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Breaking: La Roux

November 4, 2009 12:10 PM ET

Who The U.K. synth-pop sensation — it's scored two Top Five hits in England — consists of striking androgynous singer Elly Jackson and behind-the-scenes beatmaker Ben Langmaid (he refuses to be interviewed or photographed and doesn't perform live). But Jackson is used to being the center of attention, for her hair — a red, Woody Woodpecker-style pouf — and her piercing voice. Says Jackson, "It's a massively powerful instrument."

Sounds Like Inspired by Eighties keyboard-and-vocal groups like the Human League and Yaz, La Roux's tunes — which the pair cut in Langmaid's living room — feature staccato synths over pulsing beats and Jackson's insistent, high-pitched vocals. "I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell," says Jackson. "But when I started going clubbing, I realized I didn't want to sit on a chair with a guitar."

Tears for Fears The dark lyrics — culled from sad-sack poems that Jackson wrote in high school — belie the album's euphoric vibe. The robotic-funk cut ­"Tigerlily" features lyrics about "lurking in the dark" and stalking a former lover. "All the songs are sad," says Jackson, who shed tears in the recording sessions. "It was quite intense."

Get It Now: Watch La Roux perform "Bulletproof" in the video above.

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

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