a1 : The A List

While a1 haven't graduated to the jetset, they're certainly the spunkiest British boy-band around...

British foursome a1 conform to boy-band-by-numbers formula: fans select their favourite blond or dark cutie (from Christian, Ben, Mark and Paul), and they’re ready to go! But in a period where Westlife and *N Sync are muscling in on all the attention, a1 have whipped out some surprises. Despite clunky choreography and an ostentatiously expensive video that actually looked really cheap, they achieved their first Number One with a cover of A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’. And while it isn’t the highlight of ‘The “a” List’, the recent hit sets the lively pace of their second album.

Recorded in London, Orlando and LA, ‘The “a” List’ exudes a definite transatlantic feel. New York writer Eric Foster White, who has worked with the Backstreet Boys and Britney, lends a helping hand – and a snappily rock-tinged influence – on tunes like current single ‘Same Old Brand New You’. At the same time, an element of hi-NRG persists; a1 might be packaged for teen audiences, but their direct predecessors are in the realms of Ian Levine creations like Seventh Avenue.

A handful of soppy ballads (including the sickly ‘I’ll Take The Tears’) are de rigueur, but they’re eclipsed by a1’s faster numbers. The most exciting tracks here are the bump’n’grind two-step of ‘Nothing But Trouble’ and ‘Too Bad Baby’, the latter even aping R&B baroque. Pop always echoes its peers, and while a1 haven’t graduated to the jetset, they’re certainly the spunkiest British boy-band around – delivering pulsing pop to believe in.

Arwa Haider