Recent Teen Pop: A Non Comprehensive Guide
Introduction: It should surprise no readers of this blog that I am a fan of teen pop music. For whatever reason, for my entire life I have been fascinated with teen/pre-teen movies, tv, and music, and that fasciation has continued unabated well into what should be my young adulthood (I'm 24 now). So this post will highlight several of my favorite teen pop artists operation in the recent time period who never have crossed over into the mainstream pop charts (that is to say, no Kelly Clarkson, Britney, Tatu, Hilary Duff, etc.). At the end of this article, I will post YouTube links to several of the artists mentioned, as well as some reference links for other reading on the teen pop scene. This article is not comprehensive, as it only profiles the teen pop artists that I have been digging over the past few months, and leaves out several of the top teen pop artists that would have to be discussed in any comprehensive listing (e.g. Fefe Dobson, Marion Raven). The artists profiled in this piece are mentioned in no particular order.
HANNAH MONTANA (real name Miley Cyrus):
GOOD THINGS ABOUT HER: Great singing voice, very country-ish. Songs have generally had very catchy melodies.
BEST SONG: "I Got Nerve"
COMMENTS: These comments will focus on my opinions of the music of Hannah Montana. For my opinions on the Hannah Montana TV show (which are still essentially the same now as they were then), please click on this link. Hannah Montana's album has been jerked around by Disney a lot. Originally set to be released in the summer, it has been pushed back 3 times already, so that now it is set to be released on October 24th. And whatever day it is released, I'm going to be right there buying it, because 3 of the first 4 singles she has released have been excellent. "Best of Both Worlds", the theme song of the show, is one of my favorite theme songs of all time, and one of my favorite singles of the year period. And yet, "I Got Nerve", her new single, is probably her best song yet, as it's less "theme song-ish" and has more relatable lyrics. Both singles get a 9/10 or 10/10. Unfortunately, her single "Pumping Up the Party" is terrible. It could well be the very worst single of 2006. Let's hope there's more "I Got Nerve"s than "Pumping Up the Party"s on her upcoming album, and all will be well.
ALY & AJ:
GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEM: Aly Michalka! Good songwriters.
BEST SONG: "Rush"
COMMENTS: Don't be fooled by their Disney Radio hit cover songs ("Do You Believe In Magic?" and "Walking on Sunshine"), Aly & AJ, in an era of ironic and humorous light-hearted teen pop, probably have the least sense of humor of any of the artists listed here. Take "I Am One of Them", a song about teenage kidnapping, written from the perspective of a kidnapped teen. Probably one of the darkest and most harrowing songs in recent teen pop. But then there's "Rush". This is SUCH A GOOD song, with the explosion in the chorus, and proper uplifting lyrics, quite possibly my favorite song of 2005. It's an absolute classic of teen pop, and some of their other songs are OK too (such as "Chemicals React", "No One", and "Collapsed"), but they really make it mostly on the strength of "Rush". That being said, "Chemicals React" is one of my favorite singles of the year.
GOOD THING ABOUT THEM: High quality of songwriting.
BEST SONG: "Year 3000"
COMMENTS: The Jonas Brothers are basically a boy band, though they will distance themselves from the "Boy Band" movement because they WRITE THEIR OWN SONGS and PLAY THEIR OWN INSTRUMENTS. Basically, they are the Hanson of this generation, a comparison many people have already made but is too apt to not point out. And like Hanson, they will release a few good pop hits and probably fade away. But that doesn't take away from this "Year 3000", which is a really good teen pop hit.
GOOD THINGS ABOUT HER: Great lyrics writer. Appears to be a genuinely likeable person. Runs the best myspace page ever.
BEST SONG: "Finally Out of P.E."
COMMENTS: Brie Larson is an actress as well as a singer, although she appears not to have been in any particular noteable movies (her biggest role was a starring role in Hoot). In addition, she released one album on Columbia, which basically flopped. It was a solid album though, with a few great songs such as "Finally Out of P.E." (which has genuinely funny lyrics), "Life After You", and "She Shall Remain Nameless". And she's got a couple other great songs this year, with "Stilts and the Titan" and "Coming Around". But to be honest, it's not Brie's music that lets her make the cut here, it's her Myspace blog, which is the greatest blog ever. Brie is such a good writer! Maybe she should start writing the scripts to her own movies.
GOOD THING ABOUT HER: Probably the best technical singer of anybody in teen pop today.
BEST SONG: "Crazy Summer Nights"
COMMENTS: This is what Hope Partlow needs to do: Fire all of her songwriters. Because the songs on her first album blow, and she's such a great singer. Except "Crazy Summer Nights", which was probably one of my top 10 favorite songs of last year! I love the lyrics of just hanging out in the suburbs in the summer. It's like the song version of the music video for "1979". I guess unlike other teen pop songs about love, heartbreak, etc. this one just has lyrics that seem to be just so APPROPRIATE for a teen star, and not just lyrics that could be sung by any adult. This song just doesn't work if it's not a teen singing it. Plus it has a really catchy chorus. Just fire everybody else and get whoever wrote "Crazy Summer Nights" to write the rest of your album and you'll be good. No charge for my career advice.
GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEM: Great image, and they rock too!
BEST SONG: "Sweet Temptation (Hollow)"
COMMENTS: Lillix are an all-girl rock band who first stormed onto the teen pop scene a couple years ago with a cover of "What I Like About You". An album followed which featured songs that were mostly mediocre to my ear, biggest hit being "It's About Time". At this time I pretty much wrote them off. But then they came on super strong this year, posting 3 songs from their upcoming album on their Myspace, and two of them are balls to the wall awesome. "Blackout" appears to be a mid-tempo rock song with female vox, and is kind of generic, but really good. But their first single, "Sweet Temptation (Hollow)" is my absolute favorite song of the year. Holy crap what a great chorus, and it's got really good verses and music too! OK the lyrics are kind of generic, but this could be my favorite teen pop song of the 00's. Great job Lillix, I never thought you had it in you. This album is very high on my anticipation list. Buy this album when it comes out, maybe it'll force them to do a US tour.
GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEM: Good sense of humor. Songwriting.
BEST SONG: "4Ever"
COMMENTS: This Australian duo comprises of twin sisters, which these days would be enough to propel them to teen superstardom even without good songs. But their songs are oretty good, especially "4Ever" and "When It All Falls Apart". Actually, apart from those two songs I don't care for them too much, but those are great songs, especially "4Ever". A really solid band, but ultimately there's not too much to separate them from the teen pop pack, in my opinion. Much as I love "4Ever", the same type of song has been done countless times in this past couple years, and I just prefer several of the other songs of the same type (e.g. "Since U Been Gone", "Sweet Temptation (Hollow)" and to a certain extent "Rush"). Nevertheless most pop fans seem to really love this group, so I can definitely recommend you check them out. Probably the funniest teen pop artists other than Brie.
MEG & DIA:
GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEM: Highly literate lyrics.
BEST SONG: "Indiana"
COMMENTS: Basically teen-indie rock. Their album Something Real is the best teen pop album of the year. It features new songs, as well as electric versions of some of their songs from the previous album. While I originally strongly preferred the acoustic versions of "Indiana" and "Monster" (supposedly based off the books Indiana by George Sand and East of Eden), I have come to love the new versions as well. Especially if you grow weary of the saminess of the teen pop world, this is a great band to check out, because they basically sound totally different from everything else out there in teen pop. They just have a wholly unique sound, which is probably gonna prevent them from breaking out, but this is an artistic triumph. This is the teen pop band most likely to be enjoyed by you indie rockers. Very high recommendations.
GOOD THINS ABOUT HER: Great songs
BEST SONG: "Don't Cry Your Heart Out"
COMMENTS: Okay, maybe if Meg & Dia's album is the number one teen pop album of the year, then Amy Diamond's Still Me Still Now is number 1A. This is reggae-pop, kinda like the Paris Hilton song "Stars are Blind" or Lily Allen, but better than either. Kind of an odd stylistic direction for a 13 year old Swedish girl who sounds even younger than that, but who am I to quibble because it WORKS. The catchiest album of the year by far, each of these songs is eminently hummable, with great melodies in the chorus. I especially love the first single "Don't Cry Your Heart Out", which is a really pretty song too! Not much to write about her, because she doesn't seem to have much personality, but the songs are great. Very highly recommended.
Good things about them: The image!
Best Song: "Hollaback Girl"
COMMENTS: This is a group of 9 pre-teens who have banded together to do a covers album. And the members aren't even identified by name, just appelations like "Country Girl" and "Fashion Girl". Like the Spice Girls each one has their own personality. The natural progression of pre-fab groups I guess but this is REALLY awesome. Most of the hype around this album has gone towards "Hollaback Girl" and that's justified, because that cover is probably better than the original, but the whole album is good. And not only that but the covers selected for the album range in release date from the eighties to today. Substantially better than Kidz Bop.
OTHER HIGH RECOMMENDATIONS (BUT I DIDN'T REALLY HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT THE ARTIST):
Play - "I Must Not Chase the Boys"; "Disco Hippie"
Marit Larsen - "Only a Fool"
JoJo - "Leave (Get Out)"; "Too Little, Too Late"
These are some really great teen pop songs, but the artist apparently doesn't have too much personality, or else I just haven't taken the time out to figure out what it is. Thus I don't really have anything to say about them other than that the songs are really good and you should (legally!) download them right away.
TOP 10 BEST TEEN POP SONGS OF 2006 (limit of one song per artist):
1. Lillix - "Sweet Temptation (Hollow)"
2. Amy Diamond - "Don't Cry Your Heart Out"
3. Meg & Dia - "Indiana"
4. Marit Larsen - "Only a Fool"
5. JoJo - "Too Little, Too Late"
6. Hannah Montana - "I Got Nerve"
7. Hilary Duff - "Play with Fire"
8. Aly and AJ - "Chemicals React"
9. Brie Larson - "Coming Around"
10. Jonas Brothers - "Year 3000"
Some YouTubes to feast your ears on:
A very impressive live performance of "Don't Cry Your Heart Out" by Amy Diamond. She's a cutie!
The (excellent) music video for Lillix's "Sweet Temptation (Hollow)"
Video for Brie's "She Said"
Full length live version of "I Got Nerve"
Many more of these songs are available on YouTube, just do searches if you are curious.
Some essential teen pop links:
Cure For Bedbugs is the best blog on teen pop on the internet.
ILM's Rolling Teenpop 2006 Thread is the best place to stay up on and discuss new teenpop.
Tommy2.net is an essential source of teen pop news, interviews, and commentary.
Radio Disney's Top 30 is not an end all be all as it is obviously excessively biased towards Disney artists, but it's a good reference point for what's hot in teen/preteen culture now.
Brie Larson's Myspace is as previously stated the greatest Myspace page on the internet by far. Even if her music sucked I would still be rooting for her lasting and enduring success based on this alone.