No One Trusts the Tastes of Teenage Girls, But Should: Why Justin Bieber Is the Next Beatles
What helped out both The Beatles and Justin Timberlake is that they had the talent to keep those loyal teens around even once they left the teeny-bopper age limit and could watch their listenership expand. Isn't that exactly what acts like Justin Bieber and One Direction could foresee in their own futures? Biebz, pop's Prodigal Son, had been discovered by Scooter Braun after the manager accidentally found the then-tween's precocious performance of Ne-Yo's "So Sick" in a local talent show. The five boys of One Direction were placed together after individually auditioning for and making it through to the next round of Britain's The X Factor, having showcased the extent of their own ranges and vocal abilities. While still "manufactured" by Simon Cowell via the reality show, it's hard to sell performances like Liam Payne's jazzy, big band delivery of Michael Buble's "Cry Me a River" as anything short of brilliant.
Maybe it's the intensity of the fervor that feels off-putting to the less pop-inclined -- younger fans have an almost cult-like obsession with their favorite acts. They own all the products, reenact Beatlemania-level riots at all their events, and have an unprecedented breadth of knowledge thanks to blogging communities and social network sites. It's really not that different from the level of engagement rock fans have with the bands they worship. We all know that one person who collects memorabilia emblazoned with mop-topped heads of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and we've probably had a chat or two with that other person who spends all their money on top-notch seats at multiple concerts in a singular tour for their favorite act.
It's also worth noting, as others have, the important role these artists play for teens and tweens who are preparing to navigate the world of being an adult with issues in love, sexuality, and image. Lyrics about romance, desire, heartbreak, and those little things that make you perfectly imperfect can be liberating to hear when sung by someone close to their age group, and it's an added bonus for them to have these individuals they can arbitrarily obsess over and identify with. When Demi Lovato came clean about her struggle with bulimia, self-injury, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and subsequent treatment, teen girls suffering from similar problems had a teen icon to look up to who was actually a teenager. Seeing a peer in the public eye open up about issues like this allows those who are more terrified to admit their problems feel a little less alone.
So while it has yet to be determined whether or not one of those 1D boys will pop off as the next Justin Timberlake or if Justin Bieber's hair-flip will contain the same historical poignancy as, say, Elvis Presley's hip-swivel, it's not unreasonable to believe that, given a few years and inches in height, we'll all collectively decide it's okay to admit your iTunes play count of "Boyfriend" or "What Makes You Beautiful." In the meantime, it may be worthwhile to think about not only how we talk about the women who make and perform music but the women and young girls who listen to music, as well. Will you have the balls to admit that maybe those millions of girls have pretty damn good taste?