The Minority Report: Aly & AJ
Humor us for a moment. Sit down, open Soulseek, and search "Potential Breakup Song." It's Aly & AJ's debut single, the song that catapulted the squeaky clean, Disney-backed pre-teen popsters into megamillion album sales. Download it. Go ahead. We'll wait.
Open the file, stick your hands in your back pockets, and promise you'll commit to the four minutes it'll take to let it play through. Promise? Okay. Go ahead. We'll wait.
Now take your headphones off, look us in the eye, and tell us you didn't tap your toe even once.
Good pop is good pop, and despite our crystal shells of immaculate jade, we have as little time for those who deny the sonic appeal of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" (perhaps the finest pop song of the last 20 years) as for haughty Neil Young obscurists, who insist that a detuned guitar is inherently valuable to the human ear.
So when an act like Aly & AJ comes down the pike, our ears twitch. Even if it's ephemera, this music does more to stand for its time than anything Radiohead will ever produce. It's Radio Disney's vapid opulence that most clearly memorialize the vagaries of the modern age, not Radiohead's brilliant musical rebellion. It's a throwaway century, where every sound and image is disposable. And though we may turn to Radiohead for our intellectual and imaginative cues, it's Aly & AJ that keep a couple hundred million heads nodding their way down the drain, wrapped in sweet oblivion.
And God help us, we love it.
The songs shine like fool's gold. With every drop of blood drained out by the studio, these silken husks slip through the cranium like streams of spider silk. Their auto-tuned voices rob them of any humanity, and yet they are real-- they write their own lyrics and most of their own music, and espouse anthems of girl power that just about everyone (well, save the rabidly misogynistic, we suppose).
Sheer listenability is a force so powerful it can swiftly dismantle all our powers of snide criticism. And the emptiness that it exemplifies is no small thing. The musical underworld teems with the life of ideas-- voices of beautiful dissent, bewildering absurdity, Technicolor imaginations that are wildly unfettered and flit through our heads like birds of paradise.
But the overworld is no less real. It's the place where most of us live our everyday lives, no matter how far we might run to get away in our scant off hours. Here, Aly & AJ are once a part, and apart. Press play, and the toe reflexively taps. Watch the video, the head instinctively nods. Gaze into the abyss, and the abyss gazes into you.