Simplicity and accessibility are often cited as the foundations of pop. But at this stage of the game, using the 2009 archaic musical classification system, "pop" doesn't really mean anything except "could be featured prominently in an iPod commercial." Reaching for real boundaries means taking pop and defining it as songwriting with synthetic instruments, or that sounds synthetic, and/or a dance beat, with a good hook. Lady GaGa, for example, is probably the best example of modern "pop," with fringe examples being like Beyonce (boarderline R&B), Taylor Swift (boarderline Country), and The Black Eyed Peas (boarderline retarded).
Don't Stop is right along the lines of traditional, radio ready, dance-heavy pop; reverberated, sequenced, and aesthetically pleasing in every way.
What Annie lacks in mold-breaking, she makes up for with extremely efficient songwriting. It is the kind of album that is familiar in so many ways, and yet, still is exciting on the first listen. Nearly every cut is polished and ready for everything from a dance floor to a daily commute. It's got versatility of function - a multi-purpose utility that defines pop as we know it, and its the reason it could be in clubs, in your car, or advertising Pepsi.
Chances are Annie won't make it to a lot of these places, specifically due to location. Being a pop star in Norway means very little in America, especially with the US being more or less the epicenter of music for the world. And its a shame, "My Love Is Better" and "I Don't Like Your Band" are two great examples of songs that could yield extremely successful radio and licensing campaigns in the States. In the Britney Spears 2.0 era, its all about glitz and hooks, and Annie has both of these in spades. It is funny to me that critics laud Annie but pan our domestic popsters, considering they both do essentially the same thing. Side Note: I will accept panning of Jason Derulo and other auto-tuned pop messes.
Another interesting angle: Don't Stop has been a sprawling mess all over the internet. The album has multiple conflicting personas; it leaked in 2008 as a jumble of songs, then more songs leaked. It was finally solidified and released by Annie this year, but it excluded its most popular cut "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" (it was added to the accompanying EP All Night EP Some critics suggested creating a "personalized version" of the record including any a la carte combo of songs. In that respect, the idea of Don't Stop as a start-to-finish album doesn't seem to matter to fans or publications.
But in the end it shouldn't matter: Annie made a bunch of tunes that all more or less stand alone as singles (depending on taste and preference). If you're a big fan of the good stuff on the radio (and want something tasty and imported), then Don't Stop is your beer. -joe puglisi
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MP3: Annie - "I Don't Like Your Band" (Don't Stop)
Annie on Myspace