A very wise man once said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). And pop culture seems determined to illustrate that proverbial truism on a regular basis.
Take, for instance, the idea of a fictional TV band that crosses over to become a performing phenomenon in the real world. Singers/actors Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith pioneered this virtual/reality paradigm with The Monkees way back in 1966. More recently, Disney dusted off their playbook with Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers in JONAS and Camp Rock. Both, of course, yielded legions of squealing young fans … and minted the Mouse House a warehouse full of merchandise and money.
Never one to be left behind, Disney Channel’s chief competitor, Nickelodeon, responded with its own take on the formula in 2009: Big Time Rush. In the TV show, four fictional hockey players transported from Minnesota to Hollywood coalesce into … a boy band. Back in the real world, the group has become a big-time tween draw. So much so, in fact, that fans voted them No. 1 in Parade magazine’s first annual “boy band smackdown” poll in August 2012 (beating out British upstarts One Direction, among others).
Big Time Rush features the vocals of Kendall Schmidt, Logan Henderson, Carlos Pena Jr. and James Maslow, all of whom are 21 or 22. As for the band’s music, well, it’s a scientifically assembled blend of everything hot in pop music right now: harmonized gang vocals in classic Backstreet Boys/’N Sync style; sensitive R&B crooning, à la Usher; funky, clean rhythm guitar in the vein of Maroon 5; and danceable, David Guetta-approved electronic beats to ensure no one even thinks about getting bored on the dance floor.
All of that, of course, is mixed with a heaping saccharine dollop of romance, romance and more romance, bro style.
Sweetly innocent romantic sentiments abound here. On “All Over Again,” an indecisive beau revisits his choice to break up with his gal and decides that doing so was a terrible decision. “You’re Not Alone” finds a patient, tender suitor promising never to abandon his beloved. “Music Sounds Better” affirms that a special girl’s presence enlivens everything: “No sweeter sound/Than what I’ve found/No perfect love/Could be more perfect than us/ … The music sounds better with you, baby/ … Everything’s better with you.” “Superstar” shouts out, “You’re a shining star/I wanna be where you are.”
Affirmation also rides high on “Cover Girl,” as a guy tells his wallflower girlfriend, “I don’t know why you always get so insecure/I wish you could see what I see when you’re looking in the mirror/And why won’t you believe me when I say/That to me you get more beautiful every day?” “Invisible” gives girls encouragement to take chances when it comes to being themselves: “Night after night, trying to decide/Are you gonna speak out or get lost in the crowd?/Do you take a chance or stay invisible?”
Things get just a tad too touchy-feely during a spine-tingling dance-floor encounter on “Show Me”: “You’re dressin’ light/It’s fittin’ right/ … The track begins/You pull me in/I touch your skin/You’re trembling.” A bit later we hear, “Baby, show me/By the way you hold me/Way you control me/Speed me up or slow me.” The context is dancing, of course, but a more suggestive interpretation isn’t difficult to conjure. Likewise, on “No Idea,” we hear, “I’ll kiss you whenever you want to be kissed/ … Let me please you, let me see you, let me take that heart of yours.”
“Love Me Love Me” includes mildly suggestive lines like, “Love me, love me, say you’re gonna love me/I know you’re ready to go” and “Can’t stop, won’t stop, we party rock/You got those red velvet lips, sweep like Betty Crocker/So call a doctor/’Cause someone needs to take your temperature, you’re getting hotter.”
Lyrics from several songs place strong emphasis on doing what feels good in the moment. Examples: “We throw every rule in the book out and bring down the house,” “It feels right, girl, just give me a sign/We’re gonna party all night/ … So don’t worry about a thing/Just dance, dance, dance,” “You wanna wild out?/Then wild out/All eyes on you/It’s goin down, down right now.”
“Music Sounds Better” contains a line that might make parents of young BTR fans say, “I’m not sure I want my kid singing that.” Here it is: “I couldn’t help myself/Let this heart go through hell.”
Big Time Rush’s second album, Elevate, contains plenty of old-fashioned, aw-shucks moments and dreamy romantic stuff guaranteed to, um, elevate the pulses of young fans.
Sometimes, though, the pulse rates these four guys strive to pump up might gallop a few beats per minute beyond parents’ comfort levels. It’s hardly steamy by the raunchy, anything-goes cultural standards of our time; but neither is it all innocuous, innocent sweetness.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.