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Opinion: Bieber, Taylor, And Selena—Why Today’s Pop Star Should Just Grow Up

Taylor Swift works within the well-worn cliché of phenomenon. At 23, the country music star turned global behemoth is a chart-conquering, CoverGirl-endorsing, one-woman cottage industry; a superstar so unavoidable that at times the Pennsylvania native seems like she is her own musical genre. And the T.F. genre—a bankable mix of perpetually heartbroken teen-aimed anthems, boy-crazy tabloid drama, and unbridled girl-power enthusiasm—is big business.

Swift also happens to be the lead cheerleader in pop music’s increasingly unsophisticated downward spiral that includes the likes of Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and One Direction. But this dramatic lowering of the bar hasn’t always been the case.

For decades, the pop tradition had benefited greatly from a separation of church and state. Music acts that catered exclusively to a much younger demographic happily worked below the adult levels of popular visionaries that dared to go beyond formula or script. If Debbie Gibson was too playground for your liking, there was always Madonna—who was busy pissing off the Catholic Church by kissing a black Jesus (oh, the horror!) in the controversial video for her brilliant 1989 single “Like A Prayer.” If New Kids On The Block was more in your little sister’s lane, the sex-personified Prince was there to scare the living hell out of your parents while raising your musical IQ with an ingenious hybrid funk-rock-pop sound that rarely repeated itself. It was proof that popular music at its highest form could be fun, smart and dangerous.

Even during the late ‘90s when the likes of Britney Spears, 'N Sync, and the Backstreet Boys dominated the charts—with their cult-like followings and publicity machine on full blast—the TRL favorites were viewed within reasonable context. Sure they sold a shit load of albums, but the public didn’t look to them to be musical leaders. Sophisticated listeners demanded they evolve, and some indeed did just that (see: Britney, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake).

But over the past few years, pop music has become Disney-fied.

Taylor Swift is ruling her kingdom with as much emotional and artistic depth as a Goosebumps book. Yes, her latest single, “Everything Has Changed,” finds the talented artist moving into more mature realms (“All I know since yesterday is everything has changed/And all my walls stood tall painted blue/But I'll take them down, take them down and open up the door for you…”). And her overall cultural impact should not be dismissed. Swift’s latest effort, Red, has moved more than 5 million copies (and counting) internationally. According to a May 17 Billboard report, her Red Tour is leading the concert box office race with over $15 million in tickets sold. Swift, who has now graduated from arenas to that rare territory of football stadiums, is coming off a monster year in which she took in $57 million.

Yet Swift, who writes most of her own material—an aberration in today’s microwave music scene—has built her sizable fame on pubescent-tailored sing-alongs such as “You Belong To Me,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “22.” When she cries, “Knew you were trouble when you walked in/So shame on me now” on the aptly-titled “I Knew You Were Trouble,” it’s as if Swift is channeling all the unfiltered heartbreak of 13-year-old girls everywhere. Indeed, for such a natural talent, it’s the kind of pedestrian line that leaves you wanting more from the older, guitar-strumming American doll.

However, Bieber, Gomez and One Direction makes Swift seem like the second-coming of Joni Mitchell.

When the 19-year-old Biebs isn’t being chased down by ex-NFL players for reckless driving or getting booed at an award show, he’s headlining a scream-inducing, sold-out world tour and extending his streak of platinum-plus releases. However, despite such immense success, Bieber is still struggling to be taken seriously as an artist. Believe has stumbled in its bid to garner the Canadian performer his own Justified. The kid seems light years away from the respectability that Timberlake finally achieved with his 2002 solo debut. Bieber’s on-again/off again girlfriend Gomez, 20, is picking from even lower hanging fruit with her faux Middle Eastern pop smash “Come & Get It,” a lifeless track that’s as sexy as a $55 light bill.

These baby acts would do well to study pop music history beyond copping a move or style. The most commercially successful star of the ‘80s era, the late Michael Jackson, colored outside the big-boy lines despite his peerless appeal to younger fans. Forget Maury Povich. Grade-school kids were singing their little hearts out to 1982’s “Billie Jean,” a landmark single on which our glove-wearing protagonist protested that the kid was not his son!***

So how did today’s world-beating pop stars become so infantile? How have they at times eclipsed their more adventurous pop contemporaries like Bruno Mars, Rihanna or P!nk? Follow the money. At a time when a sluggish music industry is steadily shrinking (2012 RIAA sales figures show a 0.9 percent drop in overall sales to $7.1 billion, a disappointing number compared to 2011 when sales actually rose to 0.2 percent), the recording biz will gladly take what it can get. That means more acts in the mode of One Direction, currently the biggest pop group on the planet. More than a decade ago, the rag-tag British outfit would have struggled to keep up with D-league boy band 98 Degrees. But in 2013, boasting millions of Twitter followers equals the new platinum. Within today’s social media-driven market, youth culture has not only completely taken over; it’s gotten decisively younger.

What you are left with is 19-year-old, shaggy-haired One Direction favorite Harry Styles going from teen magazine pinup to Cougar fodder. Bow to your new pop deity. God help us all.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

***[Sidenote: While it may seem unfair to name check three of the biggest music icons of all time, keep this in perspective…MJ, Mr. Nelson and Madge were all under the age of 25 when they broke through with their respective, critically acclaimed adult statements. In fact, Michael was 21 when he dropped 1978’s Off The Wall. And Prince was 22 when he released his self-titled sophomore breakthrough…Hell, George Michael was 24 when he shocked the world with Faith (1987). Pop greatness has to start from somewhere, folks.]

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Gospel legend Donnie McClurkin couldn't be more grateful after surviving a car accident this past Wednesday (Dec. 12).

The "We Fall Down" singer was driving on the road in the earlier part of the day when he passed out and began weaving into traffic. He reportedly struck the middle concrete island.

Following the incident, he posted a selfie of him on the hospital bed in scrubs on Facebook. Along with the photo, he explained that he woke up from the accident with stitches on his left thumb, on top of having a sprained wrist, and hurt knee. His car was also completely totaled.

"I AM ALIVE!!!! Somewhat mangled, stitches on left thumb, sprained wrist, hurt knee, but I’m still here! God and two angels saved my life!," the Grammy-winning artist wrote.

He also mentioned that two "angels" pulled him out the car to safety and medical attention. "I owe them...I am still here by the grace of God! Thank you, Lord...thank you!" he added.

On Friday (Dec. 14), McClurkin posted to his Facebook page again, sharing several photos of his destroyed car. "This is the totaled car that two angels rescued me from ....after passing out while driving I don’t remember most of what happened a day and a half ago...but God," he wrote. "I overrode doctors and sisters advice and flew to KENYA today for ministry Saturday @ TWO RIVERS. and home on this Sunday to celebrate life."

In happier news, McClurkin also took time to plug in his new Christmas single titled "My Favorite Things." Check out McClurkin's posts on social media and stream his new song below.

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Nicki Minaj's Boyfriend Kenneth Petty Received 18 Violations During Prison Stint

Nicki Minaj's new boyfriend, Kenneth Petty has a very troubled past.

On Friday (Dec. 14), TMZ revealed court documents disclosing Petty's history of disciplinary actions while he was an inmate in New York for manslaughter from 2006 to 2013.

When he entered the correctional facility, he was reportedly written up for creating a disturbance. Later during his stint, he was hit with a slew of disciplinary actions following a series of violent actions that included fighting, making terroristic threats, and "disobeying a direct order."

In 2009, prison faculty placed him in solitary confinement for four months as part of being reprimanded for nine different violations. Petty lost privileges that included the usage of the inmate telephone service, recreational activity, and the prison canteen.

In addition to his prison violations, Petty is a convicted sex offender. At the age of 16, he was tried as an adult served a four-year sentence for attempted rape of a minor.

Petty, who hails from the same borough as Nicki, Queens, knew the platinum-selling rap star since she was a teenager. They dated for a short period years prior to reuniting.

Minaj posted various photos of her and Petty going on a vacation getaway earlier this month. Sources close to Minaj told the celebrity gossip website that the 36-year-old hip-hop artist is  "happier than she's been in years" with Petty.

 

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Sandy Hook Elementary Evacuates After Bomb Threat On 6th Anniversary Of Mass Shooting

Sandy Hook Elementary School was reportedly forced to evacuate its students and administration on Friday (Dec. 14), after receiving a bomb threat, CNN reports. The incident occurred on the sixth anniversary of the school's tragic mass shooting.

Newtown, Connecticut Police Lt. Aaron Bahamonde stated that the threat didn't appear to be substantial, but they decided to  evacuate the facility as an extra precaution.

Bomb squads reportedly swept the school and surrounding area for explosive devices but did not discover anything on the property. They later concluded that there was no immediate threat. The school administration dismissed students and faculty for the rest of the day however, considering the previous incident.

As previously noted, Sandy Hook endured a horrific mass shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult, staff members.

Earlier this month, thousands of documents were released about Lanza that revealed his mental state and social status in the years leading up to the shooting.

The shooting is not believed to be in connection to the recent string of bomb scares around the nation that targeted major politicians including the former first families Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

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