Youthfulness has always been an important part of any pop or rock star's appeal--which makes sense, since kids buy lots of records and drive trends. But being teenaged is especially all the rage nowadays, with the charts currently ruled with a kid-gloved fist by the under-18 set: Cyrus, Swift, various Brothers (Jonas, Naked), et al.
But it all comes across as pretty safe, pretty tame--like these are kids who've never broken a curfew, never done detention, never received less than an A- on a test, or ever had to be asked twice by Mom and Dad to take out the trash or do their homework. Come on, now--how many teenagers in America can really relate to that?
However, not all teenage (or tweenage, if that is indeed the proper term) musicians are going the Radio Disney route. Some of them are actually acting like true teens--that is, like snotty, hormone-riddled rebels--and creating loud, riotous juvie-hall rock 'n' roll that, ironically, is probably more influenced by their parents' supercool record collections than by anything on Nickelodeon right now.
Yes, whether it's girly-punk that echoes the feminist sentiments of the '90s riot-grrrrl movement or shreddy retro-metal inspired by the likes of '80s metal gods Metallica and Slayer, many of today's adolescent rockers are coming up with alterna-teen fare that oddly sounds fresher and feistier than any recent recording by Miley, the Jonases, or any of the HSM castmates.
Here are those at the head of the anti-tween class...
As fiery as her famous tresses, this 17-year-old American Idol runner-up got flack from Simon Cowell for not showing enough "personality," but that's just because she refused to act like a Little Miss USA pageant princess on the show. This sassy girl actually oozes personality, as well as talent--and her debut single, "Friday I'll Be Over U," is no Disney-esque romp. Instead it's reminiscent of the fizzy, attitudinal girl-pop of Scandinavian indie-disco darlings the Sounds and criminally underrated pop-rocker Fefe Dobson...with a coy nod to fierce '90s femmes like Veruca Salt and Elastica. Basically, imagine if Avril Lavigne (at her guilty-pleasure, drill-team-chanting, Converse-stomping, "Girlfriend"-ly best) covered Joan Jett, and that's Allison Iraheta:
Care Bears On Fire
Besides having perhaps the most awesome band name ever to be carved into a school desk (the moniker simply screams "bratty little girls," which is exactly what CBOF are), this trio of Brooklyn junior high-schoolers make rad kiddie-pop-punk that has put them at the forefront of NYC's "kidcore" scene. (And with song titles like "Five-Minute Boyfriend" and "Met You On MySpace," they certainly make perfect spokesgirls for the underage set.) Despite their nasty attitude when they chant, "Na na na na na na na, I don't want to be like everybody else!" in their newest video, they seem to be fitter role models for impressionable young girls than most of the pouty female pop-tarts on the scene right now.
Smoosh are veteran indie-rockers at this point, despite the fact that the sisters in the band range from ages 13 to 19. (When they released their first album in 2004 as a duo, core siblings Asy and Chloe were only 12 and 10, respectively.) They've been mentored by Jason McGerr of Death Cab For Cutie; have opened for Pearl Jam, Jimmy Eat World, Sleater-Kinney, Nada Surf, Tokyo Police Club, and the Eels; and have played Lollapalooza. Can Vanessa Hudgens or the Cheetah Girls claim that?
Tiny Masters Of Today
Another too-cool-for-school sibling act, 15-year-old Ivan and his 13-year-old sister Ada have also been warmly embraced by the indie-rock elite. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Russell Simins once drummed for them and also produced their debut album; that album featured collaborations with members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Moldy Peaches, and B-52's; and David Bowie even calls himself a fan. And with TMOT song titles like "Stickin' It To The Man" and "Tooty Frooty," why shouldn't Bowie be impressed?
More girl-powered rock 'n' roll endorsed by the one-and-only original riot grrrl Joan Jett (who signed the 'Rots to her own Blackheart Records), the Dollyrots formed in the 8th grade in response to the 2000 presidential election. (Starting a rock band is always a cool form of political protest, after all--and who says this young generation is jaded, huh?) Their song "Because I'm Awesome" was a minor hit thanks to its inclusion in a Kohl's ad campaign, and it is awesome indeed. Its American Idol-lampooning video is yet another fun dig at mainstream tween culture, too.
Despite getting kicked off the Ozzfest tour because their stage was sponsored by Jagermeister (they were all under the legal drinking age, you see), Miami metalheads Black Tide have managed to build quite a following with their old-skool hard rock. Revolver magazine described their debut album Light From Above as "like stumbling across a cool, late-'80s metal record you'd completely forgotten about," and Blabbermouth called their music "big, sometimes pop-based, melodies meets crunchy, guitar-driven metal that falls somewhere between thrash/traditional metal and the dirtier end of '80s glam/hair metal." The JoBros may be youth gone mild, but Black Tide are definitely youth gone wild, Skid Row-style.
Another pack of promising teenage rampagers, these Okies are managed by Spencer Proffer and Doc McGhee, the industry vets behind such hard-rock acts as Kiss, Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and the aforementioned Skid Row. And Crooked X have already opened for rock legends like Kiss, Ted Nugent, and Alice Cooper, all before even graduating high school. No wonder their first single is called "Rock 'N' Roll Dream"--how many Guitar Hero-noodling kids out there would love to be in Crooked X's boots?
The most well-known band on this list, these creatively coiffed German rockers have released three albums, sold 5 million units in their homeland, and won a Best New Artist VMA in America. They're almost too old to be included here, since they range from age 19 to 22--but they actually started way back in 2003, when they were far too young to be licensed to drive on the Autobahn. It's hard to believe that TH have been together longer than many rock bands 10 years their senior...and those older bands surely must feel like underachieving losers when they take stock of what Tokio Hotel (and the other kiddie bands on this list, for that matter) have already accomplished in their young careers.