Pop Playground
Sugar Shock #001: The Year in Teenpop (So Far)

so the idea here is that once a month I’ll update this space with all of the teenpop news, musings, and analysis I can muster. Much of this music doesn’t change all that quickly—on Radio Disney, for instance, it can take several weeks for one new song to break into the Top 30 chart. But the changes that have occurred in (whatever music can be considered) Teen Pop over the past ten years or so, and possible future developments in the genre/blanket category, are worth engaging with and discussing. To get things started, I thought I’d present a brief synopsis of the year so far. (Note: American Idol is conspicuously absent on this list because I smashed a hammer through my TV trying to watch a full episode of That’s So Raven.)

January 5
Frank Kogan initiates the Rolling Teenpop 2006 Thread on the I Love Music message board, a forum for the hottest teenpop discussion, obsession, and semi-formal theorization anywhere on the internet.

January 10
The dopey High School Musical soundtrack officially becomes Bane of My Existence 2006. “Haha, I can’t believe Disney kids turned this crap into Billboard history! …Seriously, though, stop.” If it wasn’t for Hannah Montana I wouldn’t even listen to Radio Disney anymore. Someone needs to strangle these kids before they finish the sequel.

February 14
Secret Life of the Veronicas is out and the Origliasso twins hijack my iPod for the next few months as I incessantly debate whether or not the handful of greatest songs ever are enough to compensate for the dreck ballads, homophobia-or-is-it (it is) baiting, big fat disaster of a superstar production team, xeroxed Tracy Bonham cover (why isn’t she collaborating with Ashlee Simpson yet?), and disengaging overall faceless vibe, which I unsuccessfully try to define as “anonymous confessional” music.

March 6
Marit Larsen releases Under the Surface, the best album of the year so far. It may not sound like any current teenpop, but many of the lyrical themes carry over intact from M2M. She’s still obsessed with how her relationships compare to her lovers’ other romances (Marit might be assuming the role of M2M’s “Jennifer” character in the title track), quietly struggling to find her own independent voice while searching for a soulmate, conveying deep-rooted guilt and shame with a wry smirk, and turning what might have come across as petty narcissism into something greater—pretty narcissism.

March 14
Hey, are Devo taking the piss or being subversive or selling out or what? Who cares, Devo 2.0 is awesome! I must see these kids perform live on their next elementary and middle school tour. Free chocolate milk with a press pass.

March 24
Hannah Montana premieres on Disney Channel and quickly becomes its highest rated show ever. Billy Ray Cyrus’ real daughter Miley stars as a middle schooler (the fake Miley) who leads a double life as a pop star. The real Miley has a record deal with Disney’s Hollywood Records, while the fake Miley (the real Hannah) has a record deal with Walt Disney Records for the soundtrack.

Theme song “Best of Both Worlds,” which pretty much rips off the guitar riff to “1985” but replaces the rest of it with a better song, starts its slow but inexorable climb to the top of the Radio Disney Top 30 chart. Meanwhile, I quietly root for second single “Who Said” to finally drive a bubblecountry cowboy boot into Ashley Tisdale’s face, thus erasing all remaining traces of High School Musical’s existence.

April 4
Pink’s I’m Not Dead confuses and frustrates, but might be kind of great in spite of/because of its sprawling mess. Assorted gripes:
(1) Max Martin/Dr. Luke Gottwald finally jump the soaring chorus shark with “U + Ur Hand” after an astonishing run (these guys made me like Ashley Parker Angel; pass the Kool Aid). Meaning it’s time for another Martin-led paradigm shift, as Abby from Poptext describes it, maybe full circle back to Swedish metal this time. Just in time for the Britney Europop revival with ex-A*Teen Marie Serneholt and ex-Cheiron producer Jorgen Elofsson leading the way.

(2) Pink asks Bush all the wrong questions. I can kind of relate to “HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?” but how about something more insightful, like “WHY DOES THE NSA HAVE MY PHONE RECORDS, ASSHOLE?”

(3) Pink’s attack of “stupid girls” everywhere is catchy but lyrically problematic. I suppose no good pop song will ever contain the phrase “patriarchal hegemony,” at least until Brie Larson proves me wrong by writing it.
On the same day, Disneymania 4 comes out and gets ranked higher on Billboard than any previous edition. For some reason the kids all go nuts for B5’s boring kid-rap take on “Big Bad Wolf” instead of Skye Sweetnam’s badass jazzed-up Queen-harmony cover of “Cruella De Vil.” Maybe because Disney marketing chuckleheads only included the latter song as a secret bonus track on a version of the album sold exclusively at Target.

April 17
Brie Larson, author of the greatest Myspace page in the universe, answers all questions from fans in real time, including mine. A major and possibly unprecedented breakthrough in major label artist online networking. Also hilarious.

Late April
New Lillix single leaks via the Lillix street team and blows a few minds. “Sweet Temptation (Hollow)” is produced by Killers producer Jeff Saltzman and James Michael, and, like Hilary Duff before them, Lillix out-Killer the Killers.

May 5
Happy 18th birthday, Skye Sweetnam! Now stop goofing around and go finish mixing your album! Stylus readers, decide which title you like the best:

Music Is My Boyfriend
Pink Bulldozer
They Let Me Make Another Album!

May 12
The War on Lindsay commences when the Universal Music Group/TRL payola scandal breaks. News of NY state attorney general Eliot Spitzer’s decision to fine Universal $12 mil gives lazy “entertainment journalists” the excuse to conflate corporate chart manipulation with inherent lack of aesthetic merit. But this time they happened to cheat in the service of one of last year’s best singles, “First,” which I would gladly have “forced down my throat” (to paraphrase Fox News) any day of the week. I think they call this progress.

The rest of May
Rihanna’s “S.O.S.” has held on since February and finally takes its rightful place atop the Billboard Hot 100 charts, where it’s keeping Daniel Powter—who stole Skye’s Juno award and must be destroyed—from the top. Radio Disney will soon follow (“S.O.S” is currently reaching #1 on daily voting). Together, Rihanna and Hannah Montana might just save teenpop as we know it…RIHANNA MONTANA POWERS, ACTIVATE!

By: David Moore
Published on: 2006-05-17
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