Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

July 05, 2018 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Thursday, July 5, 2018
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com ARTS

Harry Styles is staring at me,
and his eyes are bright green,
wide open and beautiful. He’s
kneeling down to come closer and
his gaze is a straight shot directly
down the center of the camera
lens, piercing right through the
screen to meet mine. “I’ve got a
fire for a heart,” he says in a low
clear voice, as if the nearly 800
million people watching didn’t
already know.
Harry’s stare, and my subse-
quent heart-pounding magnetic
reaction to it, is no coincidence.
The fact that I feel as though he’s
looking at me and me alone isn’t
a mistake, because he doesn’t just
happen to be a pretty boy look-
ing into a camera, and I don’t just
happen to be unable to look away.
A lot of people are born with
good faces, but heartthrobs aren’t
made by accident.
Even though every aspect of a
boy band performance is deliber-
ately, artfully calibrated to maxi-
mize irresistibility, heartthrobs
do their best to make it all seem
effortless with those floppy mops
of hair they all seem to have,
falling into their eyes whenever
they hunch over the mic stand.
It’s tantalizingly messy, makes
you want to run a hand through
it — and that’s exactly the point.
Shirts are always unbuttoned just
one too many, in a quiet master-
class of revealing just enough to
make you want more. In videos
if they’re not looking dead on at
the camera they’re usually back-
lit, with the roving lights crossing
shadows over their faces, lighting
the backs of their shoulders, the

slopes of their necks, the tips of
their curls. The cuts in their vid-
eos are quick, images rushing one
after the other like a memory — a
flash of a smile, a hit of the drum,
a couple strides across the stage.
It makes the viewer feel like
you’re always chasing after them,
always trying to get a better look.
It’s both mesmerizing and
menacing, because the promise
of a heartthrob is not unlike the
promise of a pick-up artist. They
look you in the eye and they swear
that you light up their world like
nobody else, that they hold a want
that’s all-consuming and all for
you. Then they smile, flip their
hair out of their eyes and move on
to the next girl at the show. The
heartthrobs of the world chose
their audience of young girls
carefully, harnessing the power
of teenage obsession by giving it
a focus and tangible shape in the
form of a boy with a guitar.
If you ask me, there’s not much
separating a boy band and a rock
star, not in performance style,
looks or audience demographics
— the only discernible difference
is the genre of music and the cred-
ibility that follows when the criti-
cal world assigns rock musicians
a heavyweight status they don’t
offer to boy bands. An ineffable
rock star swagger unites the two,
a type of posturing that can’t be
taught, but can be harnessed with
laser precision on the audience to
incite a violent fervor of teenage
There’s a classic performance
of Zeppelin doing “Stairway” at
Madison Square Garden that puts
the swagger on display. Robert
Plant makes even the act of stand-
ing up seem lazy, his body propped

up at an angle, barechested in just
a vest and all that curly hair. You
pay close attention to his every
move: The way his hand curls
around the microphone, every
pulse of his hips, every arc of his
neck when he lets his hair fly back.
Jimmy Page is close by. You can
barely see his face. He’s slumped
over his guitar. He’s wearing a
dark jewel-encrusted jacket open
with nothing under, and he’s cov-
ered in blue light — hair, skin and
fretboards all glinting. They drip
an almost alien sexuality, making
an otherworldly spectacle of their
very bodies on the stage. A care-
ful push-pull of parts obscured
and parts revealed. A shirt flaps
open but the face is covered in
the dark. A guitar gleams bright
for only a second before the light
roves somewhere else.
You can’t tear your eyes away
by design, because sex and lust
were always the pulse that drove
the charisma of classic rock stars.
The fantasy of the heartthrob
has remained remarkably consis-
tent over the years, because by
and large, teenage girls haven’t
changed. If you went to a Stones
concert in ’64, a Zeppelin concert
in ’74 or a One Direction con-
cert in 2014, the audience would
be pretty much the same. Still a
deafening roar of screams, still
throwing their bras onstage, still
reaching their hands in the air, to
dance, yes, but mostly to grab hold
of the boys onstage, because they
feel (just as they’ve always felt)
the pulse underneath the upbeat
pop songs, the pulse of sexuality
that’s being sold.
It’s no accident that boy bands
like One Direction and 5 Sec-
onds of Summer are marketed to

teenyboppers, just barely on the
cusp of discovering their sexual-
ity, suddenly presented with a few
perfect specimens onto which
they can safely project all of their
dreams and desires. Harry Styles
would never spread rumors about
you the way the boys at school do.
All Harry Styles wants to do is
look you in the eye, tuck a stray
hair behind your ear and sing
just for you about how beautiful
you are. It’s a fantasy, a push-
pull of what to reveal and what to
obscure, all in the process of mak-
ing real what had only ever been
a figment of the imagination of
teenagers everywhere.
In 5 Seconds of Summer’s single
“Youngblood,” lead singer Luke
Hemmings sings, “You push and
you push and I’m pulling away /
pulling away from you.” Here he’s
tapping into the heart of the boy
band’s promise, the promise of
the oh-so-charming pick-up art-
ist. “Youngblood / say you want
me, say you want me,” he sings,
almost taunting his audience, who
wants him to want them as badly
as they do him, knowing full well
it’s the only desire that he could
never ever satisfy. To them, he’s
pushing and pulling away, but
they want to be the girl he’s sing-
ing to, the one he wants so bad it
hurts. But he’s not singing to them
and he never will — he’s singing
to their hunger, the indescribable
desire screaming out of control
that all teenage girls carry with
It’s funny, because boy bands
are almost universally dismissed
as light and disposable, but there’s
nothing delicate or gentle or any
of the other attributes we call stu-
pid and code feminine about the
hunger that propels them. There
is a fundamental violence in a
horde of girls chasing these boys
through a mall like they want to
eat them alive. Or in a stadium full
of people chanting the name of a
boy until their throats are hoarse,
like a teen girl funhouse mirrored
two minute hate. They form a
mob, screaming and starving, an
obsession that’s both completely
insane and completely innocu-
ous. Innocuous because it’s a well
regarded fact, universally under-
stood that this is just what teen-
age girls do. They bare their teeth
with tears running down their
faces and young blood pulsing
through their outstretched hands
reaching for the stage, curling
into fists and punching the air,
clawing and screaming, making
presents of their very bodies —
making any excuse to get closer.

The modern boy band or,
the anatomy of a hearthrob




A lot of pop music today wants
to set the mood for a hot and
heavy night — choose any song
on the soundtrack for “50 Shades
of Grey” — but Cigarettes After
Sex offers something for the
after. As the name of the band
suggests, their slow and ambient
music extends the blissful few
moments when the real problems
of the world haven’t yet returned
and the entire universe feels like
only two people.
Their 2012 EP, I., promised
sexy, meditative music for the
future. “Dreaming of You” had
mixed with bold hi-hats and
cymbals. The subtle lyrics left
room to fill in the blanks: “You’re
the one calling out / you’re the
one that’s calling me to heaven.”
After a 5 year hiatus, Cigarettes
After Sex returned last year
with a debut self-titled album
that hinted at the catastrophe
to come and deterioration of the
band’s signature allure. Most of
the songs on their 2017 album
retained what made the EP so
sensual and such easy listening.
But the last track, the explicit-
marked a misunderstanding of
the band’s best qualities.
The lyrics on the track try
hard to evoke lust, but end up
too straightforward and very
cringe-worthy as lead vocalist,
Greg Gonzalez, sings, “You are
a patron saint of sucking cock.”
Dear God, why would you write
Cigarettes After Sex, “Crush,”
example of “Young and Dumb.”
“Crush” begins with potential
as Gonzalez uses his restrained
and high voice — a whisper on
the verge of a scream — to the
band’s advantage in combination
with pure, but suggestive, lyrics
like, “photographs you sent / of
you lying in your swimsuit on
the bed.” Then the chorus begins
and destroys the seductive vibe
established in the opening verse
when Gonzales sings repeatedly,
“I wanna fuck your love slow.”
After Sex has un-learned the
lesson they taught the music
world in their initial EP: Sexiness
is not found in explicitness.

- Meghan Chou,
Summer Senior Arts Editor

Summer Editor in Chief

Back to Top

© 2024 Regents of the University of Michigan