Feb. 26, 2001 issue of Newsweek wrote:
Beatlemania infects our Kids
by Lorraine Ali
While critics are busy deconstructing exactly what it means to have Eminem and Elton perform a duet at this year’s Grammys, they are also secretly thanking some higher power for the distraction. It does, after all, keep them from focusing on the scant musical offerings of the past year—a dismal period in terms of new creative genius, or even mildly original schlock.
THE BILLION-DOLLAR success of plastic pop, clumsy metal and predictable, playa-style rap has left little to rave about, and caused parents to shake their heads in disgust, stupefied at the bland or even bad taste of their very own kids.
Since “The Beatles 1,” a collection of 27 chart-topping British and American hits, was released last November, it has sold more than 7 million copies stateside and enjoyed eight weeks at No. 1.
So who would have thought it’d be the Beatles, a band 30 years gone, who’d come to the rescue? The undeniable force of the Fab Four, a musical constant in the ever-changing sea of carefully marketed trends and controversy, is once again in play. Since “The Beatles 1,” a collection of 27 chart-topping British and American hits, was released last November, it has sold more than 7 million copies stateside and enjoyed eight weeks at No. 1. Though there are always predictable throngs of diehard Beatles fans and classic-rockers gobbling up the newest repackaged product, this time a large bulk of the sales and interest can be attributed to a new generation of Beatles fans: the 12-and-under crowd.
“I just like them ‘cause they sound really good,” says 11-year-old David Wells, who saw nonstop ads for “1” on Nickelodeon and MTV, then bought the CD with a little help from his mom. Like Wells’s explanation, the appeal is simple: songs like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are even catchier than ‘N Sync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye,” and ring with the innocence and rising rebellion of the preteen years. When Wells gets older, he may reinterpret the Beatles’ music, moving from the early, happy hits to the harder, scary “White Album.” It’s a rite of passage of sorts, each new generation redefining the Beatles for itself, forging its own special connection or rejecting them as the music of their parents.
But the new Beatles fans aren’t quite old enough to define themselves by the music they listen to—or by bashing what their parents like (besides, it’s more likely their grandparents were the original screaming Fab Four fans). It’s more likely they’re just picking up on what’s out there in the ether and at the top of the charts: Dream, Britney and the Beatles. Then, of course, there’s the new marketing strategy of Capitol Records: high-energy MTV and Nick ads, candy- apple red CD packaging and the kid-friendly $11.98 price at mom-preferred stores like Wal-Mart (that’s $18 less than previous Beatles-hits packages “Blue” and “Red”).
“Kids are responding to the Beatles now like they respond to ‘N Sync,” says Roberta Caploe, editor in chief of Tiger Beat. So much so that for the first time since the Beatles’ heyday the teeny-bopper magazine is featuring the young Liverpudlians on the cover with the Backstreet Boys. Its April-issue cover line: the beatles, #1 boy band!
Move over Backstreet Boys? That is the hope of Capitol Records, whose hook-’em-young campaign is hitting right on target. When the direct-response ads for “1” aired on kid channels like MTV and Nickelodeon, viewers called the 800 number at an astonishingly high rate. On Nick, the response was 270 percent higher than that of the average direct-response music ad. It was 60 percent higher on MTV. With “1” selling steadily at 150,000 copies a week, the Beatles are now competing with “TRL’s” most requested acts.
“It’s no mistake that we put this out a week before the release of the Backstreet Boys album,” says Roy Lott, president and CEO of Capitol Records. “We wanted it to compete directly. We felt we could attract the same audience with the Beatles.”
For parents, this youthful gravitation toward the Beatles must be a relief.
The band is a safe harbor from the evils of Eminem and an entire staircase up from the banality of Sisqo. Also, the music is familiar. It was passed down to these folks by the first Beatles-loving generation, and now, like a family heirloom, it’s being passed along to their children. “Kids liking the Beatles is not a new phenomenon,” says Mark Hertsgaard, author of the Beatles book “A Day in the Life.” “It’s been consistently happening since the 1960s. They [Capitol] are just pushing in an already open door. It’s not about marketing; it’s about the particular genius of those four fellows.” And the geniuses made plenty more hits, all gems that can be smartly repackaged into kid-attracting albums. Will the class of 2070 scrawl we love John, Paul, George and Ringo across their notebooks? Maybe not. But it seems that everyone will remember the Beatles long after’N Sync has said bye, bye, bye.