I have long been frustrated by the way Disney-pop and teen-pop in general have been ignored by terrestrial radio. Though I understand why programmers have avoided the more tween and pre-tween oriented music—that is, the real kid’s stuff—ignoring big-selling artists like Aly and AJ (“Potential Breakup Song” went platinum but never made the Hot 100 Airplay chart), the Jonas Brothers (17 million albums sold, yet they only made the Airplay chart twice, and never got higher than 55), or Demi Lovato, makes far less sense. Though Miley Cyrus managed to break through the barrier with “Party In the USA”, that may have been due more to radio’s love of anything produced by Dr. Luke. Selena Gomez is the only other Disney-associated artist to make any impression on the airplay charts, and she only managed it with her most recent single, “Love You Like A Love Song”, which peaked at 15 in February. Not only would it seem to be in radio’s interest to play records that are actually popular, catching on to these artists would have given them a head start on capturing the audience that will dominate pop culture over the next decade.
Maybe they’re starting to figure that out, even if the realization has come not through Disney (whose influence has faded, at least for the moment) but as the result of an invasion of foreigners. Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Wanted, and One Direction have made major inroads on the airplay chart in the last two months, and are popping up in all sorts of places you wouldn’t expect to find them. Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” finally broke top twenty on the chart this week after being in the top ten in digital sales for almost two months, following Bieber, whose “Boyfriend “ is his first top twenty airplay hit (his previous peak was “Baby”, which made it to 24). Meanwhile, The Wanted, who skirt the demographic edge between teen-pop and whatever comes after (there really isn’t a name for it—just “pop”, I guess), debuted this week on the slowest moving of all radio formats, Adult Contemporary. Even Demi Lovato, who, despite her celebrity, emotional crack-up, and selling several million records has never made Hot 100 Airplay, finally broke through, debuting this week at 72.
It’s possible, however, that this will be short-lived. Bieber’s record has already peaked. Jepsen is still climbing, but chances are the execrable “Payphone” will keep her from making number one, and the Curiosity EP doesn’t suggest any worthy follow-up, at least for a while. She may be destined for one-shot heaven. The same applies to The Wanted and One Direction. Disney is essentially dormant, and though Nickelodeon’s attempts to cash in on the teen market have at least been interesting, only Victoria Justice has made any decent records, and none of them have shown any traction on radio. Unless some other surprise pops up, this may be teen pop’s high water mark for the foreseeable future.