When went batshit over Annie at the end of last year, lots of run-of-the-mill music fans misunderstood -- or entirely missed -- the hubbub. At the time, Anniemal, the gilded Norwegian popstress' debut, was available only as an import or illegal download, so it fell on mostly obsessive ears. With last month's U.S. release, Annie's rightful American audience -- the mall-going masses smitten with Britney and Missy -- now have a chance to snap into Annie Lilia Berge-Strand's ample sass and immaculate, Scandinavian danceability.

Given American musical provincialism, there's no telling whether Annie's cool world bump will spread like it should. Understand: Anniemal is pure pop -- sexy, modern, and smart. It's equally suited for summertime ice cream dates and open car windows or long, suggestive glances and hot, sleepless nights. Annie's voice is stretched thin like a bubble about to burst, but there's tension in its distant melancholy as well as the coy melodrama of her ESL lyrics. Production veers between breezy, fuzak-funk updates of '80s FM soul ("No Easy Love," "Greatest Hit"), po-mo electro-hop ("Always Too Late," "Anniemal"), and an irresistible amalgam of the two (try not to bounce along to "Me Plus One" or get lost in the eight-minute "Come Together"). Annie is already a heroine in her homeland; now it's up to you to spread the word to every Hot Topic little sister on your block. We'll all have a better summer because of it.


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