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Russia's ``Girl-loves-girl'' pop act conquers the world

MOSCOW Jan 21 - What could have spurred virtually the whole world to fall for a Russian pop duet which hardly even existed two years ago?

The answer has a lot to do with the explicitly lesbian relationship squarely played out by Lena and Yulia, the teenage stars of the act known as Tatu.

The act, whose name is an abbreviation of the Russian phrase ``Ta lyubit Tu,'' or ``This girl loves That girl'', has sold a cool million and a half albums worldwide, monopolised music TV channels everywhere from the United States to Turkey and South Africa and gone on tours in numerous countries

Sex - specifically of the girl meets girl variety - is indeed a key component of the group's appeal, along with a cheeky teenage rebelliousness against the grown-ups' world.

Tatu's official website shows Lena, an 18-year-old redhead, and 17-year-old brunette Yulia exchanging a passionate kiss on the mouth, and their songs' lyrics make no bones about their proclivities.

``I've lost my mind, I've lost my mind, I need her,'' goes one of their greatest hits.

The song's video clip shows the two girls running in the rain wearing tartan mini-skirts, against a backdrop of adults clad in drab clothes straight out of a Soviet shop.

The clip of another song, ``They're not gonna get us,'' shows the two teenage stars running away in, and then on top of, a tanker truck that runs over a he-man trying to stop them.

``Yes, we love each other,'' volunteered Lena in an interview with AFP at their producer's office in downtown Moscow, before teasingly adding in a touch of ambiguity about the true nature of their relationship.

``Maybe we are lesbians, or maybe we are bisexual,'' she playfully added.

``Or maybe we are zoophiles, or paedophiles,'' Yulia pitched in in a burst of laughter.

In real life, however, both girls have boyfriends and their plans for the future include getting married and having children, they said.

And for all the displayed sexual interest they officially have in each other, their mutual attraction is mostly a marketing concept, Tatu's producer admitted.

``Most teenage girls, if not all of them, have these kinds of feelings. They simply came to the fore in our project,'' Ivan Shapovalov said.

In one video clip, one of the girls is shown in a bathtub, apparently masturbating.

But there is more than just sex to Tatu's triumph, added Shapovalov, a 35-year-old former commercial filmmaker.

One key element of their success is ``the coherence of their message, from their lyrics to their video clips and the group's very image, everything goes in the same direction, Shapovalov said.

``And this message is about raw love, playing on the audiences' unconscious,'' he went on. - AFP

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