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Mark Wahlberg’s Celebrity Challenge: Making Justin Bieber a Movie Star

If anyone can do it, it would be the pop artist formerly known as Marky Mark. The task at hand: transforming Justin Bieber from Canadian teen-pop idol into Hollywood matinee idol

Mark Wahlberg already knows a thing or three about reinvention. When he first burst onto the entertainment scene in 1991 as the leader of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunk—a two-hit wonder from whom nobody expected any kind of longevity, and afterwards as a Calvin Klein underwear model—few probably thought he’d be likely to succeed past the mid-decade mark.

Yet two decades later, he’s still here. He’s a movie star and a respected actor, a successful producer (of the TV series Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, and of last year’s Best Picture Oscar contender, The Fighter) and an Academy Award acting nominee (Best Supporting Actor for 2006′s The Departed).

His next project: making Justin Bieber a film star. “I see the guy and spent time with him, and you see what he does and how he does it,” Wahlberg told MTV News last year, “and then you actually have a conversation with him, and it’s there.”

Picture this (because Wahlberg already has): Bieber in a The Color of Money-type film, which Wahlberg is developing for Paramount Pictures, with basketball replacing pool. Bieber would take the Tom Cruise role, and Wahlberg would cast a formidable screen legend like Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall or Jack Nicholson as the grizzled vet, the Color of Money archetype that finally won Paul Newman an Oscar in 1987.

It sounds like a dream job—for someone else. If Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw and Wahlberg himself have taught us anything, when making the transition from music to movies, it’s best to start small. Both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera tried to fulfill their film-star fantasy by starring above the title the first time out (in Crossroads and Burlesque, respectively), and thus far, neither one’s Hollywood dream has come true.

Enimen has yet to find a follow-up worthy of his debut starring role in 2002′s 8 Mile; the Hollywood heat surrounding The Bodyguard star Whitney Houston, set to test the acting waters again in a 2012 remake of Sparkle, quickly cooled after three films; Beyoncé has gotten plenty of acting work, but her Hollywood career has yet to generate any kind of major excitement; and Evita aside, Madonna has been most successful onscreen in supporting roles (Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own). Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar her first time out for Dreamgirls, but what has she done for us lately?

That Bieber’s 2011 documentary/concert film, Never Say Never, was a major box-office success ($73 million in North America) indicates that movie-ticket buyers will shell out bucks to see him on the big screen. And he’s already had a guest-starring role in C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. But pop stars are always booking cameos and story arcs in hit TV shows, and in Never Say Never, Bieber was literally playing himself. If Wahlberg is going to guide him through the Hollywood jungle, he’d be wise to pull out the map that he himself used.

For now, let somebody else drive. Don’t even let him ride shotgun just yet. Bieber would be better off in the backseat, cast in an ensemble movie where he doesn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting (see Taylor Swift in Valentine’s Day—on second thought, don’t).

When Wahlberg landed his first major starring role, in 1997′s Boogie Nights, he was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and surrounded by highly esteemed talents like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly and a soon-to-be-briefly resurgent (and Oscar-nominated for the first time) Burt Reynolds.

Even after Boogie Nights, Wahlberg’s most notable films—I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, The Fighter—have featured plenty of Oscar-caliber talent. And in The Departed, it was Wahlberg, not costars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon or Jack Nicholson who walked away with the Oscar nod.

But Wahlberg seems to have other ideas for Bieber, whom he calls “really talented.” And if he exhibits no discernible talent for film acting once the cameras roll? “I will extract it,” Wahlberg said.

Good luck to them both. They’ll need it. Wahlberg may have proven that he’s a miracle worker by going from rapper to underwear hunk to Oscar nominee, but Bieber holding his own with a DeNiro or a Duvall or a Nicholson sounds like an almost-impossible dream.

10 Music Stars Who Deserve a Hollywood Big-Screen Test

1. Lady Gaga

Best Performance in a Video: “Paparazzi”

2. John Mayer

Best Performance in a Video: “Who Says”

3. Ke$ha

Best Performance in a Video: “Blow”

4. Mary J. Blige

Best Performance in a Video: “Be Without You”

5. Pink

Best Performance in a Video: “Glitter in the Air” (live at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards)

6. Duffy

Best Performance in a Video: “Warwick Avenue”

7. Fiona Apple

Best Performance in a Video: “Fast As You Can”

8. Richard Ashcroft

Best Performance in a Video: “Break the Night with Colour”

9. Roisin Murphy

Best Performance in a Video: “Overpowered”

10. Brandon Flowers

Best Performance in a Video: The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done”

Soundcheck: Meet British Beauty VV Brown

You may not be familiar with this beautiful British import, but VV Brown is no newbie. Born Vanessa Brown in Northampton, England, the beautiful singer-songwriter-model-actress is already a star overseas.  Her debut album Travelling Like The Light soared to No. 1 on the French Digital Album chart and prompted a sold-out UK tour in 2009.

In 2010, she hit the road with Maroon 5, joining their North American tour before jumping on the UK leg of Pink’s Carnival Tour.  She hit the stage with Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige for BET’s Black Girls Rock.  She also made the television rounds on Ellen, The Late Show with David Letterman, Rachael Ray and Jimmy Kimmel Live! (among others) with her single, “Shark In The Water”, which eventually went gold in the US.

In November, she was featured on MTV’s documentary series, World of Jenks, chronicling her break into the US.
market. She describes her style as “alternative pop”, with her cutesy delivery disguising the deeper underlying notes on modern-day society that permeate her lyrics.

There’s something instantly cool about this soft-spoken import, who counts Q-Tip as a friend.  She has played at huge festivals like SXSW and Glastonbury, and toured two continents with major headliners, and still she’s noticeably grounded.

A true artist in every aspect, VV casually references the amazing architecture of Chicago, or notes the beauty that can be found in the lines of a vintage jacket during a conversation about touring.  “I like being creative. I love it from the core of my belly.  It’s what I would be doing either way.”  She seems to find the beauty in everything, and reflects it in her music, her personal style and her demeanor.

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Sound And Vision: Britney Spears At 30 — Where Does She Go From Here?

It seems like just yesterday: She was invading the dreams of pedophiles and lusty teenage boys everywhere. But that was 1998, the year Britney Spears, then sixteen, broke with her No. 1 debut single, “…Baby One More Time,” and its accompanying video, in which the singer made an unforgettable first impression as Lolita-lite, a sexy school girl who was up for just about anything.

At the time, Britney seemed destined for the cut-out bin in two years flat. Her synthetic pop sound didn’t sound built for longevity. And didn’t the name Britney Spears, which was too close for comfort to that of ’80s hair metal heads Britny Fox, have one-hit wonder written all over it?

Boy, was I wrong! Thirteen years later, she’s still with us. Her albums may no longer be as huge as they were at the dawn of the century, but she’s still one of the leading ladies of pop. Super-stardom, however, isn’t everything. Even an act with a hit list that’s as thematically shallow as Britney’s must crave a little artistic growth. She’ll turn thirty on Dec. 2, but to me, she’s still seventeen—partly because I don’t want to admit that I’m getting so old, but mostly because Britney herself still doesn’t sound as if she’s a day over twenty.

Sure she’s lived a lot. There have been two marriages, two divorces (actually, one divorce, one annulment), two children and countless scandals. I interviewed Britney for Teen People right after the release of her second album, Oops!… I Did It Again, in 2000, back when she still hearted Justin Timberlake. She struck me as a sweet teenage girl with a maturity level that matched her age. I don’t know what she’s like today, but her music doesn’t make her sound much older.

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Sound And Vision: Celebrity Feuds — Pop Is a Battlefield, World War II

“Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give ‘em all some place to go”

— Tom Petty, “Jammin’ Me” (1987)

“Fuck Tom Petty!”—Eddie Murphy

Oh, those crazy stars! What will they say next? And will they ever learn? What a tangled web they weave when they start to take pot shots at each other.

Celebrity feuds have existed since before the dawn of the pop charts. Eminem owes much of his early notoriety to cutting down to size the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync and Moby in videos and on record. Meanwhile, off the record (though always totally for attribution), Katy Perry has never met a fellow chart-topper she wouldn’t slag off.

But lately, stars keep colliding and disturbing the peace in the music galaxy. Liam Gallagher just filed suit against his brother Noel over the latter’s claim that Liam pulled out of a high-profile Oasis gig in 2009 due to a hangover and over comments Noel made blaming Liam for the demise of the band. But then brothers in arms have engaged in verbal—and occasionally, physical— combat since the heyday of the Kinks, which featured the dueling Davies, Ray and Dave. Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes, William and Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Kings of Leon‘s Followill brothers have the battle scars to prove it.

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Sound And Vision: Pop Goes the Previews — The Best and Worst of Fall Movie-Trailer Music

Whoever invented the movie preview must be some kind of genius. Because of them, half the fun of seeing a movie on the big screen is getting there—to the main attraction, that is. It always takes a few good trailers to put me in the mood. But sometimes, if the words don’t get in the way (damn, bad screenplays!), the music does. Too often terrible songs ruin perfectly good trailers—or make bad ones worse.

That said, movie-trailer music has come a long way. For a brief period in the early ’90s, nearly every other one seemed to feature the soothing new-age sounds of Enya floating by in the background. Nowadays we get a larger assortment of musical backdrops (pop, classical, rock, hip hop, techno and, of course, vintage Motown), some of which can actually turn must-avoid into must-see — at least until the coming attraction is over and sensible thinking once again prevails.

Variety, however, hasn’t done away with predictability, and recently, while screening trailers for some upcoming autumn releases, I noticed a few rules at play.

1. No self-respecting Oscar contender stoops to the tops of the pops. David Fincher may have gotten Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to score The Social Network last year, but he knew better than to use Radiohead’s 1992 hit “Creep” in the trailer. Instead, he used a haunting cover by Belgium’s Scala & Kolacny Brothers. This year, for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (December 21), he punctuates the sneak-peek action not with Led Zeppelin’s classic version of “Immigrant Song” but with a near-equally exhilariting remake by Reznor and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

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Sound And Vision: How Christina Aguilera Can Ignite Her Comeback? (Psst, She Doesn’t Need Eminem!)

Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Ke$ha and, of course, herself. As Rihanna sees it—or saw it in the September issue of Glamour magazine—they’re the girls who run the world of pop in 2011.

What? No Britney Spears. I’m pretty sure leaving her duet partner on the recent No. 1 remix of “S&M” off the list was an innocent oversight. But what about Christina Aguilera? That omission must have been intentional. (By the way, I’d certainly argue that Pink, who’s between albums and focused on mommyhood at the moment, and Adele, whose 21 album is outselling all of theirs combined, would qualify as much as Ke$ha.)

There was a time at the dawn of the millennium when Aguilera was the pop princess-in-waiting, second only to Britney Spears. But 2010 was truly her annus horribilis. First, there was Bionic, her fourth studio album, which failed to produce a major hit single and didn’t even go gold. Then her summer tour was cancelled. (She blamed scheduling issues, but the forecast no doubt called for limp ticket sales). And by autumn, her tepidly received film debut in Burlesque (a guilty pleasure and future camp classic if ever there was one, but mostly thanks to costar Cher), was doing nothing to restore luster to her falling star.

Her October divorce from Jordan Bratman, the father of her 3-year-old son Max, blemished her personal record, and flubbing the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XLV in February, further tarnished her professional one. By the time she was arrested for public intoxication in West Hollywood on March 1, her career seemed to be flatlining.

Get it to the OR! Stat!

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: How Christina Aguilera Can Ignite Her Comeback? (Psst, She Doesn’t Need Eminem!)’

Sound And Vision: How Mainstream And Cutting-Edge Learned To Co-Exist In Pop Harmony

A few weeks ago, Melbourne hosted the TV WEEK Logie Awards, which is like Australia’s Emmys, only with more reality TV, more cooking shows and music. Katy Perry and Maroon 5 represented American pop, and then there was rising UK star Jessie J, representing… well, I’m still not 100 percent sure. As she stalked the stage, decked out in glam-Goth basic black, performing her No. 1 UK hit “Price Tag,” my friend peeled his eyes away from the television, turned to me and announced, “Her look is cool and alternative, but her music is so lame and poppy. They don’t match at all!”

It’s a discordancy that’s starting to take over. Pop and rock and hip hop used to hang out on different sides of the playground, barely acknowledging each other, with the rare, revolutionary exception (think Run-D.M.C.‘s 1985 smash cover of Aerosmith‘s “Walk this Way,” featuring the vintage rock band on vocals and in the song’s video). If your music was too mainstream, strictly middle-of-the-road (a condition that afflicted neither Run-D.M.C.’s nor Aerosmith’s tunes at the time, which perhaps is why the hit sounded so effortless), there was no changing lanes. You could dress as wild as ’80s fashion would let you, but you would always be a pop star. Chart-toppers had little chance of drumming up street cred or working with artists whose tunes dangled from the cutting edge. Why do you think Duran Duran, one of the most influential bands of the Reagan era, still hasn’t been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and is only now, more than two decades past its prime, publicly earning the respect of well-respected men like David Lynch, who directed the band’s recent American Express online concert?

Suddenly its cool to be alternative and pop. We’ve got Katy Perry mingling with Snoop Dogg and Kanye West on record and with bad-boy British comic Russell Brand in holy matrimony, and Ke$ha singing some of the poppiest songs on the charts and casting James van der Beek, one of Hollywood’s most white-bread actors, in her video but tarting it up just enough to come across as one of the coolest girls in school. (Ever the trendsetter, in the ’80s, Madonna had the good sense to tousle her image by marrying bad boy Sean Penn.) Meanwhile, Rihanna—a pop princess if ever there was one—holds court with Eminem and sings about how she’s “Hard” (as Young Jeezy raps in her defense).

Lady Gaga dresses like a freak and breaks every sartorial rule while singing what is basically the rave music of every ’90s teenage dream. Her former video costar Beyoncé alternates between straight-up pop (“Halo,” “Sweet Dreams”) and darker hip hop (“Diva” and current single “Run the World [Girls]“), while A Rocket to the Moon and Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy are among those who have covered “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Try This (her 2003 flop that, in my opinion, is her best album) aside, Pink‘s ultra-commercial music has never mirrored her rock-chick attitude. Even Coldplay, one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, second perhaps only to U2, collaborated with, of all people, Kylie Minogue on the 2008 World AID’s Day charity single “Lhuna.”

As with so many recent musical trends, the current shift toward the mainstream and the cutting edge making strange bedfellows began with hip hop. If a roguish rapper like Eminem could rhyme alongside pop singers (first Dido on “Stan,” then Elton John at the 2001 GRAMMYs, and most recently, Pink and Rihanna on Recovery), couldn’t all musicians, regardless of genre, get along? Sure they can, but the commercial results have been mixed. There’ve been huge hits—the Katy Perry singles “California Gurls” and “E.T.” returned her rapper costars, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, respectively, to No. 1 for the first time in eons—but when Alicia Keys met Jack White for “Another Way to Die,” the theme for the last James Bond flick, 2008′s Quantum of Solace, it was a one-week wonder on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 81.

Perhaps Keys’ R&B and pop fans and White’s alternative ones didn’t know what to do with the meeting of their musical minds, which was nonethess one of the best singles of 2008. Of course, there are artists who resist, too. Remember when Ryan Adams used to go off on fans who requested Bryan Adams‘ “Summer of ’69″ because he was fed up with being compared to the ’80s and ’90s pop superstar with the almost-identical name? (He once had a fan tossed out of a Nashville concert for daring to do the unthinkable!)

Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards probably was as much about the cutting edge (hip hop) vs. the mainstream (country-pop) as it was about the visual supremacy of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video. In February, I read a Billboard.com interview where empress of ’80s cool Chrissie Hynde talked about her upcoming Super Bowl weekend performance on CMT Crossroads with country diva Faith Hill, and she said she was unfamiliar with Hill’s music and admitted, “I don’t know much about country music, period.” Then there’s Kings of Leon, best known in the US for the Top 5 hit “Use Somebody”. Although the band would hardly be considered alternative in its recent hit-making incarnation, the guys  nonetheless refused to allow Glee to use “Somebody.” (I bet South Park or Dexter or Weeds would have gotten their blessing.)

But if Jay-Z can let the Glee kids turn “Empire State of Mind” into a show tune, if Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler can sit beside Jennifer Lopez at the American Idol judges table, if “F–k You” singer Cee Lo Green can go from collaborating with Danger Mouse (in Gnarls Barkley) to being one of Christina Aguilera‘s fellow judges on The Voice, then we might yet live to hear an Eminem track featuring Britney Spears.

 

Sound And Vision: The Rise and Rise of Pop’s Singles Scene

Looking for some hot chart action? The US singles scene is the place to be. Thanks to iTunes and pop’s hottest stars, lately, it’s moving and shaking— especially over on Billboard’s Hot Digital Songs chart. For the week ending March 26, 2011, Katy Perry‘s “E.T.” ruled, with 216,000 downloads sold. At No. 5, Britney Spears‘ “Till The World Ends” had moved 158,000 units. The entire Top 10—which features songs by Jennifer Lopez (215K), Lady Gaga (176K), Rihanna (168K), Cee Lo Green (157K), Ke$ha (140K), Pink (124K), Dr. Dre (124K) and Chris Brown (117K)—had enjoyed downloads north of 100,000.
Whoa! What’s this? Isn’t the music industry supposed to be on life support, hanging by a thread? Well, it is, but as album sales continue to decline (only the Top 2 albums, by Lupe Fiasco and Adele, sold more than 100,000 during the same week), the singles market is prospering. Year-to-date album sales were down 7 percent compared to the same 2010 period, while year-to-date single sales were up 7 percent. One decade ago, the demand for singles was waning rapidly in the US, en route to bottoming out. Fewer labels were releasing physical CD singles, and Billboard’s Hot 100 was becoming increasingly weighted in favor of airplay, as many of the songs climbing the chart weren’t even available for purchase outside of the albums on which they appeared.

But iTunes has turned the singles scene around. With the click of a mouse, fans can have whatever song they want from a particular artist without having to buy an entire album. As a result, there’s been a surge in singles stars, recording artists like Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Bruno Mars, who sells tons of singles each time out while enjoying respectable but relatively modest album sales. For the week ending March 26th, Perry was on the verge of landing her fourth No. 1 Hot 100 single from her Teenage Dream album. Back in the day, an album would be platinum several times over by the time it launched its fourth No. 1—see Michael Jackson‘s Bad, or Janet Jackson‘s Rhythm Nation 1814—yet Perry’s album is currently only around 1.2 million, which is a long way from double-platinum.
The new crop of solo stars aren’t the only ones whose chart numbers are benefitting from the resurgent single. The cast of Glee recently surpassed Elvis Presley‘s record for putting the most songs on the Hot 100 almost completely on the strength of single sales, and the Glee kids keep putting out the hits. Four Glee songs debuted on the March 26 Hot 100, and three of them—”Landslide” at No. 23, with 115,000 downloads, “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” at No. 57, and “Kiss” at No. 83— featured Gwyneth Paltrow on vocals.
The Academy Award winner just signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records, and although she has yet to release an album, she’s already sung lead on eight Billboard chart hits. But Atlantic executives shouldn’t count on seeing much green from the Paltrow deal just yet. Though single sales are more robust than ever, at just around $1.29 a download, they don’t line the coffers of record companies the way album sales do.
If Paltrow is to help reverse the industry’s sagging fortunes, she’ll have to appeal to fans beyond one-single stands and inspire album-length devotion, which few new solo stars aside from Lady Gaga and Adele have done in recent years. (In three weeks, Adele’s 21 sold roughly half of what Teenage Dream, with its four hit singles, did in six months.) The road is long and hard, and with so many pop divas currently slogging through it, it’s going to take a lot more than a Gleek following for Paltrow to pull out into the lead.

Sound And Vision: Where Is the Love? — The Disappearing Power-Ballad Duet

Back in the day, every major female pop star had one: a male pop star (or two, or three or more) who loved her—at least on the record and on the charts. Over the years, Barbra Streisand had Neil Diamond, Barry Gibb and Bryan Adams. Diana Ross had Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Julio Iglesias. Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks had their pick of men (Andy Gibb, Don Henley, Aaron Neville, Tom Petty and John Travolta, among them.) Whitney Houston had Teddy Pendergrass, Bobby Brown, Enrique Iglesias and George Michael. Madonna had Prince. Celine Dion had Peabo Bryson and R. Kelly. Mariah Carey had Luther Vandross, and so did Janet Jackson.
But where did the love go? Though there have been scattered duet hits in recent years (Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown‘s “No Air,” Ciara and Justin Timberlake‘s “Love Sex Magic”), they are fewer and much farther between. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated March 19, 2011, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson‘s country chart topper, was the only traditional male-female duet, way down at No. 34.
I’d say that part of the blame lies with the faltering power ballad, which isn’t the chart force that it was in the days when Celine Dion ruled the airwaves. Consider pop’s leading single males: Both of Usher‘s and Enrique Iglesias’s two recent Top 10 Hot 100 singles have been not ballads but dance-oriented collaborations with rappers and, in the case of Usher’s “OMG,” Will.i.am. Chris Brown’s comeback-in-progress also has been harder-edged and boosted by male guest stars like Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, and of Justin Bieber‘s two Top 10s to date, neither has been a ballad, both were with rappers.
But it’s not just about what the public seems to want— it seems to be what the artists want, too. Why play the conventional good girl, duetting with Usher or Iglesias, when it’s so much more fun being bad? In the past year or so, both Rihanna and Katy Perry have gone Top 10 with rappers (Eminem and Drake, and Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, respectively). Meanwhile, Ke$ha went there with electronica hipsters 3OH!3 (after scoring her first hit riding shotgun with Flo Rida), and Beyoncé and Lady Gaga got there together.
As for the guys, boy-on-boy (or boys) rule: Bruno Mars with B.o.B and Travie McCoy, Jeremih with 50 Cent, Usher and Iglesias with Pitbull, Iglesias and Bieber with Ludacris. If it were 2001, Iglesias, or Ricky Martin, probably already would have zipped up the charts with Katy Perry and/or Rihanna on his arm. But it’s 2011, and just as every good girl wants a bad-boy rapper by her side, it seems the hit-making males would rather roll with the rough boys than mush it up with the ladies.
Will the power ballad survive the current disinterest in them? Can singing couples make a comeback? I’d be surprised if they didn’t. Pop music is cyclical, and if Jennifer Lopez can rise again, so can love (which, incidentally happens to be the title of J. Lo’s upcoming album, minus a question mark). All it needs is the right tag team to deliver it back into the public’s good graces and up the charts. I’d pay money to hear Pink and Adam Lambert together, but would the masses buy it? I’m not so sure, but wouldn’t it be just like them both to try and find out?

Sound And Vision: Attention, Pop Stars! Can’t Get on “Glee”? Try “How I Met Your Mother”

Several weeks ago, I was watching a new episode of How I Met Your Mother, and there she was—another A-list pop singer. This time, Katy Perry, guest-starring as a dumb brunette the guys call Honey because they can’t remember her real name. That’s when it dawned on me: Though it has absolutely nothing to do with music (Is there ever even anything playing on the jukebox at McLaren’s?), HIMYM attracts more pop talent than any TV comedy this side of Glee.
A musical flashback: Enrique Iglesias had a two-episode arc at the beginning of the third season as Robin’s post-break-up-with-Ted Argentine holiday fling, while Mandy Moore appeared in that season’s premiere as Ted’s tattooed rebound bad girl. Britney Spears also worked two appearances into her comeback plan during season three, popping up as a receptionist who was obsessed with Ted but ended up getting sucked in by womanizer Barney.
So did Jennifer Lopez. Before scoring her American Idol gig, she showed up in 2010 as a The Rules-type author who tried (and failed) to beat the man-slut at his own game and ended up breaking her own rules. Last year, Idol alumnus Carrie Underwood also waltzed into McLaren’s as a pharmaceutical sales rep who swept Ted off his feet and strung him along, and earlier this season, Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger did her own guest stint as Robin’s former BFF from Canada.
What do the hitmakers of pop see in How I Met Your Mother? Why that show and not, say, The Big Bang Theory? A few, um, theories: HIMYM is a popular, trendy sitcom with cool characters (unlike the nerds that populate, say, TBBT), and though it won’t boost anyone’s thespian cred the way a stint on Modern Family might, it could certainly raise the hipness quotient of very mainstream pop stars.

Also, there isn’t much real acting involved. Iglesias, Underwood and Perry merely had to memorize their lines and look good. Scherzinger got to do what shedoes best: sing. And Spears, Lopez and Moore were required to do no more than they’d have to do in a Saturday Night Live skit. Getting onto HIMYM is an excellent way to tell the world, “Look, I’m still in,” without having to exhibit any Emmy-caliber acting talent or even be particularly funny. (Six seasons in, the show’s crack ensemble does all the heavy lifting without so much as breaking a sweat.)
Compared to Will & Grace, which in its later seasons depended too much on celebrity stunt casting, How I Met Your Mother still uses big-name guest stars pretty sparingly. You can accept a spot on the show without feeling like everyone else already beat you to it. And unlike on Glee, you don’t have to sing unless you want to, which must be music to the ears of lip-syncing, Auto-Tuned pop stars.
Who’s next? Jessica Simpson is too five years ago, Pink is too cool for Barney or Ted, Gaga is too Glee. (Despite the presence of Neil Patrick Harris, she’d no doubt want to go more gay than HIMYM for her first big TV guest spot.) Usher would be a great match for Robin, and Beyoncé would be an interesting choice for the titular “Mother,” but I can’t imagine the ultra-white show going there.
So might I suggest Ke$ha, the whitest pop star on the planet, as a tart who drinks Ted under the table, leaves blue lipstick marks all over Barney and cat fights with Lily. In other words, she’d basically be playing herself. They can even invite back her “Blow” video costar and season-three guest James Van Der Beek as Robin’s loser ex, a washed-up musician who gives Ke$ha a hard time and a preview of what might be in store.

 


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