When Pop Stars Grow Up: The Transition from Child to Adult Pop Star
For the longest time there has been talk about child stars transitioning from cute and sweet to accomplished and mature. However, most of the focus is on child actors in television and movies making the leap to adult roles.
While that has been a topic that has garnered its fair share of analysis and debate, there is not much talk of young pop stars transitioning into adulthood. However, it happens just as often and just as publicly as it does for actors.
Some make the transition quite easily while others stumble and full on the path from young and innocent to savvy and knowledgeable.
This hub takes a look at the careers of many teen idols and how they fared in going from the playground to the nightclub.
Many people forget that Stevie Wonder was not always considered the musical genius he is revered for being today. In 1963, he was just a 13 year old at Motown ready to show off his skills alongside the likes of Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and Smokey Robinson. However, since he was still a minor he was under the care and guidance of Barry Gordy, his tutor, and his mom.
Yet that did not inhibit him from playing his own instruments and writing his own songs. He had huge hits such as "Fingertips (Pts 1 and 2)" and "Uptight." However, there were some flops along the way. Tribute to Uncle Ray, anyone?
However, it took a groundbreaking album by musical big brother Marvin Gaye for Stevie to finally get his voice heard in the way he saw fit.
1971's Where I'm Coming From allowed Stevie complete freedom to produce and write the album the way he saw fit. It also allowed him to experiment with new sounds and ideas to create what would become his signature sound.
He eventually became the first artist to only win back to back Album of the Year honors at the Grammys for Innervisions and Fulffillingness' First Finale.
Stevie Wonder also became noted for being socially conscious through his music. Many of his hits dealt with the anguish of war, poverty, disease, racism, and heartache. However, he also focused on writing and creating some of the most memorable love songs of all time. It was in this ability to balance artistry, creativity, and realism that led him to having the most Grammys of any artist in history.
Even though it took years of negotiations and concessions, Stevie's persistence in establishing the vision for his sound, paid off handsomely.
If you wanted to be a teen idol in the 1970s- all you had to do was have feathered hair and a television show. That paid off for David Cassidy who starred on The Partridge Family from 1970 to 1974.
As the eldest and arguably cutest Partridge- he was able to capitalize on his fame and released five albums within the run of the show.
At the height of his fame he was able to capture the attention of teenage girls who had come down with a case of Cassidymania. While this helped keep his career going strong, it unfortunately led to the untimely death of concert-goer Bernadette Whelan who was trampled at one of Cassidy's London concerts.
David Cassidy was immediately saddened by what happened and was able to send his condolences to Whelan's parents. It was at this point that he realized he didn't like what his life had become- a constant stream of mass hysteria and multimedia omnipresence.
While on the Partridge Family, he became the face of many dolls, cereal boxes, lunch boxes, and other memorabilia. He would later go on to say that he felt exploited in his career and it ultimately led him to stop acting and pursuing music for a while.
He resurfaced in the late 1970s on an episode of Police Story which garnered him an Emmy nomination and a show based on his character on the episode. The show didn't last beyond one season and Cassidy finally went back to the music in the 1980s.
In the mid 1980s he begun a comeback with minor hits while also pursuing a new career in musical theatre.
David Cassidy continued working but remained out of the spotlight until he garnered headlines due to a DUI in 2010 which he entered rehab for.
While Cassidy has been able to remain out in front of his career post-Partridge, the pitfalls and successes he went through display an example of how overnight stardom does not always benefit a long-term career.
Now if you don't know or more likely remember who Bow Wow was. You should remember he started around 13 years ago with a Lil' in front of his name.
That being said Lil' Bow practically made history as the first child rapper to make it big. At the tender age of 6, he appeared in mentor Snoop Dogg's (AKA Big Bow Wow) video for the now iconic Gin and Juice. From their, his mother helped establish him as a young talent.
He ended up signing with Atlanta hip-hop impresario, Jermaine Dupri and in 2000 he released his first album- the aptly titled Beware of Dog. From there, he became a favorite of middle school girls for his trademark cornrows and beautiful brown eyes.
In 2002, he continued on his streak of melting pre-teen hearts by releasing Doggy Bag. He also starred in the movie Like Mike about a young kid whose sneakers transform him into a basketball player with Michael Jordan like skills.
In 2003, he dropped the Lil' after complaining there were too many Lil's on the scene and also saying he was getting older. He adapted a more mature sound and continued to draw fans interest.
Around 2005, he released another album, Wanted which marked his first release as a legal adult. However, the sound was very similar to his previous works.
In 2006, he released an album called the Price of Fame featuring the Chris Brown assisted hit single, "Shorty Like Mine."
However, around 2008 the growing pains finally kicked in as he started to fade on the charts. He continued to get notable roles, such as 2010s Lottery Ticket and 2011 Madea's Big Happy Family.
In the fall of 2012, he accepted a hosting gig on the show he dominated as a youngster, BET's 106 and Park.
In 2011, he surprised fans by saying he had a daughter with a former girlfriend. While rumors persist that our favorite canine-loving kiddie is still around trying to make it happen.
Usher began his world domination around the same time as Brain did of Pinky and the Brain- but unlike Brain- he ultimately succeeded.
Starting as a youngster on Star Search, he landed a record deal with the help of his mom and manager, Johnetta Patton.
Under the tutelage of Sean "Puffy" Combs, he released his eponymous debut album in 1994 at the tender age of 15. Unfortunately for him, the album hit #167 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and had no hits.
However, unlike present times he was given a second chance. So instead of doing the same thing, record label execs at LaFace (L.A. Reid and Babyface) introduced him to Jermaine Dupri who had his own record label and production studio in Usher's adopted hometown of Atlanta.
Usher was only in his late teens but decidedly had a lot to say. Working with Dupri, Babyface, and other gifted songwriters and producers to build a sound that would become his signature.
In 1997, Usher released his second album My Way featuring several hits including the title track, "U Make Me Wanna", and his first of several number ones, "Nice &Slow."
Usher suddenly went from a baby-faced cutie with potential to an international star and sex symbol. In the nearly 20 years since this album was released he has amassed a total of #9 number ones and has become one of the best selling artists in recent history.
In 2008, he extended is pop culture reach by mentoring Justin Bieber, a YouTube sensation from Canada looking to be an artist in his own right.
In 2012 it was announced that Usher would join the fourth season of the Voice as a coach alongside Shakira. They are replacing Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo Green until further notice.
If you were around in the 1990s there were many young stars on television, movies, and music but there were only a select few able to dominate more than one field. Brandy Norwood, better known as Brandy was able to do so without hesitation.
Launching herself onto the music scene in 1994, she also landed a starring role on the sitcom Thea. However, as Thea lasted only a season, she had no television role. However as it worked out she would launch her own sitcom in 1996, Moesha, and become a cultural icon for young girls everywhere.
Brandy's self-titled debut launched 3 top ten R&B singles and provided the template for 90s R&B for younger artists such as peers Usher and Monica.
Moesha became a bonafide hit on the UPN network and ran for five years. Norwood also released her immensely popular second album Never Say Never featuring the hits "Have You Ever" and "The Boy Is Mine" (featuring Monica). She continued to act in the sequel of the very popular I Knew What You Did Last Summer and the Whitney Houston produced Cinderella movie.
In 2001, things began to change as Brandy started her third album and became involved with frequent collaborator, Rodney Jerkins' co-producer, Robert "Big Bert" Smith. Brandy became pregnant with her first child but was not married to Smith. Following the advice of her handlers, she decided to say she was married when she was indeed not.
Fast forward to 2004 and her relationship with Smith ends. He admits that they were never married. Brandy subsequently spent the better half of the next decade trying to relaunch her career with many pitfalls along the way. After a sting on America's Got Talent in 2006 she fatally hit and killed a woman while driving in Los Angeles. She also released another album in 2008 and did a reality show co-starring her brother, Ray J and parents.
in 2012, she released her latest efffort Two Eleven featuring the Chris Brown assisted "Put It Down." It became her first notable hit in years but unfortunately Brandy is still known as Moesha. Some may say it had to do with her lying to fans and the public to protect her image and others say it had to with a lack of quality music. Either way, she's had a career that many would die for.
Britney Spears: Arguably the prototype for the millenial generation's struggle with success and happiness, Britney Spears shed her Mouse Ears in 1998 to become the biggest female pop star since Madonna. She also became the youngest female artist to have 3 #1 albums in a row. But the instant success came at a cost. After two failed marriages and a prolonged custody battle, Britney was put under conservatorship in 2008 with the guidance of her dad Jamie and has charted one of the most impressive musical comebacks in recent memory.
Michael Jackson: Before his untimely death, Michael Jackson was best known as the most successful boy band member to go solo. Even when he was with his brothers in the Jackson 5, he released solo singles such as "Ben." In 1979, he officially let the world know how massive his talent was with "Off the Wall." And went on to follow up with the most successful album of all-time, "Thriller."
Christina Aguilera: The former Mouseketeer came on the scene around the same time as fellow co-stars Britney Spears, JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake. Her career made great strides as she received much acclaim for her voice. However, her last two albums have not had much success on the Billboard charts in spite of her presence on NBC's The Voice.
Ricky Nelson: Arguably one of the first teen idols, he grew up in front of millions of Americans as part of his parent's sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. After the show ended, he seamlessly transitioned into adult stardom. However, he had a lot of help in being able to promote his recordings by being on television. After the show ended, his career never was the same and his drug abuse and stormy marriage took its toll. Sadly, he passed in 1985 at the age of 45 leaving behind his children.
More by this Author
A playlist of some of the most memorable songs with Baby in the title.
How come Beyonce is always caught playing copycat? Is she really an original?
What to buy, how to buy, and what you might want to think twice about before you buy