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Music video for Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. creating controversy

February 5, 2003

The Russian singers - an admitted "under-age sex project" according to their manager - call themselves t.A.T.u., abbreviated from the Russian phrase "this girl loves that girl." The duo, 17-year-old Julia and 18-year-old Lena, have attracted a fair share of controversy, with children's advocates labelling their music "pedophilic pop."

t.A.T.u.'s first single, Ya Soshla S Uma, which translates to All The Things She Said, is about a love affair between two young girls. The music video, which started airing on MuchMusic in Canada last week, shows the girls clad in micro-sized school uniforms kissing passionately and holding hands - and, of course, they are standing in the rain.

It's enough to make Britney Spears' much-talked-about midriff-baring schoolgirl outfit from the Baby One More Time video look as saucy as bubblegum.

But it's a proven marketing technique that's garnering the duo loads of buzz and album sales in a highly competitive industry.

t.A.T.u., who perform wearing tiny panties and itty-bitty tank tops, have sold over one million copies of their debut album, 200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane. t.A.T.u.'s concert appearances at clubs and stadiums in their native country have drawn upwards of 50,000 screaming fans.

The pop duo's single, All The Things She Said, debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. this week.

The song has already hit No. 1 in Austria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In Canada, where the album was released in December, the track is currently climbing the contemporary hit radio chart. It sits at No. 13 this week, up from No. 18. In the U.S., the song jumped seven positions to No. 36 this week on the Billboard Hot 100, based on radio play.

Of course, not everyone is content with the girls' success.

Children's advocates in the U.K., who have called the duo "pedophilic pop," are trying to ban the video from airing on television.

ITV banned the video from its show CD:UK this week.

"We could not show the video on CD:UK because it is not really suitable for children," producer Tammy Hoyle told the London Evening Standard on Monday.

The BBC denied Tuesday that it banned the video from its weekly Top Of The Pops music show although producers say the video won't air on Friday's show. Instead, the show will air "better exclusive footage of the duo."

"We are not showing it this week. It has been around for a while, and Top Of The Pops has access to a number of never-seen-before versions of t.A.T.u.'s live performances," reads a statement on the television station's Web site.

MuchMusic had some initial apprehension about airing the video but the station's internal review committee gave the thumbs up last week.

"We had the discussions. We felt that it didn't oversexualize them and they looked of age," said Craig Halket, senior music programmer at the station. "I can see the controversy. It's like many videos, including the Christina Aguilera video - it pushes buttons."

Halket admits the station will likely get "the odd complaint" concerning the video's content. The committee will review the complaints as they are received, he said.

t.A.T.u. were 14 when they were discovered in Moscow by child psychologist and advertising executive Ivan Shapovalov. He has admitted that the girls were an "underage sex project" designed to appeal to men looking for underage sexpots.

Shapovalov is rumoured to have shot two more music videos for the band. The first, for the song Nas Ne Dogonjat, sees the pair stealing a truck and running people over. The images are intercut with childhood photos of the girls naked. The second spot, for 30 Minutes, features Lena becoming angry after catching Julia with a man.

Lena and Julia appear to love the attention and the fame. They give flirty, veiled answers when questioned about their sexuality. Numerous Russian newspapers have outed the girls' various boyfriends.

"t.A.T.u. is about saying what you feel, not what others expect," Lena Katina writes in the band's biography. "Be in love. Be yourself. We are."

Lena added: "t.A.T.u. is more sincere, more honest about ourselves and others. We don't shape ourselves for the audience. In Russia, life is not polite. If we don't like something, we say we don't like it."

Despite the controversy, t.A.T.u.'s brand of electronic pop music is catchy and fun, and becoming a club favourite. It was produced by Trevor Horn, whose credits include membership in The Buggles (Video Killed The Radio Star), The Art Of Noise, and production duties for The Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones, Seal, Simple Minds and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

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