When you become a pop star, you have to worry about things like keeping up with all your many different bank accounts (most of them will only let you store a paltry $100,000 per location), jetting from posh hotel to posh hotel, and the tiresome selection of which two to eight groupies to have sex with after each night's show.
Still, there are also many upsides to being a pop star. Luckily, just in time for the preeminent pop star of 2010's two-night stand in Houston Sunday and Monday, we've boiled how to become one down to a formula for those of you who are interested. You just have to pay attention to these things.
1. Wholesomeness: Idol worship is a lot like actual worship (by which we mean religion), in that if you can get to people before they're old enough to start thinking things out critically and logically, you're much more likely to create a convert for life. Not only do pop idols use religion's tactics, they use religion itself, especially early on in their careers, in order to come across to the one demographic even more important than tweens with allowances: The parents who shell out those allowances.
By paying lip service to God and "traditional American family values," pop idols assure parents that their material is G-rated and therefore A-OK for consumption by their children. Of all the steps to pop stardom, this one is usually the briefest; in fact, as parents care less and less about their kids, it can even be skipped over entirely.
2. Say "Baby" a Lot: Literally every pop star repeats the word "baby" so much in their songs, it's less like an expression of affection and more like an invocation to enrapture lovestruck fans. Throwing the word "baby" out there allows impressionable young girls to imagine that the pop star in question is singing the song to her personally, or else it gives her cause to imagine herself singing it to whichever twee, feminine boy-girl she's got a crush on at the time.
Plus, if the song's main lyrics are simply the word "baby" repeated over and over, it's a hell of a lot easier to remember, more likely to get stuck in folks' heads, and get requested on the radio. (Apparently FM radio is still somehow relevant in today's world, although we're not sure why this is true or who, exactly, is still listening.)
3. Tease, Tease, Tease: Okay, you've got the kids indoctrinated. A couple of years have passed, however, and those kids are starting to grow up and reject the things they clung to as children; it's a natural part of maturing. You don't want them to lose interest in you, yet you don't want their parents to bar you from their households, either, so you've got to walk a bit of a highwire between those two options.
Keep your lyrics G-rated, but start wearing skimpier outfits or dancing sexier onstage. Let some risqué photos leak to the media when your phone gets "stolen." Maybe get sighted underage drinking at a party or club. Whatever you do, make sure it's a gradual slope of relatively subtle hijinks or else nervous parents could still cut off the cash supply to your fan base.
When people start calling you "jailbait," you know you've achieved the perfect balance of having made people want to savagely fuck you while keeping in mind that doing so would be naughty.
4. Media Saturation: By this time, you'll be getting plenty of tabloid action, and you can stop there if you just want to become a train wreck, but to achieve true pop stardom, you need more. You need your song to be playing in the background while Ambiguously Pretty White Guy stiffly makes out with Naïve, Starry-Eyed Waif Girl on teen-oriented soap operas like Meaghanne and Teagaen's Vapid Party Life and The Pouty Vampire Fashion Model Fantasy Hour.
You need to appear in a Diet Pepsi commercial, singing about how carbonated caffeine and Nutrasweet will make kids cooler and more popular. You need to guest star on How I Put Your Mother Through Eleven Excruciating Goddamn Seasons of Awkward Wooing. Start dating any interchangeable pop star who hovers near your current level of fame. Before long, even the mainstream news should be running stories on how visible your camel toe was in those jogging pants you went running in the other day, with lots of telephoto-zoom pictures and insincere chiding.
That's when you know you should move on to the next step.
5. Drop a Sex Bomb: Okay, now your fan base is getting ready to graduate high school, and the only way you're going to hang on to them is to straight-up become a massive whore. This is a great time to get gynecological exam-quality photos of your snatch circulated the day after your 18th birthday party, where you drunkenly clambered out of several limousines while not wearing panties. It's also time to strip away all excess material from your stage clothes, possibly while onstage grinding on an actual stripper pole.
Make out with someone of the same sex, or at least pretend to. Flirt with reporters, swear repeatedly in interviews, write songs that are obviously about anal sex, get photographed licking Joseph Gordon-Levitt's pecs in a club. You need to do everything you can to get across the message "I am not a little girl anymore," even if it requires you to spread the message "Simply by looking at me, your eyeballs may have just contracted syphilis."
For male pop stars, it's much easier: Simply start banging every hot young woman in sight. Unless you're gay, then continue to play the "wholesome" angle until you're caught teabagging a trucker named Catfish in an Arby's bathroom.
6. Absolute Fucking Meltdown: You've changed identities so many times, you hardly even know who you are. You can't trust anyone around you, and you're pretty sure your manager is embezzling most of your money and spending it on yacht outings accompanied by your topless mother. Nobody says "no" to you, even when you have a terrible idea, and even when you ask them for prescriptions for pills you have no real reason to be taking.
It seems like your life is spiraling out of control and it's become about everyone around you instead of you. You're finding yourself segueing naturally into the next stage of your pop stardom: going absolutely duckshit bonkers. This stage is the one where you reward the public's sadistic love of seeing their heroes fall, confirming their long-held belief that although you have millions of dollars, a palatial estate, a sexy boy/girlfriend and you don't have to work in an office where that catty bitch Estelle is always trying to undermine everyone by spreading dubious gossip around, you're just as miserable as they are, maybe even more so.
So go ahead. Go nuts. Not figuratively, no, we mean go entirely insane. Get involved in a goofy fringe religion or cult. Wear an outfit that leaves all the places you cut yourself visible. Attack some tabloid reporters with a folding chair or plastic cactus. Gain fifty pounds, shave off all your hair, get pregnant, and throw up in the Kardashians' swimming pool. Whatever crazy, whacked-out impulse crosses your mind, indulge that shit. Consequences are for the poor and non-famous.
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7. Redemption: Before you even started down this road, you should have accepted that pop superstardom does not last forever. The whole nature of being the Next Big Thing is that, before too long, somebody else is going to be the Next Big Thing. Don't fight it; embrace it. Enough people still like a good redemption story to make your comeback at least moderately successful, and if you handle it correctly, you could even get another No. 1 album or two out of it.
Start really taking care of yourself: fire your manager, divorce your leech of a spouse, and go to rehab (for real this time). Learn to be happy playing smaller venues, making cameos in movies where you're the butt of the joke, and being the subject of various snarky "Where Are They Now?" segments on every insipid entertainment news show. It's okay; the positive aspects of your new life truly do outweigh the bad. You have more control over your music, which is good, if music was ever important to you to begin with. Your fan base is smaller, but much more loyal; you'll start meeting people who swear you're responsible for saving their lives in some way.
A couple of them may try to stab you, but only because they love you too much to let you be tortured in the impending Zoroastrian Reptilian Hivemind takeover. A lot of the pressure is off of you to be the biggest star in the world, and now, after many years of being everything to everyone, you can finally be yourself.
That is, of course, assuming you ever got around to creating a self.