So Tight

by: VI3

There was a time when teen music meant the Osmonds, the Partridge Family, and the DeFranco Family. That was back in the '70s; from the late '80s on, the music known as teen pop has been influenced by dance-pop, hip-hop, and urban contemporary. Teen popsters may not sound like they're from the 'hood, but they do combine bubblegum pop with elements of music that comes from the 'hood. At first glance, Vi3 might seem like just another photogenic "boy band" that is jumping on the *NSYNC/Backstreet Boys/O-Town bandwagon. But those who give Vi3's debut album, So Tight, a serious listen will have to admit that the Chicago-based trio has more bite and substance than most of the CDs that came out of the teen pop field in the early 2000s -- in fact, the material is respectable more often than not. So Tight has its bubblegum moments; the ballads tend to be fluffy and lightweight. But on up-tempo jams like "Go-Get-Her" and "Hottie With a Body," the Windy City residents provide a surprisingly edgy blend of dance-pop, urban contemporary, and hip-hop. While So Tight is much poppier than Bell Biv DeVoe -- one of the groups that Vi3 claims as an influence -- the disc is definitely harder and grittier than 90 percent of the teen-oriented releases that came out in 2002. One of the CD's best tracks is the smooth "Backstage Girl," which almost sounds like a blend of blue-eyed soul, '70s soft rock, and hip-hop -- if you blended one of Chicago's or Orleans' more R&B-ish '70s tunes with hip-hop, it might sound something like "Backstage Girl." So Tight isn't perfect; again, the ballads tend to be bland and lightweight. But overall, this is a decent debut that teen pop's detractors shouldn't be so quick to dismiss. ~ Alex Henderson

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