VIDEO: Girl Authority live
The Click Five are sequestered somewhere inside Q Division studio, and Girl Authority are seated in a circle in the lounge area, scheming a way to meet the lead singer.
“I never knew long hair looked so good on a guy!”
“I’m so in love!”
“They’re sooooo good!”
They start to sing the chorus to the Click Five single “Just the Girl,” except they change the lyrics so that they’re in the first person.
“I’m just the girl you’re lookin’ for/And when you see it’s me/On your caller ID/You won’t pick up the phone/You’d rather be alone . . . ”
They sing louder, showing off a little.
“Shhh! You’re embarrassing me!”
“Ohmigod, he’s SO GOOD.”
“Ohmigod, what if this is their next, like, hit. And we’re sitting here!”
“I love his long hair. Dark, long hair.”
Even though they’d have been happier if I were a skinny dude with doe eyes and a guitar slung over my shoulder, the five members of Girl Authority I speak with (four were away on vacation or at a play rehearsal at the time) are charming and polite. You couldn’t conceive of their acting the part of flashy mini-divas — particularly 14-year-old Jacqueline, who’s soft-spoken and delicate in a way that makes you want to protect her from mean boys. They’re also already stunners: glowing complexions that would suit a Clean & Clear commercial, big smiles with straight or in-the-process-of-being-straightened teeth, trendy clothes.
Girl Authority formed when Rounder Records asked Samantha Hammel, a Sudbury-based talent manager, to recommend potential candidates for a girl-pop group. She had previously worked with each of the girls, who range from 9 to 14 years old, in community theater or her Friends of Broadway program, and all of them were already friends. Seven of the nine are from Sudbury; two are from surrounding towns Weston and Westborough. Of course they get carpooled to rehearsals.
You can already hear the girls’ voices maturing on their sophomore album, Road Trip (Zoë/Rounder), which Hammel executive-produced with the band’s current production manager, Liza Levy. On their homonymous debut, the production occasionally reduced them to sugary twee. If Girl Authority was Kidz Bop with a High School Musical Broadway edge, Road Trip amplifies this, setting the band up as more than mere impersonators. Five original tracks commissioned by Rounder are interspersed among the 14 vacation-themed covers. “This Is My Day,” a self-confidence anthem that flexes major pop muscle, was written by Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses/Belly), and Vince Clarke (Erasure/Depeche Mode) penned the synth-happy opener, “Let’s Get Together.” No surprise, they’re two of the album’s best tracks. Although there are moments on Road Trip where I find it necessary to turn the volume down and think Simon Cowell–ish karaoke thoughts, Girl Authority are pre-packaged for an audience that probably couldn’t care less what a grumpy Brit might say about the band’s song choices and harmonizing skills.
Last April, Girl Authority entered the Billboard Top Kid Audio Chart at #9. Can Road Trip close in and threaten the Disney soundtrack to Jump In! or Kidz Bop 11? Possibly. Little girls are practically engineered to idolize a group like Girl Authority and accept the band’s simple, wholesome, slightly cringe-worthy Girl Power message without argument. “Mostly, Girl Authority is about reaching to the younger girls who don’t know who they wanna be yet,” 14-year-old Tarr says of their target audience. I’m not sure what she means by this, given the options. There are the six fashion identities of Party Girl (Kate), Urban Girl (Gina), Fashion Girl (Alex), Glamour Girl (Carly), Preppy Girl (Zoë, who is the daughter of Rounder president and CEO John Virant), and Boho Girl (Jess). There’s one sporty All-Star Girl (Jacqueline); Rock and Roll Girl (Tarr) and Country Girl (Crystal) offer the musical identities. What about an Art Girl, a Dance Girl, a Smart-Ass Riot Grrrl Girl? But if something is missing, the girls don’t seem to notice. As Tarr puts it, “Almost every girl has a point in their life where they watch a show and they imitate that person or they want to be that person. We really want it to get to the point where we do that. Basically we’re fulfilling our three-year-old dream.”
They’ve already picked up some surprising supporters. The Dresden Dolls took notice when they heard the girls rehearsing at Camp Street Studios; Amanda and Brian invited them to perform “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” and a PG version of “Sing” at the Orpheum last spring. They even appear in Jake Brennan’s new music video as a gaggle of heavies who pretend to beat up the local punk songwriter’s former guitarist.
Behind the scenes, there’s a team at Rounder and some industry A-listers pushing the Girl Authority concept. The group are managed by Michael Pagnotta, who worked with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen for nearly 14 years. And after the girls sing for me a cappella, I get a candid impression of how capable they are and how much farther they could go. Whether they have what it takes to achieve Olsen Twins–level success remains to be seen. But in my mind, they already trump MK&A (whom they worship, of course) when it comes to personality — I doubt any of these girls will wind up posing in publicity photos like zombie dolls who can’t remember how to relate to anyone who talks with a Michelle Tanner lisp.