200 Km/h in the Wrong Lane
Music is such a universal thing and in the 90s and early 2000s, for me, it was everything. That’s one of the reasons I write this series. It was the Golden Age of music videos, the best avenue for discovering new music, particularly music from other countries.
One foreign music video stood out to me. The video starts out with rain. I’m not sure why, but this was incredibly popular for music videos. Anyway, there’s a line of people standing by a fence holding umbrellas (because it’s raining…duh) and the music starts. I’m not sure about the instrument, but it’s electronic, in the way techno music is electronic. The drums kick in and the first words are, “All the things she said. All the things she said. Running through my head. All the things she said. All the things she said!”
This is how I was introduced to the Russian musical duo TaTu (stylized t.A.T.u; pronounced “Tattoo”). Now, keep in mind - this was 2002 when they released “200 km/h in the Wrong Lane”. I was 18-19 years old - fresh out of high school. The song was catchy and the girls in the video were hot! On top of that, the video features the two girls making out in the rain very passionately.
Now, there is a reason why I mentioned that and it’s relevant to what we’re doing here. The group had a story; I guess you could say it was a rumor, but most accurately, they had a gimmick; a persona that they put how to control how they were viewed. This gimmick was that they were lesbian lovers who formed a girl group. In 2023, this isn’t such a big deal, but in 2002 it was quite the controversy.
This is important for two reasons: First, it wasn’t true and was used like a marketing ploy to get a buzz (it worked, by the way) and second and most important, this is the context that is used in the songs on the album. This entire album works like a collection of love letters from one lesbian to another. Again, to clarify, this may be commonplace today, but 20 years ago (dear God, this album is over 20 years old!) being a part of what we now call the LGBTQ+ community was only just being accepted socially.
It’s also important that I remind you that this is a Russian act. I assumed that homosexuality was less accepted in Russia than it was in the U.S. at the time. A bit of research revealed that until the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., homosexual acts between men were illegal. (There were no statutes regarding sex acts between women. Golly, Molly, I wonder why? Still, it was taboo in Russia then and it still is today with 60% of the population saying that homosexuality should not be accepted by society in 2002 (it was up to 74% in 2013.)
So, armed with context, we can get into t.A.T.u’s 2002 album “200 km/h in the Wrong Lane”.
The first song on the album is “Not Gonna Get Us”. Starts with this low groaning sound before a techno/EDM type of beat kicks in. The song itself is two lovers who are planning to run away from their lives to be together.
See why the context was important? The title of the song implies that it’s okay that we take this risk because they’re not gonna get us.
Starting from here, let's make a promise
You and me, let's just be honest
We're gonna run, nothing can stop us
Even the night, that falls all around us
Soon there will be laughter and voices
Beyond the clouds, over the mountains
We'll run away on roads that are empty
Lights from the airfield shining upon you
This is a common theme on this album and as I noted before, the album works as a dedication of love from one lesbian to another, with consideration to the lengths they feel they have to go to be together in their society.
“All the things she said. All the things she said. Running through my head. All the things she said. All the things she said!”
This is the song that, if you mention t.A.T.u. to the casual music fan, they’d think of. Fun Fact: at one point, this song was used as an entrance theme for World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar Victoria (also known as TNA’s Tara; real name Lisa Marie Varon).
In this song, the subject singing has discovered that she has unexpected feelings for another girl.
I'm in serious shit, I feel totally lost
If I'm asking for help, it's only because
Being with you has opened my eyes
Could I ever believe such a perfect surprise?
I keep asking myself, wondering how
I keep closing my eyes, but I can't block you out
Wanna fly to a place where it's just you and me
Nobody else, so we can be free
This album is considered a dance album. It’s pop. It’s techno. It’s rock. The music is so flawless. Techno and EDM weren’t super mainstream in 2002, but this song got a lot of radio and music video plays. It was everywhere! Mid-song music drop and return - chef’s kiss! “All the Things She Said” is almost the perfect song.
Next Track. Phone Rings. Four melodic tones. One person answers. The other answers. The drums begin to play. The two begin to speak in Russian.
This was an accident
Not the kind where sirens sound
Never even noticed
We're suddenly crumbling
Tell me how you've never felt
Delicate or innocent
Do you still have doubts that
Us having faith makes any sense
Besides the cool intro, “Show Me Love” appears to be a view of two lovers who have split or may be about to. In context, I feel this song speaks to the difficulty of being in a secret relationship. Or maybe, because you yourself are socially taboo, as I assume would be the case with lesbians in the early 2000s, there would be added pressures or insecurities. These insecurities could play out as over-reactions when you see your interest or your partner interacting with someone else. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never felt that insecurity. While I’m not lesbian, I have image issues and character flaws that, to me, make me feel undesirable. Because of this, I would cast doubt when someone would pursue me or “show me love”. It sounds like this may be what’s happening here.
Keyboard. Metronome. Maybe Xylophone. The music on “30 Minutes” - I could sit with an instrumental forever. Every time I listen to this song I always mentally add a rap beat to the music. I’ll admit, the music is so simple and beautiful that I don’t listen to the words most of the time. The lyrics again tie into the story of two secret lovers who must make a decision right here and now about the rest of their lives.
30 minutes a blink of an eye
30 minutes to alter our lives
30 minutes to make up my mind
30 minutes to finally decide
30 minutes to whisper your name
30 minutes to shoulder the blame
30 minutes of bliss, thirty lies
30 minutes to finally decide
To decide, to decide, to decide
The music on “How Soon Is Now?” is exactly what the late 90s sounded like right before Nu-Metal. Song’s short and simple but the message hits deep.
I am the son and the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir of nothing in particular
You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does
That’s the song, pretty much. “I’m different but nothing special. I’m human and I deserve love like anybody else”
I love this album so much, I’ve realized that I’m taking you track-by-track. This isn’t as long as “Back to Basics” by Christina Aguilera, but it’s SO GOOD that a track-by-track is deserving.
The next song is “Clowns (Can you see me now?)”. This feels like a cop-out, but if you like dance club music - just listen to it. Like, open a new tab, go to somewhere online where you can listen to this song and listen to it and come back here for the rest.
Go ahead… I’ll wait.
You back? See what I mean?! It’s a fucking BANGER! Never have I ever been compelled to look up who produced a sound because it was so good. This song was produced by Trevor Horn, who also produced “All the Things She Said” and “Not Gonna Get Us” from this album and “Can’t Fight The Moonlight” by LeAnn Rimes from the “Coyote Ugly” soundtrack (sidenote -great songs on that soundtrack. Give that a spin if you get a chance and if you don’t know “Can’t Fight the Moonlight”...man…)
Anyway, it’s not even about the words for me with this one. The track is a hype monster! It has to be heard to be understood.
The next track is “Malchik Gay”. I’ve vibe with this music on this album I never bothered to look up what the title meant, but for this I did!
“Malchik Gay” translates to English from Russian as “Gay Boy”. The Interwebs says that this song is about a girl who is in love with a gay male who has a boyfriend already but realizes that she’ll never have him. Before, I assumed it was about a lesbian that was in love with a straight girl, but this makes a little bit more sense given the lyrics.
Choking back emotion
I try to keep on hoping
For a way;
A reason for us both to
Come in close
I long for you to hold me
Like your boyfriend does
And though my dream is
I wanna be the object
Object, object, object
Of your passion but it's hopeless
Now, this next song. The vocals start right away before the music starts. I love when an act blends styles on a song. It’s one of the reasons I love BabyMetal out of Japan. It’s J-Pop vocals over heavy metal. Nuts! (If you’re gonna check out a song, listen to “iine”) The rap over pop singing on “Stars”
How did we ever get this far?
It shouldn't have to be this hard
Now for the first time in my life
Are we in love? Do we deserve
To bear the shame of this whole world?
And like the night we camouflage
The rapping part is all in Russian and I have never known what it meant. Ever. It was just well done. The singing in English. The rapping in Russian. It just works! There are translations online and after looking at a couple, I suggest reading them yourself and determining what you think it’s happening. It’s kinda everywhere to me, but all the lyrics together, I can almost see it.
The last three tracks include an extended version of “Show Me Love” and completely Russian versions of “All the Things She Said” and “Not Gonna Get Us”. Overall, this is a fantastic dance album. The lyrics don’t always need context, but I hope you see how the context helps. The real star of the album is the dance music. You can put this on track one and put the player on repeat. I can’t listen to this one album literally all day long. Once you play it, you’ll know exactly why this was one of my favorite albums of all time…yeah, it’s like THAT!