“Pop Muzik” by Marcus and “I’m Afraid of Britney Spears” by LiveonRelease are unsubtle attempts at, respectively, collegiate parody and high school alienation. As responses to teenpop from the outside—away from the focus groups and factories—these records will nevertheless sound best on Radio Disney alongside their all-too-obvious targets: marionette heartthrobs and breast-implanted cheerleaders.
I have no idea who this Marcus character is, but that’s exactly what he sounds like—a character. But then, so too did the artist mysteriously known as M when the original version of “Pop Muzik” went to number one in 1979. (Unfortunately, M turned out to be a real human being named Robin Scott—the only blemish in an otherwise perfect career.) Marcus’s clunky remake is his personal history of the Top 40, played out on a sun-damaged cassingle. Here, New Kids and the Partridge Family are still part of the pop present, and Marilyn Manson is right up there with Hanson (he couldn’t even think of another word that rhymed). One line is pure genius, though damned if I can put my finger on why: “Saw the new video, every 10 minutes on the radio.”
“I’m Afraid of Britney Spears,” by a group of British Columbia 15- and 16-year-olds, is super-poppy girl-punk recruiting a guitar solo from my favorite Fastbacks song (“Impatience”), and is as whimsical as anything in Josie and the Pussycats. The greatest thing about “I’m Afraid” isn’t the chunka-chunka stop-start intro or the psychotic key changes; it‘s the way LiveonRelease turn “Christina Aguilera” and “Milli Vanilli” into the year’s most suggestive, blissfully singable phrases. It’s the kindest tribute those icons will ever receive.