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Members include Marit Larsen (born on July 1, 1983, in Lorenskog, Norway), vocals, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar; Marion Raven (born on May 25, 1984, in Lorenskog, Norway), vocals, piano, percussion, acoustic guitar, harpsichord. Addresses: Record company--Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.atlantic-records.com. Website--M2M Official Website: http://www.m2m.com.
When Marit Larsen and Marion Raven decided to form a singing duo, they wanted to call themselves M&M, a combination of their initials. The moniker was already taken, though, by both a candy brand and the notable rapper Eminem, so the teenagers decided to call themselves M2M instead. The name took off, as did the careers of the two young performers whose lighthearted pop melodies and angst-ridden love ballads have made them a radio favorite in many countries, particularly Australia.
Larsen and Raven were born a year apart in Lorenskog, Norway, just outside Oslo. They met in 1990 when the girls were just six and seven years old. Both shared a love of singing and theatre. "We started a band called Hubba Bubba, after our favourite gum," Larsen remarked in an interview for Australia's Sunday Herald Sun. "We did a kindergarten tour and later performed in musicals," including Annie and The Sound of Music. In 1996 EMI Norske manager Eivind Rolles signed the girls to a contract with Oslo-based Waterfall Productions. Billed as Marit & Marion, the eight-year-olds recorded an album, Marit og Marion Synger Kjente Barnesanger (Marit and Marion sing famous children's songs), which not only gained popular success but was also nominated for the Spillemanspriset, Norway's version of the Grammy Awards.
Over the next few years Larsen and Raven matured into their teens and began crafting their own songs. According to Larsen, lyrics came naturally: "Instead of writing in a diary, we'll write a song about the things going on in our lives," she told Billboard reporter Chuck Taylor. "People try to write songs for us, but it's hard to relate to what older people try to say. We write about things like experiences with guys and family, if a friend treats you bad, if you're in love, anything like that."
Now known as M2M, the duo jumped headfirst into a pop market already crowded with teen-focused female headliners, from soloists Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, and Nelly Furtado, to such "girl power" groups as Destiny's Child, TLC, the former Spice Girls, and Ireland's B*Witched. In 2000 the first M2M album, Shades of Purple, was released in the United States; the duo had won a contract with Atlantic Records on the strength of an audition accompanied only with piano (played by Raven) and guitar (played by Larsen). The album boasted creative input from the Spice Girls' and Backstreet Boys' producers, lending a contemporary feel to the girls' acoustic sound.
As teen sensation Tiffany had done years earlier, M2M embarked on a mall tour to introduce themselves to America. A special-edition CD was created for the tour, with the girls hosting autograph sessions after each performance. A single, "Don't Say You Love Me," got some airplay on Radio Disney before its release to wider-broadcast stations. The song's success was sealed, however, when it was chosen for the soundtrack album to the high-grossing animated feature Pokemon: The First Movie. While it enjoyed modest sales in the United States, "Don't Say You Love Me" became a top-20 hit in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Holland, and went gold in Australia and New Zealand. (Ironically, the song and M2M's album had a delayed release in their native Norway.) The single peaked at number five on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart and reached number 21 on the Hot 100. The duo performed on the Disney Channel in concert with the boy band BBMak. The girls learned, however, that musical success does not preclude the responsibilities of real life: In April of 2000 Larsen and Raven had to interrupt their tour to return to Norway and their school midterms.
With a sound and an image aimed squarely at middle schoolers, M2M participated in promotional efforts including a shopping spree, a junior spa day, a guitar lesson with Larsen, and a partnership with the Cookie Dough candy company. According to Taylor, the teens "were featured on candy bags in school vending machines with a discount coupon for their album." As their profile rose, M2M began evoking comparisons and garnering reviews. They were the most notable pop import from Norway since A-ha hit the U.S. charts with "Take on Me" in the 1980s; they were "Norway's answer to [Sweden's] ABBA," according to Australia's Herald Sun; or a "female Hanson," in the words of Boston Herald writer Sarah Rodman.
Despite such comparisons, the teens maintained an image all their own. "Impossibly cute doesn't begin to describe M2M ... ," commented Joey Guerra in a Houston Chronicle article. "Genuinely talented seems more fitting." Guerra cited the duo's way with a "more introspective tone" on such numbers as "Girl in Your Dreams" from Shades of Purple.
M2M's second album, Big Room, was released in 2002 and two singles, "Everything" and "What You Do about Me" began climbing the charts in Australia, where Sunday Herald Sun reviewer Karen Tye said the compilation's mix of acoustic pop and rock represented "a far cry from the glossy and peppy tracks" of the duo's previous outing. That same year the girls went on tour with Jewel, herself a one-time teenage musical prodigy. Larsen shared some road stories with Colin Newton of Brisbane, Australia's Sunday Mail: "One show in Mexico everything went wrong for me. I started playing our song 'Mirror, Mirror' ... and the keyboard didn't work. And then the next song, I was sitting playing guitar with a microphone stand and the stand broke. And then the third song was a guitar solo and my string went. I was so mad."
These equipment problems underscore a significant difference between M2M and their pop peers--the girls play their own instruments. They dubbed their style "organic pop," as opposed to the computerized music so often utilized by other artists. As for writing their own songs, "The record company gave us a lot of power," Raven explained to Cameron Adams of Australia's Daily Telegraph. "But they could see we knew what we were doing after we played them demos of the songs we'd worked on at home."
Larsen and Raven describe their musical influences as the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Jewel, and Sheryl Crow. The subject of several fan websites, the two are forthcoming about their "favs" in food (Larsen: chicken noodle soup; Raven: barbecue chips) and other topics. Speaking about the young performers, Atlantic vice president Ron Shapiro told Billboard's Carla Hay: "These girls are extremely bright and conscious of the world. They're not overly managed. They're very proactive in their career. From my experience, M2M is anything but a typical young teen act."
by Susan Salter
Began performing together as children in Lorenskog, Norway; recorded album Marit og Marion Synger Kjente Barnesanger at age eight; appeared in musical theatre; released debut album on Atlantic Records, Shades of Purple, 2000; contributed to soundtrack of Pokemon: The First Movie; appeared on tour and in television specials; released second album, Big Room, 2002.
- Selected discography
- (Contributor) Pokemon: The First Movie (soundtrack), Warner, 1999.
- Shades of Purple Atlantic, 2000.
- Big Room Atlantic, 2002.
- Billboard, November 20, 1999; November 27, 1999; May 13, 2000.
- Boston Herald, June 25, 2002.
- Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 5, 2000.
- Daily Telegraph (Surry Hills, Australia), June 20, 2002.
- Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), May 16, 2002.
- Houston Chronicle, March 16, 2000.
- Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), April 28, 2002.
- Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Australia), June 9, 2002; June 30, 2002.
- M2M Official Website, http://www.m2m.com (February 10, 2003).
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