In Defence Of The Smash Hits Centrefold

I read an emotional piece by a long time Joni Mitchell fan this weekend, about her sadness at the singer songwriter’s illness and recent hospitalisation. It’s a tale is of fandom, a love for Mitchell’s work, what she signifies as an artist, her meaning over the decades.

I get it. We all have someone like that; I have artists I love, I adore their work. If I like someone I buy their work obsessively (I was going to say borderline obsessive, but that would be wrong; it’s obsessive alright and I’m proud of it). I hate to have gaps in my collection. This why my house is crammed with books and records; my husband is the same. (We desperately need a bigger house.)

I bought this box set of Elvis cassettes last month from a charity shop. I have no cassette player, but still I bought it. Fandom logic.
I bought this box set of Elvis cassettes last month from a charity shop. I have no cassette player, but still I bought it. Fandom logic.

Fandom is a personal pursuit; we each deal with it in our own way. Some fans don’t like the label fan at all, so deride and mock it as a blind faith. But to me fandom is not that; it’s a joy, a pleasure; with no shame attached.

In the Joni piece fandom of the singer songwriter is examined from every angle; Joni love lasts forever, not like our silly teen fandom of tennybop stars, where when we  get older and know better we cringe and shudder at the memory of the posters on our bedroom wall, and the crushes we had…

Erm…hang on a minute.  We should cringe and shudder at our teen fandom?  Be ashamed of something we got immense pleasure from? Rub out and cancel a significant part of our formative years like they never existed?

I don’t think so.

Ok, it’s easy to take the piss out of teenybop stars and those who follow them. It’s not rocket science to see why it happens:

Boy and girl bands don’t stay around for long, nor do the dancing prancing boy-men trilling soppy ballads.

The music is poppy, light and fluffy, disposable, here today and ta-ra tomorrow.

Pop tarts have short careers, product dissed and dating easily.

They’re not credible,but instead a Grammy free zone.

But…so what? Why does pop music have to be classic ( a problematic notion in itself, but that’s another article entirely) to be enjoyed? Everything has to stand the test of time, or else it’s worth nowt? Really? We’re going with that, are we?

We live in a time of the temporary, fashion clothes lasting for a handful of washes at best; every household implement seems to be made out of crackable plastic with a sell by date looming ever closer but let’s not fool ourselves; trends are nothing new. Trends are called trends for a reason, spiking high and harsh then falling off the grid, plunging into a freefall of obscurity.

Adults indulge happily in trends/temporary fandom, but are not invited to mock themselves. Faith in football teams and players is no different to the hoards of girls who camp out for One Direction tickets, the sense of tribalism, being part of a gang, spending time with peers is identical. Only we don’t take the piss out of men and women who trot off to the match every Saturday, handing over £LOTS for the pleasure, do we?

And quite right too, because it’s bloody rude apart from anything else.

We should NEVER be ashamed of our teeny bop fandom. The consumption of pop music by teenage and prepubescent girls is constantly dismissed as frivolous or silly, people get offended by it. Personally I think it scares adults, the notion of girls getting together, bonding over the same pursuit and passion. I’m still working out why such a thing is so frightening (answers on a postcard, please – or the comment box below).

The thing is, being a teenager is shit. Everyone’s teenage years carry different shades and levels of that shit.  As a teenager you have to conform, your home and school life demanding different types of behaviour; you can’t stand out too much at school or else you’ll get battered (or was that just my school?) but stand out enough so the teacher thinks well of you; don’t work too hard or else you’re a swot, but if you don’t…

The GCSE pressure cooker is hell, friends aren’t always friends at all, they shift allegiances as and when.  Teenagers’ parents never understand them and no wonder; teenagers don’t understand themselves, for fuck’s sake.

Sometimes, teenage girls have one constant; teeny bop fandom.  Posters on the bedroom wall, tunes on an iPod, they’re the things always there, lifelines both and a comfort. I don’t have a problem with that and can’t understand why anyone else would. Just because teenybop pop stars are a temporary comfort takes nothing away from their value, a very precious value at that.

My own sister was a Bay City Rollers fan as a teenager. You can read about that here.

@cathbore

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