Various Artists

Arabian Pop

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To enjoy most of this, you'd better like an unhealthy dose of glitzy international sugary pop, spiced up by some Arabic flavoring (all synthesized, of course -- about the only real things here are the voices, like major hearthrob Amr Diab and the fake teen stylings of Nawal Al Zoughbi). The strings go whoosh at each appropriate moment, and the voices are seductive, even if the words are largely innocent, and it's virtually all as bland and nutritious as fast food -- and probably produced in much the same way, on a production line. But, it has to be said, this is what they're listening to in the Middle East, and, apart from the odd flavor here or there and a language barrier, it could almost slip unnoticed onto radio play lists anywhere in the world. There are a couple of exceptions, one being the great (and seemingly timeless) Warda, who dives in among the much younger competition with a remix of "Harramt Ahebbak," and Abdullah Al Rowaishid's "El Oyoun," which stands out from everything else with its moody, bluesy setting, all the glitz stripped away for pure feeling. How did it creep in? Who knows, but it's a magic touch in an otherwise almost featureless landscape.

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