Avoiding Pop Star Burn-Out

Musical pop stars impress me as working professionals. They are forced to live under pressures of stardom 24/7, and, if there’s one thing I can imagine it is that the spotlight burns hot.

Just the tour schedule alone for a given pop star is daunting.

Adele is as close to the height of her career as any one of today’s A-list pop musicians. Her 2016-17 tour is outlined on Wikipedia as the following:

Between February 2016 and June 2017 Adele played 51 shows in Europe, 58 in North America, and 11 in Oceania (120 total). Attendance and box office revenue are estimated 1.54 million patrons, and $167.6 million respectively. The expectation of concert goers, agents, media and of Adele herself were that she would knock every single concert out of the park – lest she “let down her fans”.

I look at these statistics and sympathize with the stars who, over the years, have lost their direction and appear in the media to be hot messes. But interestingly, based on my bearing witness to popular culture for over the past two decades, I can say that I see these “burn-outs” happening less often.

When I was young, the big-four performers/groups – in no special order – were Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, N’Sync and Backstreet Boys. Of them, not one went without a media-fueled spiral into emotional distress.

15 years later we have a new wave of A-listers who are still subjected to the same crescendo of pressure because of their fame, but who are wising up and avoiding others’ mistakes via one simple strategy. They are evolving their styles as they age.

Two great examples would be Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Both could easily be described as the most famous young people in the world right now.

Justin Bieber hit the charts big time in 2010 at age 16 with his hit album My World 2.0. The single which received the most airtime was titled “Baby”. It was a song performed by a teen (Bieber), and listened to by teens. Taylor Swift’s chart-breaking album was Self Titled, released in 2006 when she was also 16, and was intended for a similar demographic.

Since then, Justin Bieber has released three additional studio albums, and Taylor Swift has released five. What is unique about each album is that the sound and content has matured at the same pace as Bieber and Swift have in real life.

Where Baby had lyrics like, “Are we an item? Girl quit playin’”, Bieber’s newest album contains a collaboration with hip EMD performers (Skrillex and Diplo) and contains lyrics with slightly more depth. Taylor Swift’s new album drops this month, but the singles that have come out already reveal more genuine and age-appropriate style of sound that reflects a confidence and ambition we didn’t hear in her previous albums. Not-coincidently, theses albums trend with late teens and early 20’s consumers.

This style of embracing growing up while in the public eye is a saving grace for pop stars. Britney Spears released nine studio albums over 18 years, and every one of them sounded just as bubble-gum pop as the first. How can someone in their 30’s stay relevant in today’s teen pop-culture climate? Impossible. Thus, through years of struggling to be something they are not, it appears pop-icons from an early age were bound to crack. Luckily, for reasons outlined above, I don’t see today’s stars suffering a similar fate.

In what other ways has pop-culture evolved over the years? Do you think it is for better or worse? Let us know your thoughts via twitter or LinkedIn.

Lee Sumner, Sr. Research Manager