Vitamin C, Virtual Popster For The Millennium

Britney and Christina get some smart, futuristic company on pop charts.

(Editor's Note: The "Sunday Morning" essay is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of SonicNet Inc. or its affiliated companies.)

Editorial Director Michael Goldberg writes:

It's easy to rant about all the smarmy teensploitation pop topping the

charts at the moment. It's also getting boring. So I'm happy to be

able to rave about a smart, clever pop album that could well put the

artist, Vitamin C, in the company of Britney and Christina.

Vitamin C is a concept — a character? — dreamed up by former

Eve's Plum singer Colleen Fitzpatrick.

On one level the concept is an art piece, a self-conscious attempt to

fuse a teen mindset with dope tracks and produce top-40-friendly songs.

Already, "Smile" (RealAudio excerpt)

has broken into the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. And if

"Not That Kind of Girl" and "Do What You Want to Do" don't follow it

onto mainstream pop radio, someone will need to take a serious look at

the Elektra Records promotion department.

I was fantasizing the other day about a William Gibson–like

future in which mega-corporations will literally fabricate pop stars:

Creative directors would conceive them from scratch: the look, the

sound, the message. Graphic artists would whip up charismatic virtual

personalities and the music videos to promote them, while production

teams would create the songs.

Just think of how much easier managing these virtual stars will be!

No Courtney Love tantrums. No Scott Weiland drug busts. No big

advances.

Hip-hop wizard Kool Keith has experimented along these lines with his

many personas (Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis, etc.), but of

course Keith himself is a very human artist.

Vitamin C is also a real person, but her "Star Trek"–inspired

clothes, stylized look and fictional persona may well mark her as a

precursor to the virtual pop stars of the future.

None of this would be all that interesting if Vitamin C,

released two weeks ago, was just another forgettable album of pop

songs. It's not. Working with a variety of producers, including Fred

Maher of Material and Josh Deutsch, the A&R guy who signed her,

Fitzpatrick utilizes samples from the Clash and Digital Underground

and gets help from Count Bass-D and Dan the Man.

The album starts out sounding like a typical female pop album with

"Smile" and "Turn Me On" (RealAudio excerpt).

But by track five, "Not That Kind of Girl" (RealAudio excerpt),

things have gotten interesting. Kicking off with a monster synth riff

and a rhythm track that'll break windows at high volume, this one

establishes Vitamin C as a strong year 2000 woman who's not gonna take

sh-- from the guys she dates. "So don't you put me down or start to play around,"

she sings. You really have to hear this track, it's a production tour-de-force.

That song leads into the George Clinton/Digital Underground–ish "Do What You Want to Do"

(RealAudio excerpt),

which has a confidence-boosting message: "You don't need to have a big tattoo/ Hangin' with the boys like the last tycoon."

The chorus goes: "Do what you wanna do/ Whatever whatever whatever you choose/ Everybody wants to tell you what to do/ Just do what you wanna do."

And then we take off for one of those Bizarro worlds from the old

Superman comics, only this one is a feminist's dream. In

"Girls Against Boys" (RealAudio excerpt),

over a sci-fi soundtrack, Vitamin C lays it out like this:

"Imagine a world where the girls, girls rule the earth/ Imagine a world where the boys, boys could give birth/ Would it be better that way, would it be more fun?/ Would it be ecstasy or revolution?"

The Vitamin C character is cute, fun, liberated and sexy. Inspired by

Madonna and a fan of such groups as the Beatles, Beach Boys, Blondie

and the Breeders, Fitzgerald says in her bio, "I wanted to keep a

touch of idealism as part of [Vitamin C]. ... I like music

that's larger than life. And I set out to make an intelligent pop

record."

She's accomplished that and perhaps more: a glimpse into pop music's

future.