TATU - BEYOND THE HYPE

ALL THE THINGS YOU WANT TO KNOW IN SPITE OF YOURSELF

NEW t.A.T.u. ALBUM: DANGEROUS AND MOVING

Suddenly, three years after everybody has stopped caring, Tatu are back with a second album. I borrowed it from a friend and sat down to hear whether it warrants purchase. In short: It doesn't.

> review of the second Tatu album: "Dangerous and Moving"

> "Dangerous and Moving" international releases overview

t.A.T.u. is a scam? who'd have thought it

In 2003, Tatu began to make serious inroads in the Western World. After topping the charts in Italy, Spain and England, the duo subsequently tried to conquer Germany and the US. "All The Things She Said" was released in Germany in late January 2003 and quickly made it to the top of the sales charts.

The online edition of noted German political magazine "Der Spiegel" published an article on Tatu (using the official and clumsy t.A.T.u. spelling), titled "Lolita Sex and Lesbian Scam".

> detailed summary of the Spiegel article

tatu in a nutshell

Tatu are two Russian girls, Yulia Volkova and Lena Katina. They sing Russian Electropop -- catchy tunes with a common theme: teenage lesbianism. When they started out in 2001, both girls were 16, now Lena is 18 while Yulia is 17 years old. Their first video contained a slow-motion kissing scene. Kisses are also part of their stage routine, where they prance around in underwear and blue kneepads.

The Russian psychologist and advertising guru Ivan Shapovalov came up with the concept and found the girls in a casting call. He refers to the girls as a "project" and looks like a young Roman Polanski. Following a public falling-out, Shapovalov is no longer the girl's manager.

what about the music

The US music magazine Blender once described the music as "abrasive electro-pop as jarring as the Prodigy's" -- this tells you more about the writer's musical horizons than about Tatu's brand of music.

The first album is electro-pop with some dancefloor thrown in for good measure. The ballads feature some acoustic instruments such as oboes and guitars.

The second album is mainstream pop, with more guitars than previously.

Trevor Horn produced their English-language debut and a few tracks on the second album. He's no stranger to success with outrageous pop acts (see below) and certainly knows how to make a song shine -- but for most of the first English-language album, he has only produced the vocals.

> more about the music on the first album

> more about the music on the second album

enter the media

The psychologist and advertising guru who came up with Tatu, Ivan Shapovalov, calls the girls "his project" and has actually conceived of a six-year plan for their career. (This plan came to naught when the girls and one of their managers split from Shapovalov.)

To say that Tatu were controversial in their homeland is like stating that grass has a slight green hue. Apparently the tabloids had a field day with Tatu, filling their front pages with scandals -- which may have been engineered by Shapovalov in the first place. They were soon banned from performing live on stage in several venues, both in Russia and neighboring East european countries (Bulgaria among others).

There is a live performance video of "Mal'chik-gej" floating through the Internet, taped from MTV Russia. Lena and Yulia prance around in white cotton underwear and dark blue knee pads, simulating a bit of femdom and sex a tergo. From what little can be seen, it looks like the girls enjoy the public's reaction more than the experience itself. The gestures appear a bit tired, routine. The overall impression is amusing rather than erotic, even when Lena spills half a bottle of mineral water onto her top, making it go utterly translucent.

The UK's Guardian was suitably outraged at the obvious media manipulation taking place and went on to describe Lena as "a Mini Pops Tori Amos" and Yulia as "Winona Ryder if she shoplifted potatoes". Foaming at the mouth, the writer concludes that "Tatu shows the sad extremities of what middle-aged men will create in a bid to cause outrage." Apparently it worked.

The US music magazine Blender was more charitable and titled its four-page article "We Have Seen the Future of Rock & Roll and Gulp! It's Two Teenage 'Lesbians' From Moscow". Apart from the piece's weaknesses in Russian geography, the article is rather friendly towards the duo. One gets the impression, however, that the writer is less than impressed and gives them little chance to succeed in "breaking" the American market with their sheenanigans.

> more press coverage

tatu in europe & us

At home, Tatu's record label is Universal Music Russia. Distribution in Europe and the US is handled by Interscope.

There are at least five different variants of the second album, "Dangerous And Moving" (released internationally in October 2005):

  • The Russian release contains 11 tracks.
  • The US release contains 12 tracks. The track order is different from the Russian release.
  • The French and German releases contain 13 tracks (one bonus track).
  • The UK release contains 14 tracks (two bonus tracks).
  • The Japanese release contains 15 tracks (three bonus tracks) and a different sleeve.

The first single from the second album was called "All About Us". The second single is going to be called "Friend or Foe". It will been released in the UK in February, 2006, and in the rest of the world one month later.

> More about the tracks on the second album

Except for a couple of bonus tracks, the first International album "200 km/h In The Wrong Lane" was more or less identical to the Russian release. "200 km/h..." and its first single were released on the following dates:

  • US Single: "All The Things She Said": September 10, 2002 (also available in selected European markets)
  • US Album "200 km/h in the Wrong Lane": December 10, 2002 (delayed for the third time)
  • European Album "200 km/h in the Wrong Lane": September 17th, 2002 (available only in selected markets)

releases

Information about the first album has been moved to this page.

> "200 km/h in the wrong lane": album and single details

> "200 km/h in the wrong lane": about the video clips

Information about the second album can be found above.

> "Dangerous And Moving": Review

> "Dangerous And Moving": International Releases

latest changes

06/01/22: dangerous and moving, the new album

03/02/16: tatu over europe, the media lap it up!

what's up with lena and yulia

Tatu made quite a splash by insinuating a lesbian relationship between the two singers.

When pressed, the girls never committed to either direction. In the video clip to their second single "30 minut", Yulia catches Lena kissing a boy on a merry-go-round and proceeds to blow it (and the lovers) up.

Even in the early days, reports, surfaced that the girls would only embrace and kiss when there's a camera around -- and on-stage. On bulletin boards, rumours ran rampant that Yulia and Lena utterly hate each other. The teens' parents seem to have consented to this exploitation of their daughters.

Apparently, the girls sang together in a kid's band -- but they were selected separately for the Tatu "project". In school, Yulia allegedly got into trouble for "molesting other girls". This was later recanted.

Yulia's hair was dyed black for Tatu; her natural color is red-blondish (which would have been too similar to Lena's long locks).

These days, Yulia's skin color is noticeably darker (browner) than Lena's. The haircuts remain the same, but the girlish aspect is pretty much gone.

underage or not

When Yulia and Lena started out as Tatu, they were 16 and 17 years old. Hence the scandal.

According to the English-language official Tatu homepage, Yulia ("Volkova Julia Olegovna") was born on February 20th, 1985. That would make her, as of January 2006, 20 years old.

According to the same site, Lena ("Katina Elena Sergeevna") was born on October 4, 1984. She is, therefore, 21.

can they sing

Taty, Tatu, Tatoo, T.A.T.u.

Since the girls are Russian, the band name is spelled in cyrillic letters. T and A look basically identical to the Latin equivalents, but the "Y" is actually the cyrillic form of the Latin letter U. Hence, the correct name would be "Tatu".

The reason why Tatu is called T.A.T.u. in Western Europe and the US seems to be rooted in copyright issues. There already has been an American pop group called "Tatu" -- even though it never made a splash. To the best of my knowledge, the only song they ever published is called "Imperfect Girl". The single was only issued in the USA and seems to be out of print.

So, if you see the words "Tatu" and "Imperfect Girl" anywhere -- that's not the Tatu you are looking for.

what's your take

I discovered Tatu by accident, initially only being aware of their music. I like the songs, but then again I'm easily amused. I could do without the scandal and the "let's break down barriers" attitude which has been designed to sell more records.

The singles have been rather strong so far, with the last song "Nas ne dogonyat" (They're Not Gonna Get Us) being my current favorite. The "Ya soshla s uma" video ends on a very beautiful message, but I somewhat resent the number of buttons being pushed. Of course sex sells, and underage sex even more so because of the "lolita" and "taboo" factor. However, this strategy IMHO cheapens the music.

Just to show you that I have no idea what I'm talking about: For their English-version debut, Tatu are being produced by Trevor Horn, the mastermind behind the initial efforts of the Art Of Noise, the Buggles, Seal and of course the gay scandal troupe "Frankie Goes To Hollywood". Frankie also succeeded in blending great music with titillating record sleeves and video clips depicting sadomasochism and debauchery -- and that was twenty years ago. It's a time-honed tradition to scandalize audiences in order to sell records, and I'm just getting old.

plans for this section

  • integrate it into a music purgatory section yet to be designed

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