Bieber-mania sparks search for next teen sensation

Sat May 29, 2010 12:17am EDT
 
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By Monica Herrera

NEW YORK (Billboard) - What does 16-year-old Justin Bieber have in common with musical icons Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana and Britney Spears?

They all, at one time or another, have inspired record company A&R executives en masse to aggressively sign up artists who sound, and sometimes even look, decidedly like them. Dylan's brilliance sparked the signings of folkies from Donovan to Steve Forbert; Springsteen led to Joe Grushecky and John Cafferty; Nirvana minted Radish, Candlebox and countless others; Britney Spears begat Willa Ford.

Seizing on the opportunities created by a phenomenon like Bieber is nothing new, and it's certainly not unique to the music business. But in the case of Bieber and the search for the next teen heartthrob, the pace at which it's happening appears as frenzied as the girls who bum-rush Bieber for autographs after shows.

Perhaps the most extreme example is the preternaturally talented Greyson Chance, who in less than a month has secured two A-list managers and motivated a major TV personality to launch a record label. On April 28, Chance posted a YouTube video of himself covering Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" for his sixth-grade classmates in Oklahoma. Ellen DeGeneres booked the 12-year-old -- who sports a swooping, Bieber-esque haircut--for a May 13 appearance on her ABC daytime show, then brought him back May 26 to announce that she'd launched her own record label, eleveneleven, and signed Chance as her first artist.

Though Chance was rumored to have signed with Interscope the week of his first "Ellen" visit, a representative for DeGeneres says, "A partnership with a major label is still in the works."

Chance is co-managed by Guy Oseary (Madonna) and Troy Carter (Lady Gaga). A source familiar with the deal says that no material has been recorded yet, but Chance's team is searching for music in the vein of Coldplay's "Viva la Vida."

'LET ME TRY THIS'

Comparisons between Bieber and Chance are inevitable, given their age and online origins. But a more fitting comparison can be made with Cody Simpson, a 13-year-old from Australia signed to Atlantic. Simpson also started playing guitar and singing at a young age and was discovered last summer by an enterprising YouTube viewer: producer Shawn Campbell (Missy Elliott, Ciara).   Continued...