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Sound And Vision: Pop Stars In Love — When Dating (and Marrying) Well Is The Best Career Move

Sometimes it’s not what song you sing but to whom you sing it. And if Selena Gomez‘s new hit, “Love You Like a Love Song,” is art imitating her love life, she couldn’t have picked a better object for her affection than boyfriend Justin Bieber. Though the romance occasionally has been hazardous to her health–death threats from too-ardent Bieber fans and a recent mystery illness (she blamed exhaustion, the rumor mill churned out one about a Bieber bun in her oven)–it’s also worked wonders for her career.

A quick recap of the life and times of the rising star: A few years ago, Gomez was just another Disney Channel starlet trying to make good on the pop charts. By this time last year, she was running neck-and-neck with Demi Lovato in a tween-and-teen-pop world ruled by Miley Cyrus. For anyone older than thirteen or fourteen, she was the one who wasn’t dumped by a Jonas Brother.

But love changes everything. Though she’s probably still best known as the girl who won Bieber’s heart, Gomez is now solidly in the running for teen queen. Thanks to her Bieber connection, she’s become a tabloid and celebrity magazine favorite and, with near-perfect timing, she’s at last a true pop star. In the July 23 issue of Billboard magazine, her aforementioned latest single jumped from No. 66 to No. 35 on the Hot 100, and it’s shaping up to be her biggest hit yet. Could nineteen-year-old Gomez have done it without Bieber, seventeen? Possibly. But he’s guilty by association of helping to pave her way to possible multi-platinum status.

Gomez isn’t the only singer reaping the benefits of high-profile love with a younger teen. Australian pop star Delta Goodrem, twenty-six, was virtually unknown in the United States until she began dating Jonas brother Nick, eighteen, in May. Though it’s too soon to tell what effect it will have on her commercial potential in the US, there’s no doubt that millions of Jonas fans who’d never heard of Goodrem back when she was engaged to Brian McFadden, the former member of the UK boyband Westlife who’s now a judge on Australia’s Got Talent (they announced their split on April 1), now know her name and her face.

Muse’s Matthew Bellamy was hardly unknown in the States when he began dating Hollywood star Kate Hudson, previously wed to Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. But he’ll no doubt have more to celebrate than fatherhood (to Bingham, his and fiancee Hudson’s son, who was born July 9) by the time Muse releases its next album. Bellamy’s increased visibility, courtesy of his significant other, could finally propel his band, which has yet to score a platinum album in the US and has had only one Top 40 single (“Uprising,” No. 37 in 2009), into Coldplay territory.

Ah, Coldplay. Chris Martin needed Gwyneth Paltrow as much as Keith Urban needed Nicole Kidman, or Jay-Z and Beyonce needed each other (professionally, that is), but there’s something about the meeting of two mega-superstars that almost always ends up boosting their careers to even more stratospheric highs (see Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, and Brad Pitt and, well, Gwyneth Paltrow). That’s what happened with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, who were both major hitmakers in their own right when they got hitched 1996. Since then, the supercouple have ascended to superstar status in tandem.

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, who began dating in 2006 and married in May, are currently following their lead. She spent the last year winning pretty much every country music award in the business for her third studio album, Revolution. Meanwhile, he landed a new gig as a judge on The Voice, NBC’s new hit star search; his first platinum single, “Honey Bee,” became a No. 1 country and Top 20 pop hit; and his new album, Red River Blue, just became his first to top the Billboard 200 album chart.

Sure they were both doing just fine on their own, but like all successful couples, on and off the clock, they’re even stronger together. May they all continue to prosper on the charts and love happily ever after.

Sound And Vision: Growing Up Is Hard to Do, How To Make The Leap From Teen To Adult Pop Superstar

“I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision,” David Bowie sang on his greatest hit. Sound and vision: essentials to the life of any great musician. They were the foundation of my beat — music, movies and TV — when I launched my journalism career in New York City as a People magazine writer and realized my dream of interviewing Bowie — twice. Editing stints at Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly followed. Next up was Buenos Aires, where, over the course of four and a half years, I discovered siestas, Mercedes Sosa and blogging. Coming soon: Australia, where, as I settle into this column, I will continue to explore sound and vision, and how those gifts merge to create my greatest love of all: pop music.
In pop music, as in life, getting older can by a tricky, treacherous uphill climb. Growing pains can be as hard on the eyes and ears of fans as they are on a teen star’s psyche. For every Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, both of whom emerged on the scene as wet-behind-the-ears teens and continue to flourish on the cusp of thirtysomething (Timberlake blows out 30 candles on January 31; Spears will on December 2), there’s Aaron Carter, Charlotte Church, Hanson, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, New Kids on the Block, Bobby Brown, and cut-out bins filled with other ex-chart-toppers for whom platinum pop stardom wasn’t meant to last. Brandy, Monica, Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne may still be kicking around, but the shining stars of these former teen queens have dimmed considerably.
How did the Justins and Britneys of the world do it? For all those aspiring adolescent pop-stars, the next Justin Bieber looking for a place to happen — and even, perhaps, for Bieber himself — here are some helpful hints.
Grow with the musical flow. Pop trends are fleeting, so if you enter the scene latching onto one, know when to let it go. Former ‘N Sync memberTimberlake, who rode the last big boy-band wave to fame, is the perfect example of someone whose perfect timing aided and abetted his staying power. Yes, talent helped, too, but he exited ‘N Sync and went solo just as boy bands were about to go out of style — again. More recently, Nick Jonas (through his side project Nick Jonas and the Administration) and Joe Jonas (via acting gigs on 90210 and Hot in Cleveland plus an upcoming solo album) have begun establishing individual identities outside of their Jonas Brothers family act. Smart move.
Don’t grow too fast. Yes, Miley Cyrus, I’m talking to you. If your fans fall for you as a squeaky-clean teen, don’t overhaul your image overnight. So far, Taylor Swift has played it wisely, sticking with the tried-and-true girl-next-door persona for three albums. Beyoncé, who turns 30 on September 4th, hasn’t strayed too far from the 16-year-old we met when she was a member of Destiny’s Child. Even LeAnn Rimes waited until she was well into her 20s to leave her husband for another guy.
Grow some funk of your own. You can’t depend on the likes of Max Martin to keep cranking out your hits forever — unless you’re Britney Spears. Like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson before him, Timberlake has evolved from a perfectly packaged underage singer of other people’s songs into a formidable songwriter, even helping other artists turn out great music (like “Cold Case Love” on Rihanna’s Rated R album as well as Madonna’s “4 Minutes” and several other tracks on Hard Candy). The ability to multi-task may end up working in favor of pop’s other famous Justin. In addition to being a pretty good vocalist, Bieber also writes and plays piano, guitar and drums, skills which should come in handy later on. Twentysomething Katy Perry can have teenage dreams and still go to No. 1, but Bieber won’t be able to get away with frothy pop like “Baby” forever.
When the growing gets tough, keep going. Britney Spears survived scandals, divorces and one seriously embarrassing MTV Video Music Awards performance, and she still comes out on top with her music, like her latest quick hit “Hold It Against Me.” Usher’s taken his private romantic travails and turned them into fodder for hits — something he did most spectacularly on his 2004 Confessions album, which, in part, documented his split with TLC’s Rozanda “Chili” Thomas. Demi Lovato is the latest teen star staring down personal demons. She entered a treatment center in late 2010 to seek help for emotional and physical issues, thus avoiding any embarrassing Lindsay Lohan-style public meltdowns. Right now, her biggest career hurdle might be differentiating herself from Selena Gomez.
Ah, Selena Gomez! She’s got problems of her own, now that she’s receiving death threats on Twitter after being caught making out with Justin Bieber, which brings us to the final piece of advice: Before you grow up, don’t forget to date a fellow teen idol. Justin and Britney were once joined at the hips and lips. Nick Jonas romanced Miley Cyrus. Both Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift loved and lost Joe Jonas, though Swift rebounded nicely with Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner. It was only a matter of time before Bieber’s Romeo found his Juliet — hopefully, without the tragic denouement.
Once the furor dies down, and it always does, this might end up being Gomez’s best career move yet. Some girls will go on hating her for it, but they’ll want to be her, too. And that, kids, is key to being both a teen star and a grown-up icon.

 


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