Album: Big Time Rush, "BTR" (Nickelodeon/ Columbia)
'Tween TV sensations Big Time Rush have yet to crack radio playlists or singles charts with the light versions of modern pop-rock that populate their popular Nickelodeon series. In the show, they play themselves -- four good-looking Minnesota buddies who move to Los Angeles for a musical career -- and on their debut album, they have clearly found a collection of studio professionals capable of making them radio-friendly with songs such as "Big Night" and "Til I Forget About You."
As the Monkees were drawn on the image the Beatles, so, too, is Big Time Rush modeled on contemporary chart-toppers. But rather than create distinguished recordings, BTR apes every auto-tuned pop, R&B or rock act between Black Eyed Peas and Ke$ha. BTR's music is cookie-cutter imitation of the techniques that dominate the airwaves -- the monochromatic beats, condensed instrument sounds, layered and tuned vocals and computerized adjustments that turn words like "boyfriend" into "boy-boy-boy-boyfriend." Nothing even suggests a dollop of originality.
The music that has been most successful at appealing to pre-high school youngsters -- from "Little Mermaid" to 'NSync to "Hannah Montana" -- has had it own distinct flavor that separates it from music oriented toward older teens. Big Time Rush's music contains the repetition kids gravitate toward and the sound is aimed at anthemic, but there is little for younger ears to latch onto and embrace, a quality that remains the secret to Disney's success in this arena.
You would not think the heyday of Miley Cyrus, Ally & AJ and the Jonas Brothers would be perceived as the end of a golden era for 'tween pop, but if BTR is an indication of where TV pop acts are headed, the genre is in trouble. This overproduced album has none of those acts' spirit or joy and the way the vocals are so heavily tweaked, it borders on a computer-made sound. One step further and the album could include a disclaimer: "No human voices were used on this recording." BTR's recent "Today" show performance displayed an act that can dance in unison, but struggles with breath control and staying in key.