You thought Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was tough? Try keeping a slot in an of-the-moment girl group. There are auditions to finesse, egos

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Survivors?

You thought Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was tough? Try keeping a slot in an of-the-moment girl group. There are auditions to finesse, egos to untangle, hair to tease. Add in the pressures of anticipated multiplatinum success, and pretty soon Ashley will be trying to kick Holly out of Dream for stealing her Sweet Valley High books. If you're Destiny's Child, you've just recovered from the unsightly ousting of two of your original members—not to mention the booting of one of the replacements. If you're Eden's Crush, you're just happy to be here, likely having signed away all of your rights to the record label and your dignity to the Nielsen ratings.

But even though those Eden's Crush girls should have seen it coming, no amount of perma-televised panopticism can un-gobsmack the average wanna-be celebrity. And if they never saw the Spice Girls Behind the Music, well, then, forget about it. Meet the latest inductees into the just-add-water celebrity cauldron—Nicole (Scary Crush), Rosanna (Sporty Crush), Ivette (Baby Crush), Maili (Ginger Crush), and Ana Maria (Posh Crush). Their existence, of course, is due to the band-making-on-the-run genius of the WB and London Records, who've realized—much like their peers at ABC and J Records—that what doesn't come naturally in nature can be easily replicated in the laboratory. Never mind that the members of Eden's Crush only met during the various elimination rounds of the televised show Popstars. Never mind that they didn't pen a single note or word of their debut album, also titled Popstars. And, of course, never mind that theme park entertainers have more stage experience than they do.

No, what matters is the music. Popstars (the album, as opposed to the show, though there's really no difference), is largely a collection of pop trifles, standard female-empowerment club pop that's typically borrowed from black girls by white girls for added sass. Their debut single, "Get Over Yourself," was the subject of one key episode of the show; they had to record it, top to bottom, within a week of the group's formation. Luckily for them, it's the type of ready-made bluster that overpopulates radio these days, a last-ditch missive of the post-"No Scrubs" era. It's a formula that works less than admirably throughout Popstars, each track redolent of its more polished radio cousins. The girls seem utterly without anchor, as if they'd been forced to record their entire album in less than two months in front of a phalanx of intrusive cameras. Oh, wait. . . .

If Eden's Crush problematizes American pop culture at all, it's in their ethnic m鬡nge—two women of Hawaiian descent and three of Latin American background. In their quest for the ultimate girl group (presumably as a complement to the largely white O-Town), the producers/orchestrators of Popstars have oddly achieved the unthinkable—an amalgam that somehow, visually at least, eludes simple binaries. Eden's Crush do their best to undermine even that asset; they fumble the bilingual "1000 Words" and tank the clumsy Latin horn jam "It Wasn't Me." Most crucially, lead vocalist Nicole clearly takes her singing cues from hip-hop, hook-singing R&B wailers, all-of-your-glissandos-are-belong-to-us style. Doubtless, in a year she'll be paired up with Ja Rule and Method Man for tracks on her post-expulsion debut, while the rest of the group back up Ricky Martin on his farewell tour.

Nicole may keep it dirty, but don't accuse Destiny's Child of impending musical miscegenation (or the real kind, for that matter—Beyonc駳 squashed those nasty Eminem rumors). Despite their more down-home roots (do a Web search for Destiny's Child and Geto Boys and see what you find), DC have done an admirable job of making the leap from urban radio to TRL. Their new album is so part of the zeitgeist that they've named it after the TV event of the moment. Even better: Despite that fact, Survivor still means more about their group's evolution than any outback hackery. The title track is a swarthy manifesto, pounding with faux strings and hella admonishments—from the understandable"You thought that I'd be sad without you. I laugh harder," to the inscrutable "I'm not gonna dis you on the Internet."

I mean, why go on the Web when you know you've got God in your corner. DC haven't made the pop leap alone; a healthy dose of the Lord apparently makes all their precious moralizing stomachable. On "Apple Pie A La Mode" they tell a boy, "[you're] turning me on with your modesty," and on "Nasty Girl" they berate an anonymous skeezer: "You a nasty, trashy, classless, sleazy. . . ." Or was that just a snippet of the pre-concert pep talk? After all, just one track earlier, Beyonc頡nd Co. are wiggling it way more than a little bit, bragging on how their "jelly" (read: cellulite-free derri貥) is primed for the fetishizing. Seems that situational morality can get you through a pop album after all, and maybe even the sustenance of a pop group. It just depends what goes down after the cameras turn off.

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