The other day I was watching Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen on Bravo. The talk show is funny and generally pairs the most unlikely guests together. Recently, my personal favorites were Lil' Jon and Rachel Maddow. Anyway, on this particular day, the boy band (now man band) 98 Degrees was on. They reunited after years apart.
The group is talented. Back in the day, they were specifically known for their a cappella (they still can do it). The group is also part of the '90s music acts resurgence. Backstreet Boys are back again. To be clear, they never really left, but the group is celebrating their 20 year anniversary with a tour this summer. New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) and Boyz II Men are touring together (and with 98 Degrees) this summer. NKOTB have been touring for a few years now. Hanson has also been touring way past their "MMMBop" days and the remaining member of TLC plan a return at this year's Mixtape Festival in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The thing that strikes me about these groups (and some of the other groups not mentioned) is that they made it without using Twitter or most social media. Frankly, it wasn't even an option. In the late '90s/2000s, a tweet was the sound a bird makes.
Today, social media is now the launching point for future pop stars, teen idols and starlets. It is also important for current stars to have an online presence. Some of them garner a huge online following before actually hitting it big. It seems like every single day at least one of the trends in the United States is pop star related. Actually on a good day it is only one trend.
As a child of the '90s (meaning I was born in the '80s and can remember the '90s), I remember the tidal wave of pop music that immersed the pop culture landscape. This occurred towards the end of that decade and filtered over to the 2000s. At the time pop singers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were just emerging and went on Total Request Live trying to get people to call in for their video to go number one (yes, you had to actually call-in). Backstreet Boys had already made it, with *NSYNC making a splash as well.
The groups and singers I listed are still popular (or at least one member is active) today. But, aside from this, there is a somewhat long list of boy bands, pop star and teen idols that may only accumulated modest success. In reality, any success in the cut-throat world of entertainment should be commended. Still this leads me to speculate if the limelight would have been extended for those former teen idols and boy bands if they had the option of social media during this prime time. Would things have turned out differently for these people?
To be clear many former teen idols and '90s stars have Twitter. However, in most cases their original fan bases are probably not attempting to get their former crushes follower count to a certain level. While they occasionally make a presence on Twitter, if it was during their peak, I am sure this would have been a lot more frequent.
On the flip side today's teen/20-something stars are more popular on Twitter than ever. So do today's pop stars have an easier time maintaining their levels of fame? It's a little too early to tell. Twitter has only been around for a little over seven years and it wasn't until the last few years that it surged in popularity. There are some stars that are going through (or have gone through) a transitional phase in their careers. They formed a solid fan base on the site, but whether this base continues to follow them is yet to fully be seen. Tweeters also choose to follow the star for many (and sometimes negative) reasons. Some users make multiple accounts to increase the followers of a star. Generally these accounts become inactive or are vacant. There is also the inevitable fake follower that plagues most high-profiled accounts. Regardless, it would be interesting if they deleted their account or somehow their follower count decreased drastically or went away completely. Would it change anything?
While the quest for fame and fortune has become a goal for many, if used correctly, Twitter and other social mediums can help form the connections and opportunities the person may need to reach their goals. It is interesting to see groups like 98 Degrees and Backstreet Boys use Twitter (which they didn't have) to help them out today. It is tough to tell if the pop stars of the past with fewer accomplishes would have had a longer career if Twitter was available. However, it would be interesting to see groups/individuals with more modest success regain their popularity using this platform. But, the real test is if today's popular pop stars and teen idols will be able to prolong their career in 140 characters or less. Only time, talent, and the occasional Twitter trend will tell.