By People Staff
August 23, 2004 12:00 PM

Cherie

CRITIC’S CHOICE

White Turns Blue: []
Cherie: []

America’s reigning teen pop queens—Avril Lavigne, Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson et al—won’t be able to rest on their TRL laurels this summer thanks to a pair of European party crashers: Norway’s Maria Mena, 18, and France’s Cherie, 19. On their promising U.S. debuts, Mena and Cherie show that they maybe around long after they outgrow the Seventeen crowd.

Mena, in particular, makes a vivid impression on White Turns Blue. Sounding like Alanis Morissette’s little sister, Mena lets refreshingly candid lyrics fly in a stream-of-consciousness style on her terrific first single, “You’re the Only One”: “You’re the only one who/Holds my hair back/When I’m drunk and get sick.” Sometimes Mena, who cowrote all 12 songs, mimics Morissette a bit too much; “What’s Another Day” sounds like a rewrite of Morissette’s “Hands Clean.” But Mena’s confessional songs play like diary entries, from the ethereal “My Lullaby,” a tune about her parents’ divorce that she wrote when she was just 11, to the rock-edged “Your Glasses,” on which she reveals her insecurities.

While Mena channels Morisette, Cherie makes like the second coming of Celine Dion. Like Dion, Cherie, who began singing professionally at 9, never met a note she didn’t belt. And, singing in English, her vocal inflections at times uncannily mirror Dion (whose first language is also French). Cherie’s ballad-heavy approach is a little old for her age, but her powerhouse delivery and flair for melodrama suit weepies like the aptly titled “Older than My Years.” But the diva-in-training, who didn’t write a lick of her disc, is only as good as her material. And tired tracks like the Latin-Middle Eastern mélange “Betcha Never” don’t measure up to her big voice.

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