It’s no secret that the crew at YouthBeat has a little bit of Bieber Fever…His music might not be breakthrough, and his dance moves might even look a bit recycled, if completely authentic to him. But after seeing the concert film/documentary of his rise to stardom, Never Say Never, this summer, we’ve caught this contagion all over again. As we wrote, back when the fever was just beginning to brew, Bieber has endeared himself to kids and moms alike by touting his Mama Boy status (and, as seen in his bio-pic, Grandma and Grandpa’s little guy), flirting with mom-favorites like Tina Fey and the ladies of The View (in particular, Barbara Walters), and keeping his image incredibly clean given the temptations that might confront a fifteen year old superstar (even if those temptations might be limited to becoming spoiled!). And far from being just a pretty face, Bieber is a bit of a musical prodigy. The documentary featured cute clips of this entertainer as a 3 and 4 year-old with an uncanny acumen for the drums…And the guitar…And trumpet…And guitar. Then there’s that hair.
He makes it look pretty easy.
So it’s no surprise that Bieber’s YouTube success has inspired a host of hopeful teen stars. Greyson Chance wowed the world with his school talent show rendition of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, and was deemed likable enough to get the endorsement (and a contract) from Ellen Degeneres. Good or bad, Rebecca Black received plenty of attention for her song, Friday. And most recently, Australian teen, Cody Simpson, the stereotypical surfer boy that the genre may have been silently praying for, has hit the tween scene in a big way.
But do they have what it takes? They all seem to look the part, but somehow they seem to be lacking the same depth – that’s right, we said Justin Bieber has depth – that their predecessor had. His story was the real deal – a true grassroots movement that sprouted at a pace no one expected. Sure, these newer-comers can cause a craze. But will any of them have longevity?
Whether they succeed or not depends on their ability to follow a few simple rules of the tween teeny bopper:
- Advertise your authenticity. Perhaps Team Bieber’s most brilliant move to date was showing off his skills…Taylor Swift has swayed her young fans by not only singing relevant tunes, but writing her songs herself. Tweens might be willing to tolerate an artist with the right look for a while, but the ones that last have artistic credibility to back them up.
- Advocate accessibility. Twitter and Facebook may be the boon of the young star, giving them the ability to give kid and tween fans what they want: instant access. As adults, we might not really care about the every move our favorite musicians make, but this kind of disclosure is part of the price a young star is expected to pay. The smart ones realize that the key to being a tween idol today is taking time out to get in touch with your fans.
- Finally, sell your story. Part of the appeal of this batch of new heartthrobs and fan favorites is their story. First, kids love an underdog, and there’s no little guy that they’d rather root for more than another kid! Second, play up the person, not the celebrity. Even Lady Gaga, with all her pageantry, has learned this lesson…To be loved as a star, she has to first be liked as a person – a daughter, a sister, a friend. And part of demonstrating your down-to-earth nature is showing you appreciate your fame.
Of course, writing songs that matter and dressing the part has to follow. But like any breakthrough brand, the foundation of a true tween star is usually stronger than it seems.