Everyone loves a good child star. They’re filled with youth, optimism and unbridled talent, and for all their bubblegum shrillness, they hold a significant place in our popular culture. But like everyone else, these wunderkinds must eventually grow up, and when they do, their ability to succeed (or fail) to transition into adult careers separates the true stars from all the rest.
The classic tale is Michael Jackson’s. From being the miniature frontman belting out “ABC” and “I Want You Back” with his siblings in The Jackson 5, to producing the the smash success of “Thriller” and helming an entirely new form of dance, MJ was an unstoppable force who didn’t let his age get in the way of his stardom.
Let’s take a look at some contemporary examples following in his footsteps, and how musicians today can smoothly traverse the bridge from child sensation into bonafide celebrity.
The Biebs’ career might be as mythologized as his forefather’s, from being randomly discovered one day on YouTube to instantly selling out Madison Square Gardens and amassing an army of tween megafans. But the “Baby” crooner’s journey might have come to a halt if it weren’t for some calculated remodelling. After a widely-publicized run-in with the cops following a DUI, it appeared as if Bieber could be close to taking after Britney Spears and shaving off his luscious locks in a Los Angeles back alley.
Instead, Bieber rose from the ashes and turned his haters into followers overnight. For one, he ditched the parts of his image that were weighing him down: his diva GF Selena Gomez, his bangs-heavy hairdo, and most importantly, his schoolyard-anthem style of music. In its place, J.B. turned to indie producers and the likes of Skrillex and Diplo to foray into the newfangled genres of EDM and tropical house. Bieber now appeals to listeners of every age, and holds permanent spots on FM radio and nightclub playlists alike. His career is a testament to never saying never.
As the face of one of the biggest Disney franchises of the 2000s, Miley Cyrus spent too long posing as the perfect good girl, and she wanted out. When videoclips began to circulate of the “Hannah Montana” songstress indulging in minor drugs and partying a little more freely than might be suggested for someone as surveilled by the public eye as she was, things were looking bleak.
Yet Miley grabbed the weight of the world and shaped it, like clay, into an image she felt was authentic. Her big reveal came via an infamous performance at the 2013 VMAs, where she introduced us all to the provocative dance move ‘twerking,’ and gave a shoutout to her controversial new friend “molly.” A lot of people were initially outraged, but the joke’s on them: 2 years later and Miley Cyrus was hosting the awards show herself, and surprise-dropping the psych-rock album she made with The Flaming Lips. Abandoning Disney to follow her heart and work with smaller labels was the best decision Ms. Montana ever made.
This ex-Jonas Bro currently rules the adult R&B charts, so much that it feels like entire ages ago when he was making grade-schoolers swoon as the star of Disney TV-movie “Camp Rock.” But how did the young heartthrob turn the tables so swiftly? The truth is — he didn’t do it alone. For Nick Jonas’s foray into a solo career, he made a departure from his brothers Nick and Kevin and instead relied on guidance from a savvy marketing team and record producers. Like Bieber, he adapted from his past in pop-rock towards the pop/R&B crossover genre that reigns the charts today. Jonas also hit the gym, and took on a well-received leading role on the DirectTV series “Kingdom.” With smooth singles like “Jealous” and “Close,” the celeb collaborated with smaller artists including Tinashe, Tove Lo and Angel Haze. Nick Jonas reinvented himself from mere dashing Disney teen into a persona with true strength and flair, and his future in the industry is all the more stable for it.
From the archetypal “Star Search” story to the internet discoveries of today, the metamorphosis from adolescent artist to full-fledged popstar is never easy — but for those who make the right moves, it’s written in the stars. Signing with the proper record label is key, because it provides musicians the guidance to make the music they want to be making, attain the image they want to be presenting, and explore the sound they dream of emitting. Independent labels such as Funktasy Records are the ideal cohorts to aid an artist in the transition from past achievement into future success.