Many people would argue that Miley Cyrus is currently one of the most controversial figures in pop culture. It really does not take an expert to see why this is. Just five years ago, Cyrus was the star of Hannah Montana, one of Disney Channel’s most popular television shows, and is now the poster child for twerking and makes music about sex, drugs, partying, etc. Obviously, most parents are not impressed with this transition and believe Cyrus is a horrible influence on the audience that admired her as Hannah Montana. This raises the question, do former teenage stars need to sell sex in order to stay relevant in the mainstream?
Well it would appear that according to how things are looking now that the answer is yes. This is based on looking at people beyond Cyrus who have followed this trend. Selena Gomez, another Disney Channel star, is currently enjoying success from her latest, and most mature, single Good For You, which peaked at number 5 on the Billboard charts. This is the highest charting song of Gomez’ career and should be good publicity for her upcoming album, Revival, which based on its cover that features Selena posing completely nude, seems to be a more adult piece of music. Gomez has also transitioned to edgier roles in her acting career. After doing work in tamer movies such as Ramona and Beezus and Monte Carlo, she started taking on roles in the vulgar crime film Spring Breakers, alongside another Disney star Vanessa Hudgens, and is set to have a large role in this summer’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which also will star another Disney actor, Zac Efron.
It seems like the list of former teen stars that are turning adult is huge now. Demi Lovato just released Cool For the Summer about a sexual summer fling, Ariana Grande is still enjoying fame brought on by hits with sex appeal such as Bang Bang and Love Me Harder, and Nick Jonas has become a sex symbol in his own right. So the question is, are there any teen stars who have maintained innocence? I think back to an old Disney star, Hilary Duff, who continued to try to appeal to younger audiences once her show Lizzie McGuire ended. Movies like A Cinderella Story and the Cheaper by the Dozen series were not enough to keep her relevant and after only a couple years Duff had fallen out of the attention of the general public. Just this summer, Duff released an album that only managed to last one week on the Billboard 200 before falling off.
But we know that artists can keep their content tame while still having massive fan bases. People like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Sam Smith are popular while not selling music on sex appeal or for partying. So why haven’t any contemporary teen stars tried this approach? Is the need to shed off the Disney image that strong or do we just put too much emphasis on the content these stars put out because of where they started out? When an artist like The Weeknd, Fetty Wap, or Iggy Azalea put out mature content it is not met with nearly as much controversy. Should we just try to erase our previous perceptions of these artists and let them try to fit into the current state of pop culture? Maybe we will one day get a teen star who can make a more natural progression as an adult artist without selling themselves on sex but, as of now it seems we might still have to continue waiting.