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Teen Pop Transition

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In a peculiarly sour article, the NY Times says Britney may have a hard time transitioning from teen star to adult: no kidding. Has there EVER been a teen idol – back to Frank Sinatra – who didn’t have trouble making that transition? Most PEOPLE have that problem, and they don’t have to appeal to tens of millions of fans. Give the kid a break:

    Britney Spears, the pop star who brought sizzle to the schoolyard with glitter T-shirts and short shorts, strode onto a Milan runway last Tuesday evening in a $23,000 rainbow-spangled gown by Donatella Versace.

    Ms. Spears, who turns 21 on Dec. 2, was flaunting her inner grown-up, turning to the makeover queen of couture for a quick fix. “She wanted something sophisticated and glamorous,” Ms. Versace said.

    It was the culmination of Ms. Spears’s two-month intermission from work, ostensibly to relax but in reality to begin the process of refashioning herself for a new career. It will take more than one body-hugging dress and some nude chiffon to do the job.

Snotty, condescending.

    Ms. Spears, who made her debut as a wholesome bubblegum star with a penchant for sweetly flashing her belly button, is caught in a vicious conundrum of fame acquired young: the qualities that made her accessible and popular as a teenage star may be precisely the ones choking her career as an adult, leaving her looking like an unseemly parody as she tries to become a grown-up recording artist.

An “unseemly parody”? Isn’t teen pop so over the top that it is already a parody?

    After her appearance in leather regalia at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, Steven Cojocaru, a fashion critic for People magazine, wrote, “Was Spears planning on doing a Village People tribute?”

    Ms. Versace, who says she has known Ms. Spears for two years, said: “She understands that she has to change. We had a long discussion about it.”

    The movement she led, said Craig Marks, the editor of Blender, the music magazine, is “very five minutes ago.”

    “She needs to come back with a new second act,” he said.

Catty sniping aside, shouldn’t there be some recognition of what she has already achieved? Since the transition from teen pop star to adult “artist” is so iffy, wouldn’t it be more germane to celebrate and/or analyze her success thus far rather than presuppose that she is required to come up with a second act?

    While Ms. Spears has sold 52 million albums worldwide in the last four years, sales have nose-dived, from 24 million for her first album, to 19 million on the second, to 9 million on “Britney, ” which was released last November, according to her manager. For any other artist 9 million would be a blockbuster, but for Ms. Spears it shows her popularity has seriously eroded.

    Her appeal with listeners on radio is waning, too. Tom Poleman, program director for Z-100 in New York, perhaps the most influential Top 40 radio station in the country, said his station played the sultry 2001 single “I’m A Slave 4 U” fewer times than any of her previous singles. “We played it, but it didn’t have as much staying power,” he said.

    Brandon Holley, the editor in chief of Elle Girl, said she gets e-mail from hundreds of teenage readers about Ms. Spears, whom the feminist author Camille Paglia once described as “Lolita on aerobics.”

    “They are really tired of that sausage-casing look, that busting out all over the place, and they are very anti-midriff right now,” Ms. Holley said. “It’s a Britney backlash.”

    It is a pop-star crisis shared by a number of her peers, including Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and a host of Britney clones, as they try to make the often hazardous shift from teen idol to adult superstar without alienating their loyal fans.

    “The teen pop thing is mostly synthetic,” said Jonny Podell, a co-founder of Evolution Talent Agency, which represents Ms. Spears and other young stars. “The majority don’t get to the next level.”

Finally we recognize this small matter. Next the inevitable comparison to “grittier” singer-songwriters:

    Ms. Spears has been challenged by a raft of grittier teenage singer-songwriters who play guitar and wear dime-store T-shirts and ties instead of snug bustiers.

    Dubbed the “anti-Britneys,” they include the tough rocker Pink, the soulful Michelle Branch and the skater girl Avril Lavigne, young women who eschew the overt yet out-of-reach sexuality Ms. Spears has cultivated. Ms. Holley said Ms. Lavigne and Ms. Branch in particular have replaced Ms. Spears among her readers.

No comparison, completely different categories of performers – to make the comparison is gratuitous.

The writers seem to revel in the difficulties Spears and teen idols in general face, as though it were retribution of some kind. This mean-spirited agenda is unworthy of the nation’s premier paper.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.theamericanmind.com Sean Hackbarth

    I saw the new Christina Aguilera. She’s gone the way of skanky tramp. She has a voice that could make her the next Maria Carey, but she’s gone the recent Carey route by trying to fuse her songs with hip hop. Where’s the (dare I say it) old fashion Whitney Houston/Maria Carey R&B? Christina doesn’t need Redman to help on her records.