The Veronicas

The Secret Life Of...

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The Veronicas sound like a marketer's dream: impossibly cute Australian twin sisters who sound as if Hilary Duff and Avril Lavigne formed a band. If image is everything, this duo has a look that rivals that of t.A.T.u., and it's far less sleazy, too. But good images don't necessarily make for good records, and that's the real surprise behind their debut album, The Secret Life Of...: it's a terrific little pop record. True, their bold, brightly colored pop may not be everybody's cup of tea, but for those who have found the teen pop of the mid-2000s to be a serious drag, The Secret Life Of... is an unexpected gift, a slick, tuneful set of pure sugarcoated fun. While the Veronicas don't exactly break from the post-Avril punky pop that's been the blueprint of teen pop from Ashlee Simpson to Good Charlotte, there's a greater sense of song and studio craft on their record, whether it's coming from veteran teen popster Max Martin (the man behind Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys) or the sisters themselves. And make no mistake, for as polished as this album is, the Veronicas come across as a genuine band, not a prefabricated pop novelty. Not only do Jess and Lisa Orgliasso have a hand in writing eight of the 12 songs on The Secret Life Of..., but there's a kinetic chemistry to their performances that gives this album both a center of gravity and a broader appeal: like Kelly Clarkson, they don't seem like cookie-cutter pop tarts, they seem real. Of course, they're packaged and presented as a creation, but that's why The Secret Life Of... is such a good record: it plays by the rules of punky teen pop, and by doing so, it reveals how dull and formulaic the rest of the genre is. Here, melody runs through both the verses and choruses, the hooks dig deeper, not just on the tracks helmed by Martin, but on the Orgliasso sisters' songs, too. The Veronicas are sassy and sexy, not trashy, and they show humor and heartbreak here, which helps elevate their debut to the top ranks of 2000s teen pop.

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