Teen pop stars rule (again)

Britney Spears's current single, "Drive Me Crazy," is one of the most requested songs on MTV's "Total Request Live." Her debut CD, "... Baby One More Time," has sold 7 million copies, and she's now on a 51-city North American tour.

But Spears isn't the only teen-pop phenom ruling the Billboard charts these days. Joining her are Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, and 'N Sync, among others. These artists sing catchy, simple tunes that resonate with young fans.

*Just recently, all 750,000 tickets for the Backstreet Boys' 11-week, 39-city US tour sold out in under an hour, grossing about $30 million and breaking the hearts of many preteen girls who couldn't snatch a ticket.

*Boy band 'N Sync hit the 7 million mark with their debut. Their follow-up album this fall, "No Strings Attached," is expected to do just as well.

*Christina Aguilera's single "Genie in a Bottle" sold more than 1.3 million copies, and her self-titled album is No. 1 on the charts.

But teeny-bop groups have been around for a while. Like fashion trends, they come and go. But what separates the '90s teen crop from the '80s?

In a word, computer-savvy music fans. Record companies are realizing that the Internet is a powerful marketing tool. Computers make Tiger Beat, 16, and Bop magazines look like dinosaurs. By using the Internet, fans can hear the songs before they hit store shelves.

Case in point:, a Web site developed by the entertainment company BMG offered song samples of Spears's music eight months before her debut album was released in January. More than 80 percent of the 100,000 people who said they liked her music bought the CD when it came out.

But where will these groups be in five years? Or more to the point, even one year from now?

"It's a huge challenge for the Backstreet Boys to maintain career longevity, because you've gotta ask yourself, Where's Debbie Gibson? Where's Tiffany? New Kids [on the Block] went from a stadium act to not even being able to sell out clubs three years later," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, the live-music trade.

If parents have anything to say about it, they'll keep these wholesome groups on top of the charts for a long time. "Parents are very concerned about what their kids are watching and listening to," says Rich Ross, general manager and executive vice president of programming for the Disney Channel. "Grunge and rap have been sending hard messages. Parents look at this and support it...."

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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