||Main >> News Listing >> 2004 >> Article ID 3842
| Girls 2 Women, Boys 2 Men: How Teen Pop Grew Up||Type: Internet Article|
|Girls 2 Women, Boys 2 Men: How Teen Pop Grew Up||2004|
|by Jon Wiederhorn|
Analysis on the careers of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, P!NK, Nick Carter, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore.
|Teen pop stars are singing, dancing time bombs.|
Soaking up adoration, power, prestige and cash, traveling the globe playing sold-out concerts, riding in limos, receiving VIP treatment ... yeah, teen celebrity has its perks — at least for a while.
But then anything and everything can change. Their bodies, musical tastes, outlook on life ... anything. And their fans can change, too — if a girl gets a dreamy boyfriend who listens to the White Stripes or 50 Cent, suddenly O-Town may not seem so cool anymore.
So as they hit their 20s, most teen pop stars reinvent themselves, because if they don't, it can all end faster than you can say, "Whatever happened to Danny Wood from NKOTB?"
Surviving teen-pop annihilation requires skill, strategy and creativity. Sometimes the changes are sonic, sometimes they have more to do with image. And there's no rule for success. Christina Aguilera may have benefited from getting stripped, yet the provocative approach didn't really work for Brandy. Justin Timberlake prospered by infusing his music with elements of a different genre, hip-hop, but the same game plan failed for Nick Carter, who tried to be "more rock" on his solo album.
For better or for worse (sometimes much worse), here's what the teen pop A-listers have done over the past few years to let the world know they've grown. ...
Remember when Britney surfaced at age 17 cooing "... Baby One More Time"? Of course you do. The image from the video of Spears dressed in a schoolgirl uniform was simultaneously the stuff of teenage strength and independence, and adult male fantasy. From the start, Britney was not that innocent, yet there was a wholesome purity to her presentation. She dated Justin Timberlake, claimed to be a virgin and differentiated between acting sexy and being sexual.
With the release of her third album, 2001's Britney, Spears became noticeably more provocative, asserting herself as a young woman growing into adulthood with songs like "I'm a Slave 4 U" and "Boys." But it was 2003's In the Zone that completed Spears' transformation into liberated woman. The album was preceded by the infamous French kiss with Madonna, and included a single with the yoga-loving pop matriarch ("Me Against the Music"), a song about masturbation ("Touch of My Hand") and one about affairs with married men ("Toxic"). Musically, Spears also became more adventurous, abandoning her three-album relationship with pop producer Max Martin to work with a variety of more hip songwriters including Madonna, Moby, the Matrix and a non-"M" producer, R. Kelly.
Oh, and there was that whole marriage thing, too. Only grown-ups do that.
Then: "You drive me crazy/ I just can't sleep/ I'm so excited/ I'm in too deep." — "(You Drive Me) Crazy" (1999)
Now: "I don't want to be a tease/ Would you undo my zipper please?"— "Showdown" (2003)
Even as a teenager, Christina was racier than Britney, her former Mouseketeer peer. Her 1999 hit single "Genie in a Bottle" may have been about restraint in the face of sexual arousal, but "When You Put Your Hands on Me," also from her self-titled debut, was more about letting go: "When you put your hands on me I feel ready/ And I lose my self-control."
When Spears was dating Justin Timberlake everyone asked, "Did she do it?" With Christina, the question was "Who did she do?" In some ways, Aguilera's more adult subject matter seemed a direct reaction to Britney's early virginal message, and her revealing attire a one-upmanship of Britney's sexy displays. Aguilera's heavy sweatin' path to adulthood reached its climax with her second full-length album of originals, Stripped, which spawned the sleazy, visually arresting video for "Dirrty."
Released when she was 21, Stripped encapsulates the brimming libido of a sexual performer who is not afraid to expose her desires to the public. With the help of an abundance of producers including Rockwilder, Linda Perry, Scott Storch and Glen Ballard, Christina's pop confessions were backed by a variety of hip-hop styles and R&B flavors that could make a monk bob his head as his cheeks grow redder by the second.
Then: "What a girl wants, what a girl needs/ Whatever makes me happy and sets you free." — "What a Girl Wants" (1999)
Now: "Straight sweatin', our bodies are rubbin'/ Gotta hit that spot just right/ Work me like a 9 to 5." — "Get Mine, Get Yours" (2002)
Like his ex-girlfriend Britney, and touring partner Christina, Justin matured by tapping into his sexuality. As a member of preppy pop act 'NSYNC, he was the image of wholesome suburban entertainment — a group even Joe Lieberman could accept with a smile. But around the time Justin broke up with Britney and went solo, he put his sex drive front and center and created Justified, a passionate album that bubbled with lyrical heat.
While Timberlake's provocative songs were an escalation of his post-Britney manhood, the sounds on Justified were even more of a breakthrough. Timberlake had previously praised rap and broken into a human beat box onstage with 'NSYNC, but his transformation into a street-savvy hybrid of pop and hip-hop was pretty unprecedented. What's more, Timberlake pulled it off — with help from the Neptunes, Timbaland, the Clipse and Janet Jackson — without seeming like a kid in a pimp suit.
Then: "Don't really wanna make it tough/ I just wanna tell you that I had enough." — 'NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye" (2000)
Now: "Let's hit the floor and cause a scene/ Get real wet if you know what I mean." — "(And She Said) Take Me Now" (2002)
From the start, Pink felt misunderstood. Her 2000 debut, Can't Take Me Home, featured poppy club songs produced by Babyface and L.A. Reid, so she was immediately categorized with the teen-pop crowd. And though her music sounded a lot like TLC, she had larger goals than pop clonedom, and was clever enough to know how and when to evolve. That Pink was already 21 when her first album came out might have eased her musical transition. Rather than going hip-hop or getting dirty, Pink rocked things up. She hooked up with ex-4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry to write songs for her second album, Missundaztood, which came out in 2001 and featured contributions by Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora. The disc was lyrically personal and musically diverse, blending elements of R&B, dance-pop and rock. Then, for the follow-up, Try This, Pink got even more colorful, joining forces with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, who co-wrote over half the record, a dancey, rock mish-mash, much of which is reminiscent of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
As Pink continues to evolve, she also finds new ways to surprise her fans. Last year, she wrote angry letters to Prince William condemning his hunting expeditions, and has since hooked up romantically and publicly with Tommy Lee.
Then: "Eyes lead and I'm thinkin' bout the sheets now/ Wonderin' should I really take it there now." — "You Make Me Sick" (2000)
Now: "I've been the girl, middle finger in the air/ Unaffected by rumors, the truth, I don't care." "God Is a DJ" (2003)
If there were an SAT test for pop, there would surely be this analogy question: "Britney Spears is to Christina Aguilera as 'NSYNC are to X?" For Nick Carter's entire teen pop career, 'NSYNC and Backstreet Boys have been locked in a friendly rivalry for superstardom. Then, as soon as both bands went on hiatus, Justin Timberlake and Carter started working on solo albums, and released them at around the same time on the same label.
Like Justin, Carter strived for sonic reinvention, but while Timberlake succeeded in his quest, Carter's Now or Never raised a question mark about his future. The album was a more rock, less pop affair, carrying a strong '80s radio vibe, but it wasn't radically different enough to impact strongly with listeners. Worse, it was filled with sappy ballads and spineless rockers that sounded like glossy Bon Jovi-style knockoffs. With the Backstreet Boys, Carter was a blonde bombshell pin-up celebrity. As a heftier-framed solo artist, his star power dimmed.
Then: "As long as your love's there to lead me/ I won't lose my way, believe me." — Backstreet Boys' "Anywhere for You" (1996)
Now: "I was raised by the television/ Jerry Springer was my dad/ And it wouldn't matter if Martha Stewart was my mother and Aaron Carter was my brother/ 'cause I'd still be bad." — "Is It Saturday Yet?" (2003)
She'll probably go down in pop-culture history as the girl who didn't know the difference between chicken and tuna, which will likely make her a more memorable figure than half the guys in the Backstreet Boys. However, having a hit TV show hasn't done much for Simpson's music career. Her latest album, In This Skin, came out in August at the height of "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica," yet it's sold just 565,000 copies in five months, less than the amount artists like Britney, Christina and Justin sell in their first week out. But while Simpson's singing career might be fizzling, she's been given a shot at an acting career. This year she'll perform a role in an ABC sitcom, and will also play the part of Barbara Eden's character in a movie version of the '60s TV series "I Dream of Jeannie."
Then: "I wanna love you forever, and this is all I'm asking of you/ 10,000 lifetimes together, is that so much for you to do?" — "I Wanna Love You Forever" (1999)
Now: "I'd dance for you, let you come within/ If you swear to me that it ain't no sin." — "Forbidden Fruit" (2003)
Like Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore has fallen precipitously from her former teen-pop perch. And she's not interested in getting all dirrty to rebuild her audience. She also doesn't want to retread her past. So, on her 2003 album, Coverage, she opted to retread the pasts of others. The no-fluff record features renditions of songs by such artists as Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Joe Jackson, Todd Rundgren and Elton John. She also continues to act in television and film, but while her 2002 flick, "A Walk to Remember," fared well at the box office, her 2003 movie, "How to Deal," stiffed.
Then: "Your love's as sweet as candy/ I'll be forever yours/ Love always, Mandy." — "Candy" (1999)
Now: "Let's admit we made a mistake, but can we still be friends?/ Heartbreak's never easy to take, but can we still be friends?" — Todd Rundgren's "Can We Still Be Friends?" (2003)
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