No matter how indier than thou you think you are music-wise, uber pop hits can make it into your consciousness, whether you like it or not. Unless you make an adamant point of blocking them, these ubiquitous confections need not be heard on mainstream radio like KIIS FM, either. They will seep in via commercials, as dramatic devices on your favorite TV show, wafting buoyantly in the background of public gatherings, from car stereos or even while you're groping fruit in the supermarket, not to mention social media and web site generated hype/hate. You've gotta be deaf, blind and very, very smart (or old) not to know who Ke$ha, Adam Lambert or Justin Bieber are right now.
Nightranger concedes to being intrigued by the flamboyance and hot mess appeal of the first two, but quite honestly, the only thing we allowed ourselves to absorb about the latter before this past Saturday's Wango Tango concert at the Staples Center -of which The Bieb was the obvious main draw- was that he was a cute boy singer with throngs of young fans and that there was a website comparing his mug to that of caucasian gay gals.
Turns out, we've even been pronouncing his name wrong. It's “BEE-Ber, not BI-ber,” as in “My beaver's got the fever for Bieber.” Heard that little gem while standing on the red carpet waiting for the kid (the myth) amidst a throng of impatient photogs who seemed almost as excited to glimpse the 16-year-old sensation as the screaming tweens in and outside of the stadium.
Clustered together in a stuffy room backstage at Staples (next to a gifting suite where the likes of David Hasselhoff, actors we didn't recognize from the new Twilight movie and “stars” of The Hills were loaded with swagalicious freebies), our fellow media folk pretty much dissed everyone else when the lil guy did finally saunter down KIIS FM's step and repeat wall (“no interviews!”). The fact that it happened to be the concert's headliner, Usher, by his side didn't even matter. And yes, “the next Michael Jackson (not!)” looked a little annoyed to be showed up by this scrawny white tyke/ dyke-alike.
As for the Beeb's performance… we get it. He's sweet faced, has some descent moves, catchy heart-string-plucker pop tunes and a pre-pubescent charisma with just the right sprinkle of swagger to garner both girlie panting and parental approval. The other Justin
-Timberlake- seems an obvious influence, but we had a more old school flashback: Donny Osmond. If you're old enough to remember Osmond, Leif Garrett or Shaun Cassidy's pop idol heyday, you're too old to like the Bieb without it being creepy, but we're sure many parents (some wearing matching “I ♥ JB” tees with their kids) were reliving raging hormones of yore first brought out by these OG Tigerbeat coverboys. Not us though. Even as a pre-teen our heart throbbed for much badder, much (b)older boys like Mick Jagger.
Which brings us to Ke$ha aka the Tik Toker (or Sing Talker)'s set. We admit Tok's Jagger reference and catchy chorsues first caught our attention, but it was the singer's crusty, obviously calculated persona that turned her into something more. Next to the smoke and mirrored perfection of Britney and even Gaga, Ke$ha's tweaked-out tartiness was somehow annoying and refreshing at the same time. Let's face it, it's the haters that made her famous. We expected a spectacle of some sort, but were surprised by her genuinely entertaining show. She actually looked groomed and glam-ish in a superhero-style American flag inspired get-up, while flanked by two awesome dancers (one of whom happened to be Ryan Heffington- LA dance icon, Full Frontal Club host and member of art band We Are the World). If Sir Hef can't give ya some creative world cred, nobody can.
Most of today's pop music might be poop music, but we will say one thing; there is a lot of variety and fests like Tango put showmanship first and foremost. Hip-hop remains hot and Wango's bill reflected this with Ludacris and openers B.o.B, and Iyaz, while big beat busting dance anthems got crowds going too- David Guetta joined by Akon and Kelly Rowland. And there was even room for a polysexual glam slam in the form of American Idol runner-up Lambert, who was more interesting visually than sonically, meshing retro style statements galore: Hammer pants, a 90's faux-hawk and David Bowie “Diamond Dogs” accessories. He's got a dynamic voice and some impressive pelvic thrusts, but the whole thing was a lot less rockin' than we had hoped.
The rock genre isn't often represented at Wango Tango (ironically named after a Ted Nugent song) but we will say this, Saturday's show -moved to Staples in downtown from Verizon Wireless in Irvine this year- was the loudest, most shriek-filled event we've ever covered, Ozzfest and Warped Tour included. The howl of a burly metal or punk dude has nothing on the shrill scream of a lovesick teenage girl. Nothing.
BREAKING: It may or may not be a coinicidence, but the same day Bieber fever took over LA, news broke that Twitter altered its “algorithms” to support fresher news topics over continually popular ones, bumping Bieber off the trending lists. At press time, fans rallied in response with a website and trending topic: #Twieber– “because Bieber owns Twitter.” Guess these days, social media is the loudest voice of all.
Read more about Wango Tango (including our after-show shenanigans at Club Hyde inside the Staples Center) in this week's Nightranger. See the concert pics in our Nightranger slideshow. All photos here by Lina Lecaro.