Tokio Hotel - 'Ready Set Go'
Settle down, this is going to be a LONG REVIEW, but totally worth it. I first encountered Tokio Hotel last year as a kind of musical holiday romance, when the song 'Durch Den Monsun' ('Under The Monsoon') came on MTV Europe while I was waiting to lech over Alexz Johnson. I must admit, my original thoughts were "my God that lesbian singer is beautiful, I wish I could carry off that haircut" and thinking the song was pretty.
Obviously, since then I've discovered that that lesbian is equipped with the wrong genitalia for the job and that she is really a teenage boy called Bill. It bears saying that Bill Kaulitz is very, incredibly, freakishly beautiful. He has the kind of elegant face that most girls would cut off several of their own limbs for and he also moves with a kind of dainty ease and shy-confidence which give him a sort of glowing, charismatic aura. He's basically totally mesmerising.
If you watch the original video to 'Durch Den Monsun' (they've made a new video for the English language version, which is just called 'Monsoon' and delights me for reasons too geeky to go into here) then you can see what Bill (and the rest of the band) looked like just as they exploded to fame...
Cute, aren't they? The song is, too. And this is where, for the second time in recent weeks, Chartblog is probably being stalked by vigilante tabloid readers, because right there none of those boys is over seventeen and err, oh dear.
Here lie the problems for Tokio Hotel.
Problem One: they're outrageously pretty. I've mentioned Bill, right? Well Tom (dreadlocks, Bill's twin) looks like the face of the Attitude clothing catalogue (girl's section) and Gustav (masculinity) and Georg (long hair, no make up,) would hit you as hotties from two hundred feet away in any other band.
Now, I'm not shocked by Bill wearing make up; I grew up gothy and I know lots of boys who wear eyeliner and are a bit feminine. I'm not shocked that they're sexualised; they're seventeen, I spent all damn day thinking about sex when I was seventeen and so did everyone else. I'm kind of shocked, however, by the extreme reactions the band create in everyone else.
Tokio Hotel's detractors are loud and mostly complain about how young, how pretty and how ridiculous looking they are. And actually, they ARE all of these things and they say stupid stuff that doesn't help the situation because they're popstars and that's what popstars do when they're given a microphone to talk into.
Despite this, a lot of the problems that people claim they have with the band are actually with themselves because it IS weird how attractive they are. It even makes ME feel uncomfortable at twenty, let alone anyone older than me, and so we're happier to write them off as a teengirl fantasy rock band. Never mind that most pubescent girls probably wouldn't fancy Bill if he wasn't making the music he does. The issue here, I suspect, is that Tokio Hotel make us all feel pretty old, (and consequently fairly perverted).
Problem Two: their music is actually good. No, seriously, this is a problem. I haven't found a single song of theirs that couldn't blow a lot of UK and US rock out of the water and then proceed to stamp on it for a while. They do deserve respect as musicians and songwriters and it's difficult to get that when you're young, pretty, androgynous boys.
Despite this, their music isn't, as some fans would adoringly announce, the best thing in the world ever. They sound like Lostprophets (which, God knows, is difficult enough for Lostprophets themselves without anyone else joining in) in the sense that they have a powerful rock dynamic and also good enough songwriting ability to create poppy tunes.
'Schrei,' for instance, is pretty heavy (and also almost certainly their 'youngest' song; it's all about not wanting to grow up, if my C at German GCSE serves me correctly) but simultaneously catchy and has a shout-along "nein, nein, nein, nein, nein" bit in the chorus.
'Ready Set Go' combines the two problems of Tokio Hotel in exemplary fashion. It could be off 'Liberation Transmission' sonically, although it's by no means plagiaristic. Bill carries through on his promise to perfect an English accent, his singing is excellent and the whole song hangs together nicely.
The message is fairly basic - 'come with me and it's us against the world', essentially - and the lyrics may be rather simplistic, but if I was asked to translate a song into German, I can guarantee the results would be far uglier, so it's still pretty impressive. Plus this is a good statement of intent in a market where they've been talked about a lot and yet not really heard except by minorities, often through a language barrier.
See what I mean? It's not the most savage attack on society ever but there's something about the band that makes them threatening anyway. Remember, kids, adults always say the cool stuff is rubbish and not as good as what they had back in their day and oh my God, look how they're dressed, THINK OF THE CHILDREN! On the other hand, it is still nothing to get totally fired up about. Which leaves me with...
Problem Three: I don't want to throw my support behind them and swear to defend them to the death, cus they're not THAT amazing or unusual, and there's definitely something creepy about the way their management market them. But equally I can't jump on the hate bandwagon because I think they're quite good, to be honest.
This song is quite good. It's catchy and I've played it more than is necessary to just review it. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground to stand in on Tokio Hotel, though and I think that's the root of all their other issues so no matter what rating the song gets, people will form their own opinions and that's good and right but I've tried to give them a fair hearing so, uh, let's all be nice, right?
BBC Slink talk to Tokio Hotel