Pop Playground
Shemo

it’s been a unusually long summer, in my eyes. For pop music in America, however, summer is always long. Songs come and set up camp in late May and attempt to take their place as “Summer Jams” or the “Soundtrack to Your Summer”. This particular summer saw what may be the beginning of the end of “teen pop” and the introduction of shemo to the masses. Shemo, or the Authentics (as Time Magazine has dubbed it) has found its greatest torchbearer in the guise of Avril Lavigne and Vanessa Carlton.


Lavigne, a Canadian skater girl, has been labeled as a punky antidote to the glitzy and gloss of Britney, Christina, and Jessica Simpson (ever notice how she ditched the whole virgin thing after no one seemed to care?). Thankfully, Lavigne in the newest issue of Rolling Stone has clarified that it is merely the media that labels her punk- she has no designs of being as authentically punk as, say, Green Day or Blink182. Despite all the hubbub- and who answers letters about her article in Rolling Stone anyway? (now that I think about, maybe it’s that wearing insecurity on your sleeve is an integral part of this newly emerging shemo movement)- Lavigne’s single is insanely catchy. Knocking Eminem and Nelly from their daily perch on top of the charts of TRL is no small feat, but the fact that it resides at the top instead of Spear’s “Boys (Coed Remix)” obviously signals a changing of the guard. While it isn’t a completely Authentic mode of operation (both Lavigne and Carlton have had arrangement help on their hit singles), it’s coming closer- and more importantly, it talks about pining for boys instead of dancing up on them (hence shemo).


Carlton, however, is more blatant in her painful rendering of loss and the accompanying loneliness (this and “Hot In Herre” pretty much cover most of the bases of emotion regarding relationships this summer). On “1000 Miles” the listener is reminded, vaguely, of the Proclaimers short lived fame. It’s a stance, much as the Proclaimers adhered to, that both young man and woman can relate to. The woman is willing to walk for 1000 miles just to see you, guys! The idea of walking 1000 miles because of her faith in their love, it’s so beautiful, right girls?!?! As with Lavigne’s “Complicated”, the interesting element of a piano mixed with an almost symphonic backdrop is something that hasn’t been heard in a while- due to the synthetic hip hop backing tracks of BT and the Neptunes for NSync and Britney. A return to acoustic instrumentation perhaps equals a return to a more authentic female mode of expression.


With the increasing age and middling “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” struggles of the teen pop superstars of just a few years ago, Lavigne and Carlton perhaps signal the end of the teen pop that we were used to. Christina Aguilera has seemed to pick up on this thread of thinking and has enlisted the help of Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes, co-writer on much of Pink’s recent work) for her newest album. She will be creating a “more true and free record” with Perry’s help. Due out near the end of this year, we may find that Aguilera will, herself, abandon the spit and polish of “Genie In A Bottle” for something more like “Complicated”. Ah, superstars attempting to reinvent themselves. If spring could be attributed to the emergence of teen pop and “Genie In A Bottle, perhaps this newest album will be her maturing time- Christina’s autumn. After that, however, I sense the air may become a little bit frosty.


By: Todd Burns
Published on: 2002-08-19
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