{{featured_button_text}}

To a nation of teens, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas boys aren't just pop acts.

They're 24/7 obsessions.

To a legion of businessmen presiding over a slumping industry, they are trend-defying sales juggernauts. And, to culture-watchers, they are the latest in a series of teen-pop acts dating back to Ricky Nelson who serve as a generation's musical rite of passage.

The latest Jonas Brothers album, "A Little Bit Longer," is shaping up as one of the year's bestselling rock releases. It debuted at No. 1 earlier this month with 525,000 discs sold in its first days, following up the group's 1.3 million-selling 2007 self-titled predecessor, which rose to No. 10 - the first time any artist has had two albums in the top 10 simultaneously in nine years.

The new album includes an unprecedented three straight hits that generated more than 100,000 downloads each at the iTunes store.

A few weeks earlier, Cyrus' second album, "Breakout," also debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart with more than 370,000 sales, the biggest week this year by a female artist not named Mariah Carey.

In an industry experiencing a 25 percent sales decline in the last eight years, these are reasons for the suits to celebrate.

The impressive numbers are just the latest indicator that there are few entertainment consumers more avid than youngsters catching their first music buzz. In recent years, the younger demographic has generated monster hits by the likes of Avril Lavigne, Chris Brown and "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson.

And there are few entertainment conglomerates better equipped to market to that audience than the Walt Disney Co., which oversees the careers of both Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Disney is Teen Pop Central, with Radio Disney, the Disney Channel and Hollywood Records conspiring to churn out a series of multimedia hits for the Cheetah Girls, the "High School Musical" soundtracks and Cyrus' "Hannah Montana" franchise.

But even the Disney aura has its limits.

For many cultural arbiters, "teen pop" is code for "totally disposable." If these callow entertainers endure, history tells us, it's usually as a nostalgia act.

A prime example is the Monkees, whose reunion tours of 1986-87 were among the top revenue earners of the decade. But the group failed to come up with new music that rivaled its '60s hits.

It remains to be seen whether the reunited New Kids on the Block will be able to build a comeback on the back of their first studio album in 14 years, "The Block," due out Thursday. Late '90s hitmakers the Backstreet Boys are attempting a similar comeback.

While the flameouts far outweigh the success stories, a few teen stars do end up reinventing themselves as credible adult artists. Will the Jonas Brothers and Cyrus be among them?

Both acts are already trying to transform themselves into mainstream rock acts, a transition only partly realized on their most recent albums.

The 15-year-old Cyrus was the first to break out as the star of the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana" show. It spun off a No. 1 album in 2006, the first TV soundtrack to debut atop the Billboard Top 200.

The next album, "Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus," spawned a 2007 tour that raked in $36 million, surpassing such revenue-generating perennials as Jimmy Buffett and Beyonce.

Then came Cyrus' first career misstep. Photos of her posing semiclothed in Vanity Fair a few months ago stirred speculation that she was turning into another Britney Spears: a Disney-approved entertainer who reinvents herself as a pop Lolita.

But "Breakout" isn't warmed-over Spears so much as recycled Go-Go's, the early '80s new-wave band that scored hits such as "We Got the Beat" and "Vacation." Indeed, former Go-Go's drummer Gina Schock co-wrote the album's title track.

Cyrus conjures more two-decade-old nostalgia with a turbo-speed cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and even channels goth-rockers Siouxsie and the Banshees on "Fly on the Wall."

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

She sounds out of her league only when trying to address the perils of global warming in "Wake Up America," but then offers an instant disclaimer designed to disarm her critics: "I know that you don't want to hear it/Especially coming from someone so young."

Not that she needs to worry about the grown-ups just yet. And neither does the opening act on her 2007 tour, the Jonas boys.

Two of the three band members - 20-year-old Kevin and 19-year-old Joe - are old enough to vote, but it's 15-year-old Nick who drives things musically. His talents helped get the band signed to a major-label deal with Columbia Records, but the trio was dropped after its 2006 debut, "It's About Time," failed to crack 100,000 sales.

Piggybacking on the Cyrus/Hannah Montana tour, however, helped buoy sales of the brothers' self-titled follow-up album last year and persuaded Disney and Hollywood Records to rev up the marketing machine. A reality TV series ("Jonas Brothers - Living the Dream") this spring and a Disney Channel movie ("Camp Rock") followed, and anticipation for "A Little Bit Longer" skyrocketed.

Next year, the Jonas franchise will expand to include a 3-D concert movie, the Disney Channel show "J.O.N.A.S! (Junior Operatives Networking As Spies)" and a "Camp Rock" sequel.

The songs on the new album, most written by the band, zoom along on a mixture of relentless cheerfulness, relatively chaste skirt-chasing breathlessness, harmony vocals with just a pinch of grit and punchy power-pop guitars, reminiscent of bubble gum rock sensations from earlier eras (Rick "Jessie's Girl" Springfield, Tommy Tutone, the Knack).

The brothers veer off topic to blast shallow starlets ("Video Girl") and slam on the brakes to let Nick Jonas deliver an inspirational ballad about living with diabetes ("A Little Bit Longer").

"I'll be fine," Jonas sings, the last words heard on the new album.

His band isn't doing too badly either.

The Jonas Brothers' music is polished and polite, but relatively cringe-free. Their songs are terse and catchy, with just enough bite to edge into rock terrain. In time, the trio may grow into something more than the latest Disney product line.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
0
0
0
0
0

Tags