemen, pop music may never be the same.
With producer Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson, Pink), Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Kid Rock), and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (M83, Neon Trees) sharing the helm, Heartthrob is so bright and shiny that it can be seen from outer space. Guitars are all but eschewed in favor of orchestrated synthesizer layering and effects. Drums are mostly programmed. Even the album cover, featuring the twins unapologetically made up like models, is designed to sell records. The end result is pure gold.
The album starts with “Closer,” the first single, and while some of the vocal risks are distracting at first, they are memorable. The chorus stabs along like half of Katy Perry’s latest album, and it’s addictively catchy. It’s impossible not to be hooked in by the unexpected sexiness of it, and the rest of album follows suit. The next three songs, “Goodbye, Goodbye,” “I Was a Fool,” and “I’m Not Your Hero” have megahits written all over them.
All of this implies that the twins have abandoned their raw sound and their loyal fans, but behind all of this gloss — at its core — is the brilliance in songwriting that made Tegan and Sara the darlings of the underground. The melodies and harmonies hit the magic “sweet spot” so often that listeners may develop diabetes. The heartbreak, evidenced in songs like “Now I’m All Messed Up” and “How Come You Don’t Want Me” is so authentic that you can’t help but want to hunt down whoever hurt them.
By the end of Heartthrob, fans won’t remember why they didn’t like it right away. More likely, it will be played again and again, from beginning to end. Tegan and Sara have made a pop album in the only way they could, wholeheartedly and sincerely, and the genre is redeemed as a result.