Various Artists

MTV: The Best of TRL Pop

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Arriving in early 2002, MTV: The Best of TRL Pop can't help but feel like the summation of an era instead of a snapshot of a movement at its peak, since at the very least, teen pop had begun to wane at the time of this release. More than that, this collection concentrates on hits from 1999-2000, which is a veritable lifetime in pop, particularly for preteen and teen audiences. So, MTV: The Best of TRL Pop felt like an artifact the second it hit the streets and, judged as that, it has its charms. Certainly, it feels like the time it chronicles, since it does divide its time between singles that define their era and those that transcend it. For the most part, it deals with the ephemera of teen pop, which is kinda fun, though it does get a little tiring after a while. But there are singles that are timeless and, perhaps not surprisingly, they come from songs that aren't teen pop. First off, there's Smash Mouth's "All Star," which may have been whored out to every commercial and movie between 1999 and 2001, but it's undeniably a well-crafted guilty pleasure, one that soars beyond its era. Then, there's LEN's "Steal My Sunshine," as perfect as songs get. This sun-kissed, sun-bleached blend of hip-hop, pop, disco, post-Beastie Boys cleverness, and California culture is a priceless, timeless confection that instantly calls up sweltering, shimmering beaches the second the looped keyboard plays. It's a monumentally great single, showing up everything else on this record on how good effervescent pop can be -- "Steal My Sunshine" shows that mainstream pop can truly be transcendent. Which is a problem for the rest of the songs here, no matter how good they are, since they just can't compete with this. So, although that really shouldn't be used as a yardstick for the rest of the compilation, the fact is, "Steal My Sunshine" and "All Star" show just how tied to their time the other tracks on MTV: The Best of TRL Pop really are.

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