Singing about promises made to be broken, Stand By You really ought to have been a single. Maybe 13 year olds would have gotten the message easier if 911 of 5ive had recorded this, but as S-Club 7 proved, S.O.A.P did this song perfectly and they don't even have a numeral in their name. Their undivided lyrics are 100% as robotic and unbreakable as teensploitation pop needs to be.
The slinky and perky Rn'B squeezed pop-grunge of the uncontrolled This Is How We Party is probably even more infectious than Wannabe or is at least on par with Solid HarmoniE's I'll Be There For You for pure personality-driven, sun-soaked, friends-united, adgitating adolescent autonomy. Commercial lift-off never happened in the UK (#36), but they did reach #51 in the US, #1 in Sweden and #4 in France.
The flamenco heat of Romeo & Juliet, remarkably tuneful, is another in your face beat-driven dance-pop classic, 'girl he's a loser' providing all the life you'll ever need in life. Like, 'hellooo!?'
The alientated teenager protest ballad Not Like Other Girls is probably what fueled those incestuous-lesbian rumours. A joyless and glum sisterhood lesson, I can't get enough of it.
The considerate Who Can I Talk To isn't mature beyond their years but touches teenage angst in an honest light. Pop music was largely girl-aimed, so taking this empowerment-mongering twist can be seen as a way of assuring girls that they're too good to settle for something lame or whatever. They are indeed girls themselves, but as a gay guy who was a bit of a loner at school I can appreciate this on my own level. Yes it's utterly twee, but I was 14 when this came out. It sneaks in a whispering and confessional middle 8. It's a gambit that pays off on whatever level you want to take it on, even for those who might have sung it without needing it to mean anything at all.
Uptempo creamy highlight Ladidi Ladida spurts the same serum as those early Backstreet Boys singles. They still can't sing, so they're just playing, but this is undeniable fun. Their vocals are unequal to the entertainment, but the music is the message most important.
The nimble Wishing is a sacharine ballad with ghostly vocals and a spanish guitar Gina G would blush over. They don't have the timbre to start a fire.
Sadly not a Britney cover, Deep In My Heart is the least appealing track on offer. It's quite sulky and I like that, so they can really do no wrong even when the material in other hands would prove testing.
The dfgg Dowhuchalike is a fantastic Aqua-lite song not a million miles off Heat of The Night or even Dr. Jones. 'Rude attitude'. Less rampant than the latter, but just as brisk.
Shadowed by bizarre seaside-wreckage samples worthy of Saint Etienne, the eurofunking thumper labarynth Live Forever is good enough to be Ace of Base circa 1992. This is what Madonna tried to do with Bedtime Stroy, except this is way funner. Momentum builds before composure completely collapses with typical teenage angst restraint: 'I feel the word is turning, deep in my heart I'm burning / I'm so happy I could cry, 'till we enter paradise'. All in one go, the moment is gigantic, ridiculous and spasmodic.
Keynoted by 2 absolute pop classics (Stand By You and This Is How We Party), you don't have to be 14 to get the message (you don't even have to remember being 14). Their sincere simulations might not be soulful (and credit should be given to their songwriters, but where is the fun in that?), but avoiding vulnerable ballads in favour of the shy diary entries of the title track and the lissome Who Can I Talk To, proves their worth in a fashion. Their hooks are easily flexed on This Is How We Party, but the Ace of Base suicide-watch is the most lingering. Close your eyes and love it, S.O.A.P sell their teen spirit with an enabling pop fizz only surpased by the Spice Girls who were old enough to sing about their genitalia which is an advantage for anyone, but crucially avoid teen-advisory froth. Unlike the Spice Girls, there is no fake masterbations or ball-crushing going on, nor were they genuine singers or designated icons - for those who know their Coke from their Pepsi, S.O.A.P still aimed higher than most.