Are Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber the New Britney, Christina …

24 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

American Music Awards offer the best in Canadian music, from Justin Bieber to The Weeknd.

Sunday’s American Music Awards was dominated by former child stars Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber, and Nick Jonas. Jennifer Lopez was the host for the night, interestingly, opening the show with a dance routine to a medley of the year’s biggest hits, including “Where Are U Now,” “Anaconda” “Uptown Funk” and “Hotline Bling.” But it was Dion who delivered the moment of the night, with an emotional tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks with a rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Hymne a L’Amour” alongside a montage of Parisian landmarks, leaving much of the audience in tears. The two were at the Montage hotel bar on Friday night, and at one point Bieber grabbed a microphone—there was a piano-bar setup—and crooned “My Girl” and a slowed-down version of his new hit “Sorry” to Selena, and, of course, to everyone else at the hotel bar. She won song of the year for “Blank Space,” favourite pop album for 1989 and favourite artist, because a Swift does not go home empty-handed, even if she was not there to begin with.

Generations, perhaps especially those who came of age in the ’90s and the turn of the millennium, cling to their nostalgia with the fervor of a JNCOs-wearing sk8rboi furiously scrubbing his CDs with anti-scratch cleaner, or a teen girl bopping her Limited Toos back and forth as she lies on her bed scribbling “Mrs. I mean, if you were out on a Friday night, even in glitzy, star-filled Beverly Hills, and Justin Bieber started singing “My Girl” to his famous ex, wouldn’t you, I dunno, put down the pinot grigio and stop talking about work to turn and watch? YA favourite Demi Lovato also performed, alongside Morissette, in a duet of her iconic song “You Oughta Know,” making for one very classic red and white night. It’s a generation that, on a Saturday night, actively seeks out and pays cover charges—who even does that anymore—to enter so-called ‘90s dance parties that play the tunes of, in their opinions, the last great class of teeny-bop pop stars.

They were three pop supernovas who blossomed from child stars on the Disney Channel, grew up at the same time as their target audience, and then matured into adult recording artists with then-current musical tastes that not just appealed to an aging fan base but earned critical respect and even changed the pop music landscape as a whole. It’s been close to 20 years since Spears donned the schoolgirl skirt for “(Baby) One More Time” and exploded into one of culture’s most vibrant and relevant artists, if occasionally as much for tragedy and scandal as for her music, the mark of a true megacelebrity. Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” launched soon after, setting free a constantly evolving and reinventing vocalist who is among the greatest of all time.

And Timberlake came into his own as a Michael Jackson descendant so prominent and powerful he remains one of the industry’s most influential artists. As much as people obsess and analyze the child star-to-adult performer transition in the world of acting, it’s rarely talked about in the music industry…because it rarely happens.

But performers who launch their careers attached to the Disney brand rarely explode in the way Spears’s, Aguilera’s, and Timberlake’s did after their years as Mousketeers. But it would appear the producers did not oblige, because the pair was definitely not sitting next to each other during any of last night’s broadcast, nor were they even seen on the red carpet together.

The teenybopper’s rising star burns fast and bright, and almost always leaves in its wake a cultural relic, a singer unable to mature in the spotlight. Part of that has to do with the fact that a performer who begins their career catering to a fan base consisting of screaming tweens and prepubescent girls struggles to be taken seriously by a grown audience. I suppose their staying separate on the carpet could be seen as a sign that they’re not together at all, but maybe they’re just trying to keep it lower profile right now.

And did anyone think the early albums Gomez or Lovato released were anything more than vanity projects doubling as a money wire directly from middle schoolers’ dad’s wallets to the House of Mouse? Songs that, in bits and pieces over recent weeks I—and, probably, you—have downloaded off iTunes, added to a running playlist, or maybe even written about in 1,800-word reviews proclaiming that said singer has arrived as a respected, grown-up artist. (OK, maybe that was just me. Now after years of ridicule—first for being an adolescent novelty act, then for being a petulant child star, and then for being a 20-something douchebag—Bieber isn’t for kids anymore.

But when there’s been a jilting, when there’s been a heartbreak, and then it’s rebuilt, it has to be treated carefully, for a little while, anyway. Maybe now that they’re a little older than they once were—just as we all, save the dead, are a little older than we once were—Justin and Selena realize that they can’t rush or put too much weight on this thing while the glue dries. Thanks to Google, it’s impossible to disappear a squeaky-clean child star past, creating arguably an even bigger hurdle for being taken seriously as a grown-up. Maybe they think they’ve finally figured out how to make this crazy connection work, so they’re being patient, communicating, waiting, breathing and blinking. Updating an image to appear sexier or more mature becomes a symptom of a child star cliché rather than any indicator of an artist’s true growth or reflection of their older spirit. (Though, hey, sometimes they really are just baiting us.) Gomez has been positioning herself as the next Spears for years.

Or, y’know, they’re just a couple of weird pop stars and sometimes weird pop stars sing to their exes at piano bars because it’s nice to get the attention and feel warm in the glow of your own talent. It’s entirely possible that this little Friday-night serenade session was all narcissistic and cynical, and that’s why the other patrons didn’t much respond, because they could sense it, palpably, powerfully, in the air. A role in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers seemed desperate. “Come and Get It” was catchy, but the over-sexualization seemed exhaustingly calculated from a girl whose stint on Barney and Friends as a kindergartener is too-easily searchable.

There’s a try-hard aspect to Lovato’s constant belting and melisma, like her vocal cords are one forced high note away from being like “that’s enough” and jumping out of her throat. But it’s what’s helped her evolve from sanitized schmaltz like “Skyscraper” earlier in her career to the grittier empowerment messages she’s trumpeting in her new material. Not only are their predecessors Spears, Aguilera, and Timberlake M.I.A., but so are the dominant artists that would ordinarily be overshadowing the young’uns at a showcase like the AMAs.

There’s a dearth of new, good pop music, and kids are shaking what their mamas—and Mickey Mouse—gave them in order to take their place on the scene. But Jonas seized the opportunity, singing “Chains,” “Jealous,” and “Levels,” three songs that I most definitely sing along to enthusiastically when they come on at da club (read: my Spotify at work) and are worthy of announcing Jonas as, if not exactly the next Timberlake, then a guy who’s making really good music and deserves his spot as a pop sex symbol in 2015. But she, Lovato, Jonas, Bieber, and the aforementioned Cyrus and Grande—a Disney and a Nickelodeon alum, respectively, both now pop stars to be reckoned with—certainly merit credit as a new class of performers with parallels to the last generation, but an impact all their own.

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