The Kids Aren’t Alright

Posted: January 8, 2011 in Music Industry, Pop
Tags: , , , ,
At some point in their lives, every kid dreams about becoming famous. Who doesn’t want to be popular and admired by millions of people? Teen pop stars accomplish a whole lot and more, before they’re even allowed to drink. They are so overexposed, being involved in everything from music to television, to films to fashion. It’s inevitable for some to lose their way – they’re expected to act like adults in an adult world, while they’re still kids. The music industry is geared towards using sex to sell (because it does), but does that apply to teenagers also? Here are a few teen pop stars who have gone through image makeovers in order to survive in the industry. Question is, did it work?                                                                                                                                                                                                            Lindsay Lohan (aka Lilo). What a train wreck. She started out as an actress at age 11, appeared in several Disney and non-Disney movies (including my personal fave, 2004’s Mean Girls) all of which were pretty successful. As her movie career took off,  in a very predictable move, Lilo decided to launch a music career. Her first single was released at age 16, entitled “Rumours”, off her first album Speak. It’s a plea to the increasing number of paparazzi that were following her around, to leave her alone. Now, I’m not even going to get into how bad of a musician she is, because it’s just  too obvious. However I will say this: the music video is shot in a club, which I’m pretty sure Lilo wasn’t even legally allowed to enter at the time (feeble attempt at appearing older); she isn’t a wearing a whole lot (clearly forgot her bra that day) and is dancing provocatively throughout the video. I’m not sure about you, but last I checked, 16 years old was nothing like this video. Lilo’s troubles have been in the spotlight ever since, being involved in countless DUIs (she started attending AA meetings at age 20), drug possession scandals, and way too many failures at drug and alcohol rehab. Her career basically peaked at age 18 so I think it’s safe to say it will be on hold for a while.

Enter Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana. Another product of Disney, Miss Cyrus began her acting career at age 14 with her very own show entitled Hannah Montana. Child of none other than Billy Ray Cyrus himself, Miley to date has starred in several TV shows and films; she was deemed one of Barbara Walter’s Most Fascinating People in 2008, as well as Time Magazine’s Most Influential People; she has recorded 2 studio albums as herself (and another one as Hannah Montana; don’t ask, I don’t quite get it either); and has also found time to date a Jonas brother. Oh, and she’s 18. Talk about high expectations. Miley’s scandals include a “revealing” photo shoot at age 15 which upset a lot of her fans’ moms; heavy criticism for thinking a pole dance was an appropriate choice for a live performance (then age 16); and most recently, video footage of her smoking something from a bong. Her first album, Breakout, released when she was only 16 was your typical wholesome teenage fun. However her second album titled Can’t Be Tamed was Miley deciding to shed her good girl image and release her inner sexual being. She was clearly having a sixth-life crisis, at age 18. The first single, “Can’t be Tamed” is all about a girl telling all the boys out there that they can’t tame her. Um, ok. Relax Miley. Everything about the video is so unnecessarily provocative (reminiscent of Britney’s “I’m a Slave 4 U” and Xtina’s “Dirrrrrty”), that it seems as though she thinks that expressing her sexuality all of a sudden makes her an adult, and will get people to take her more seriously. I wouldn’t say her career is completely done, but she is definitely on her way down.

Last but not least, Mr. Justin Bieber. Here’s a kid who comes from small town Ontario, and was discovered at age 12 because of his YouTube performances. Sure, he’s just starting out in the music business, but he’s exploding everywhere and fast – I think we’re all familiar with the term Bieber Fever. If you actually check out Bieber’s YouTube videos, he plays guitar and drums and is quite a talented kid. His voice is actually good, yet none of his current music reflects that. Let me explain. I expect his songs to be cheesy and make the hearts of all 12-year-old girls melt (though when he talks about being in love, I can’t help but laugh), but I don’t think the dance moves, hipster jeans, special effects, etc are necessary. Usually all this extra “fluff” is used to mask how bad a singer’s voice is, almost to distract the audience’s attention away from it. But as hard as it is to admit, Bieber doesn’t need the distractions. Don’t get me wrong I completely understand why he’s presented that way – he’s more appealing to the girls when he dances, or wears certain clothes, I get it. But I am also convinced that he’d be just as famous and make just as much money, without all that other stuff. In his earlier YouTube videos, he has more of a boy-next-door look, but when he signed with Usher‘s label and he got more popular, he started looking and acting a lot more like Usher. I’ve seen him wearing leather jackets galore, shades at indoor venues, and behaviour befitting of someone who thinks he’s “the man”. Now I have nothing against Usher, but the last thing the world needs is another one. So far, Bieber’s career has been relatively scandal-free; however I do think it’s still too early to tell, but here’s hoping.

Not every teen pop star’s career leads to tabloid headlines, some are actually squeaky clean (see Taylor Swift). But the major issue seems to be that kids who start out in the industry at such a young age, are constantly faced with adult situations. They have to deal with paparazzi, rumours, controversies, etc. It’s as though acting like a kid only sells for so long, and in order to maintain their fame, they have to alter their image, usually by becoming more sexually expressive. Just recently, Demi Lovato a veteran of the industry at only 18 years old, checked into a treatment facility for emotional and physical issues. Who’s to blame? The parents? The media? Is it even anyone’s fault? Who knows. All I do know is infamy is ever increasing amongst teenage pop stars. And that my friends, is not alright.

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