Not the Bettys
Not the Bettys

Double Vision

The Veronicas are 21-year-old twin sisters out of Brisbane, Australia, who have been performing together since they were five. Just two years ago, Warner Bros./Sire signed Lisa and Jess Origliasso for an obscene amount of cash, with hopes of turning the girls into the next Ashlee Simpson or Kelly Clarkson. The sisters sing better than the former on their worst days and have to rely on their eerie, twin-powered harmonizing to sound as good as the latter on their best. Even so, the siblings have more sass, write better lyrics and rock a hell of a lot harder than the other two combined.

Houston Press: Can you still remember your first performance together?

Lisa Origliasso: It was doing a song-and-dance to the song "Do-Re-Mi." Jess picked her nose the whole performance, and I forgot the dance that consisted mainly of skipping.


The Veronicas

So where did you get your name, the Veronicas?

Jess Origliasso: We grew up reading Archie comics, and we were very influenced by the character Veronica Lodge. We loved that she was a brat, loved to shop, etc.

Archie Comics Publications sued Warner Bros. Music Group to stop you two from using "the Veronicas," but both parties settled, agreeing to a cross-promotional deal. Do you think maybe Archie Comics needed you more than you needed them?

LO: We loved Archie comics growing up, so were just blown away that they included us in their comic. It went beyond any dream we could have ever imagined.

When you heard WB was being sued over your name, did you want to laugh?

JO: At the time, we were just excited that Archie Comics had heard of us.

Your deal with Warner Bros. is rumored to have been worth some $2 million, an Australian record for bands unknown overseas. How did you react to the label's showing such faith in you, and does that create any undo pressure for you two?

LO: We don't feel any pressure. We just do our own thing and are very grateful for the faith that Warner and Sire have in us.

You lost Best Pop Video at the 2006 MTV Australian Music Video Awards to Ashlee Simpson, whom you're now opening for. Did you ever try to get back at her for that, by maybe stealing her eyeliner or leaving a dead cat in her tour bus?

JO: We won the biggest award of the night, which was Video of the Year, so we didn't mind.

You both wrote on the majority of the songs on your debut, The Secret Life of... How important was it for you to be part of that process?

LO: Very important! We were signed as songwriters before we were as singers, so it's how we express ourselves and who we are. It's an insight into us.

Did you two ever freak out your producers and songwriter partners during the recording process with that always-creepy twin bond?

JO: Yeah, I guess so. We would do the usual speaking-at-the-same-time things. We were always good at doubling each other's voices. -- Cole Haddon

Who's the One that Sucks?

Michael Bolton is the type of celebrity who makes almost every average human feel incredibly lucky to have no talent whatsoever in the realm of entertainment generally (and singing specifically). Because of Bolton, it's not just bearable to have unremarkable mousy brown or dishwater blond hair -- it is desirable. For a longtime life partner or casual date, it is a far better thing to be dull than Desperate.

Since the '80s, when Bolton began inflicting soft-rock standards such as "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" upon "The Rose"-friendly airwaves of FM radio and VH1, the New Haven, Connecticut, native, now 53, has endured a steady stream of critical and popular invective. He has taken criticism normally reserved for only the most cloying and annoying (Celine Dion, Jerry Lewis), razzing limited not just to his artistic oeuvre but also to his hairstyle (once frizzily mulleted, now Seacrested out) and his woman (Nicolette Sheridan).

But even now, as Bolton launches an assault upon the classics on his new album, Bolton Swings Sinatra, he is known to millions, who have never heard him sing even a note, as the ridiculous conceit of a movie comedy construct, much the way A Flock of Seagulls is recognized by cinephiles not for "Telecommunication" but for Samuel L. Jackson's sneering reference in Pulp Fiction.

It was in this spirit that we electronically elbowed into a group teleconference interview that Bolton was giving to shill his Sinatra covers and were able to salvo just one question. Judging by the length, complexity and passion of Bolton's answer, we hit the mark.

Mr. Bolton, how do you feel about being known to millions of people as a "no-talent ass-clown" as a result of the film Office Space?

"Office Space is funny. I've autographed a lot of those DVDs. But seriously...first of all, what do you do when someone knocks you when you've been nominated for Grammys -- Best Male Vocal -- four times? When you're looked at with respect in the industry? When you write with Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Kanye West? The answer is, you kind of don't have to be insecure about ever being a no-talent anything. You are light-years beyond that possibility. But I admit that sometimes I am a clown.

"One of the things that comes with mainstream success is that people are going to love what you do. But there are also a lot of people who take shots at what you do, people who just don't get what it is you do. Here, you've written with Dylan. You've written rock and roll, country and rap. You've sung with Ray Charles, Pavarotti. You kind of have to be so grateful about the long list of victories and for the mountains you've climbed that you have to look down from.

"Before you get famous, you don't take heat from anybody. Your rent checks are bouncing. You're a starving artist in a blues band. When I started recording pop ballads, I learned to take the knocks.

"This happens in every great career. They use you to set up a joke in a film. But did I mention that I recorded with Ray Charles and wrote with Bob Dylan? I mean, seriously, I'm pretty cool." -- Jean Carey

Come On, Feel the Boys

Here's a theory: The closer a boy band flies to the sun, the more weathered its members will sound on future solo albums. Consider Justified, the 2002 debut by 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake, on which Britney's ex-boy toy came off like a cool, confident twentysomething itching to remove your pants. On 2004's Schizophrenic, Timberlake's bandmate J.C. Chasez went ahead and removed his, singing about masturbation (a topic boy-band protocol limits to the realm of metaphor). And breaking out of the Backstreet Boys in 2002 with Now or Never, Nick Carter revealed his desire to be the next...Bryan Adams.

Despite sharing corpulent Svengali Lou Pearlman, O-Town never breathed the same pop-cultural air as the higher-profile 'N Sync or the Backstreet Boys, perhaps because the band's warts-and-all creation was documented in the reality series Making the Band. A few semi-hits, then a slow Disney Channel death. Fortunately for us, the group's low-level burn means that Soundtrack to Your Life, the solo debut by O-Town cutie Ashley Parker Angel, crackles with youth -- which, in pop, almost always yields more fun than maturity. Angel braved the reality-show waters a second time while making the album; like The Ashlee Simpson Show, this year's There & Back documented his struggle to define himself against the public's expectation of failure. And like Simpson's two excellent albums, Soundtrack contains supertuneful tween rock with surging guitars and sugary choruses Joey Ramone would've been proud of.

Another reality-show vet, Nick Lachey is much more famous these days as Jessica's estranged husband than as a former member of 98 Degrees. But back in the late '90s those dudes built a sizable following tricking out boy-band pop with blue-eyed-soul harmonies. That renown means that What's Left of Me, Lachey's second solo disc, strokes more chin than Soundtrack to Your Life: The music is handsomely arranged and doggedly mid-tempo pop-rock, full of strummed acoustic guitars, plinked pianos and session-guy drumrolls; Lachey does an excellent impersonation of another celeb hubby, Chris Martin of Coldplay, in "Beautiful," which openly rips the riff from "Clocks." Lyrically, he addresses his pending divorce from Simpson but not in the bratty language of a spurned child: "You walked away and stole my life, just to find what you're looking for," he sings, while fake violins saw seriously behind him. "But no matter how I try, I can't hate you anymore."

Lachey would seem like a real grown-up if it weren't for Brian Littrell, the Backstreet Boy whose new Welcome Home closes with an a cappella rendering of "Jesus Loves You" introduced by Littrell's chirping son Baylee. "I want to live my life so differently because of faith," Littrell sings in the opener, "My Answer Is You," and so he does: Welcome Home jettisons the dewy dance beats and sly sexual innuendo that made the Backstreets the big daddies of the boy-band scene in favor of bland (but not powerless) contemporary-gospel tunes about "learning the ways of a carpenter's son." It's barely recognizable as the work of a former boy-bander, which may be these guys' ultimate goal. -- Mikael Wood


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