Anniemal (Big Beat/Atlantic)

Liz Phair releases a pop record with lyrics as forthright as any she's ever written and music that defines teen pop at its most rocking and irresistible, and the critics squeal in horror, like little sexist pigs to the slaughter. This Norwegian lightweight plays Abba redux for the electroclash age, and they squeal with delight, naming the pretty good "Heartbeat" song of the year ( and brandishing adjectives like "astonishing" and "brilliant" for the mediocre debut on which it appears.

"Annie's voice might be a little thin," admits the otherwise smitten reviewer on Might be? Though Anniemal has a pleasant disposition, it also has a textbook case of musical anorexia, with tinny electronic arrangements, deadpan breathy vocals, and hooks that can barely stand on their emaciated beats. It's a huge hit in Scandinavia, where the natives are ecstatic whenever a local artist turns out to be sunnier than Ingmar Bergman, but its obscurity everywhere else is exactly what attracts critics, leading them to declare its lack of musical substance "edgy" and its clinical anemia "melancholy." Truth is, fewer and fewer pop critics can see outside their small aesthetic niches, and more and more do they deserve the scorn that the general public will heap on them.