JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency
Mick Jagger once said that the music you love at 19, you'll love the rest of your life.
But at 13? Not so much.
Selena Gomez knows it, and it's why she's quitting music (or says she is) while she's still what's passing for "on top" these days. She's seen her boy-band best friends, the Jonas Brothers, become has-beens before all their wisdom teeth had grown in. Tragedy to follow.
I've thought (a bit) about the Jonases lately with all the fuss over This Is Us, Morgan Spurlock's concert-doc about the boy-band One Direction, graduates of Britain's X-Factor talent show.
(Of course the millions of fans attending the movie will love it (and will deny in two years they'd ever liked anything so uncool).
But what's hard to take is the odd comparison some critics have made (welcomed by Spurlock) to the Beatles' Hard Days Night. Both movies are about young men being chased by girls who, if you asked them, wouldn't be quite sure what they were screaming about.
But one movie mocked the entire process, and the other is the equivalent of a glossy press release -- part of a corporate commodification of music for tweens in particular, that has made Disney the chief arbiter of musical taste for the autotune generation.
Think about it. No Disney and there'd be no Selena, no Miley, no Britney, no Christina, no Justin (and therefore no NSYNC).
Add to that the oeuvre of boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman (now languishing in jail), who was the Svengali for Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, O-Town, LFO and Aaron Carter among others and you have a musical sinkhole of same-ness that has made the 21st the least interesting century musically since madrigals took the medieval world by storm.
One Direction IS The Jonases, IS the Backstreet Boys, IS NSYNC, IS New Kids on the Block.
Sure, what the Beatles once satirized turned real. And The Monkees were as pre-fab as the bands mentioned above. But even they bit at the corporate hand that fed them, and delivered an acid trip of a movie, Head (written by a young Jack Nicholson), when they got a chance to make one.
But even though the dynamic of pubescent girls and their non-threatening dream-boys remains consistent, it never threatened to engulf popular culture to this extent before. There was no room on '70s movie screens for a Bay City Rollers movie, nor was Martin Scorsese lining up in the '80s to capture the eternal magic that was Duran Duran.
It's been a whole four years since Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience came out in 3D IMAX. One Direction take note. If that movie is any indication, a 3D concert movie may be a signal you will soon disappear.
Years ago, during the BackSYNC era, I tracked down twentysomethings who'd written angry letters to our music critic a decade earlier over a New Kids review.
"When did you stop being a fan?" I asked one. "About the same time they fell off the face of the Earth," she said.
LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency
Can a trillion lovesick teenagers all be wrong?
Disparage the music of boy bands if you will, but never underestimate their social importance as ardour wranglers for mobs of adolescent girls.
And right now we're having a boy band renaissance.
At the moment you've got One Direction: This Is Us steamrolling through theatres, as well as that recent mini-reunion of NSYNC during the MTV Video Music Awards, the ongoing Backstreet Boys tour dates, and concerts with New Kids on the Block (not to mention 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men.) For various social and cultural reasons, the choreography-obsessed singing groups appear to be in the ascendancy again.
Truth is, an hour in the company of One Direction goes a long way to explain the appeal of these bands -- the group members are good-looking, energetic, often humorous and always enthusiastic, and they sing romantic songs that appeal to a very specific audience.
Adolescence sucks; adolescent girls, judged by their peers primarily on their appearance and social status, have a particularly hellish ride to get to adult life.
Anyone overwhelmed by self-doubt, zits and hormones would never argue with this logic:
You don't know you're beautiful -- that's what makes you beautiful!
The members of a group such as One Direction fill the bill on both the hopeless romantic devotion front and on the friendship front; in other words, fans can moon over their music or laugh at their jokes (or both), and feel like part of a special club. Morgan Spurlock, who directed the guys in their movie, One Direction: This Is Us, says of the fans, "For me, it's people who are really finding a tribe, a community, in their love and support of this thing."
With all due respect to Mr. Slotek, boy bands are as much a social phenomenon as a musical entity; his fear that they threaten to engulf popular culture seems a tad extreme. Didn't people have the same fears about hip-hop? Punk? Rock 'n' roll? All those dangerous counterculture folk singers of the '60s?
All these boy bands -- from the Jonas Brothers or New Kids on the Block to The Wanted -- have a magic mix of music and charm that fuels a fantasy teenage girls can buy into.
And dance to.
Lest we forget, the Beatles were a boy band once.
Heresy, maybe, but before there was the White Album or Sgt. Pepper there were the pop hits like She Loves You or I Want To Hold Your Hand. More than that, there was the sweaty, teen spirit atmosphere created by mop tops and cute suits and screaming girls -- the very girls whose hysteria made the Beatles a hitherto unknown global phenom.
As J.C. Chasez (NSYNC) said last year about this new wave of boy bands, "All the right things happened at the right time again "¦ Everybody thinks there's a formula for victory. You can put the certain pieces in place, but lightning still has to strike."
Okay? Lightning has officially struck. Keep calm and carry on. Everyone will eventually recover.