When the voice changes, the career changes for any preteen pop idol. For Aaron Carter
, the change is particularly bad -- he acknowledges as much on "To All the Girls," the second song on his third album, Another Earthquake!
, when he sings "growing up can be so strange." That's not the half of it. Not to be rude, but the voice change -- noticeable on the previous Oh Aaron
but in full effect here -- has stripped him of any of his charm; he may still look cute, but he sounds like a gangly, awkward teenager. In a bizarre turn of events, this maturation coincides with a selection of ten songs utterly lacking in the unsettling sexual innuendos that plagued his earlier Jive albums. Even when the guitarist comes crashing in on the title track, it's all shiny, fizzy bubblegum, all deliberately polished surface on the numerous dance songs, as well as the adult contemporary ballads. Stranger still, the songwriting is pretty sturdy (excepting the awful "America A O," which offers unnecessary proof that teen pop should not tackle post-9-11 patriotism; "troubled times bring about troubled rhymes," indeed) and is considerably better than those on either of its predecessors, making this musically the first Aaron Carter
record that's actually fun (particularly when he apes LFO
on the aforementioned "To All the Girls," or when he sings "I know the Green Mile makes you sad"). But, there's the problem of that voice, which never sounds comfortable, whether it's crooning, rapping, or singing. To the producers' credit, the wash of instruments often camouflages his weaknesses, but it's still kind of painful to hear him strain so much on each track; it's hard not to feel bad for the kid after a while, even if the only reason he's been making records is that he's the cute younger brother of a Backstreet Boy
. It's a real testament to the record-makers that, despite Carter
's voice, Another Earthquake!
remains his best album to date. It's likely not many will hear it, since it's arriving at the end of the movement, not the prime, but years from now it will stand as an overlooked hidden treasure of the teen pop movement of the early 2000s.