Pop/Rock  •  Dance

Teen Pop

Teen Pop is essentially dance-pop, pop, and urban ballads that are marketed to teens. Often, it's performed by teens, as well. Of course, music made for teenagers has been around since the dawn of the modern recording industry, from the bobby-socked girls that swooned for Sinatra to the legions of fans of Fabian or the Bay City Rollers, but teen pop is the teen music made during the late '80s and '90s. It had its first great flourish in the last years of the decade, as Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and New Kids on the Block rode to stardom on their lite, catchy, commercial dance-pop tunes and adult contemporary ballads. NKOTB, in particular, set the template for the genre, as they name-dropped hip urban trends while remaining completely wholesome and cutely commercial. During the first two years of the '90s, teen pop dominated American charts, but once Nirvana crossed over into the mainstream, it was done for. At least, that's how it appeared. In reality, it went underground and across the sea, where Take That ruled the U.K. charts with records that were equal parts NKOTB and George Michael. They had a few peers that remained British sensations, but Take That were the undisputed kings of teen pop. Just as they were on the brink of American success with their 1994 single "Back for Good," they imploded, just as British teens became fascinated with Brit-pop, the U.K. equivalent of the grunge revolution. For a brief time, there was no teen pop on either side of the Atlantic, but that all changed once the Spice Girls released their debut single, "Wannabe" in the summer of 1996. A photogenic, cleverly-marketed five-piece, the Spice Girls were sensations throughout the U.K., and spread like wildfire in the U.S. in 1997. Their success opened the doors for a wave of teen pop that was stronger than that in the late '80s. Hanson was the first out of the gate in 1997 with their spruced-up oldies rock, and then the Backstreet Boys eclipsed all of their peers during 1998 with a string of hit singles. Others followed in their shadow, whether it was the very similar 'N Sync or the Spice Girls-styled All Saints. In 1999, teen pop showed no signs of decline, as it produced a new trend -- the pop Lolita. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera weren't out of their teens, but they strutted like Madonna in her prime and had music that was nearly as suggestive. Both Spears and Aguilera sold millions of records, just like the Backstreets and 'N Sync, proving that it wasn't just teenage girls buying teen pop in the late '90s, arguably the style's golden era.