Aqua

Megalomania

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Danish pop quartet Aqua will always be best remembered for their ode to Barbie, but as their three consecutive U.K. number ones and two multi-platinum albums proved, they had a bit more longevity, and indeed substance, than your average novelty act. Eleven years after 2000's Aquarium and four years after announcing their re-formation, they return with their third studio effort, Megalomania, hoping to extend their shelf life even further than anyone who first heard their motto of "life in plastic, it's fantastic" could have imagined. Unsurprisingly, their previous squeaky, cartoonish pop sound is nowhere to be found on this record which, with its several expletive-laden lyrics and trashy electro production reveals a much more grown-up, if not necessarily mature, new direction. While its 11 tracks might not contain as much of the "guilty pleasure" factor of their previous output, by smoothing out the oddball qualities that made them such a unique chart force, they now sound like every other generic dance-pop outfit out there. Indeed, there are several songs which appear to have borrowed wholesale from other massive world-wide hits such as "Kill Myself," whose chorus has quite clearly been lifted from Katy Perry's "Hot & Cold"; "No Party Patrol," whose global warning message is lost among its uncanny similarity to Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," and "Viva Las Vegas," which could be mistaken for any one of KeSha's heavily Auto-Tuned singles. Elsewhere, "Come N' Get It" is an unremarkable attempt at clattering R&B, "Like a Robot" shows that the band's tongue-in-cheek innuendos have disappointingly been replaced by straightforward explicitness, and the plodding "If the World Didn't Suck (We Would All Fall Off)" fails to live up to its majestic title. The sweeping strings, inspired sound effects, and driving country-pop melodies of the lushly produced opener "Playmate to Jesus," and the dirty, Calvin Harris-style, trance-pop anthem "Dirty Little Pop Song" shows the reunion hasn't been completely without merit. But while no one would have expected Lene, Rene, and co. to be as animated as they were over a decade ago, it's unlikely that anyone would have expected Megalomania to sound so formulaic, either.

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