JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Syd Youth and the sacred art of narcissism

The members of Syd Youth in the perfect publicity shot. Arms on one another—check. Seductive faces—check. Funky outfits—check.
The members of Syd Youth in the perfect publicity shot. Arms on one another—check. Seductive faces—check. Funky outfits—check.

Syd Youth is a pop trio.

I know this not because I love pop trios, but because—while waiting with the wife and kids to enter last week’s Jingle Ball concert at Staples Center—I was handed both a Syd Youth plastic wristband and two small, egg-shaped bottles of Syd Youth lip gloss.

Wait. Here’s the wristband. It’s pretty damn awesome …

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.52.58 PMUntil the official presentation of the plastic chachkas, I knew not of Syd Youth’s existence. But then, during the concert (sponsored by the local pop radio station), Syd Youth videos were played repeatedly on a big screen. It was the same song, over and over and over and over and over again, and it was quite awful. Take a little bit of Spice Girls, a little bit of All Saints, add a dash of Ariana Grande—then subtract all charm and charisma, and you’ve got Syd Youth. Hell, have a listen. This is the video to the group’s (not particularly) hot debut single, the predictably named, “Mess Around” …

Not good, right? Awful lyrics, mediocre singing, zero instrumentation.

Again, not good.

But here’s a prediction: One year from now, Syd Youth will be huge, and standing alongside Grande and Taylor Swift as featured artists on the Jingle Ball stage. Why? Because, truth be told, talent and skill and musicality are three elements that matter little in modern pop music. Even back story (a one-time staple of the business) doesn’t mean a thing. Hall and Oates met when they ducked into a corner during a Philadelphia gang fight. New Edition were five childhood pals from Boston. Heart’s Wilson sisters were musical prodigies who learned to sing and play alongside one another. The Beatles—Liverpool. Run DMC—Hollis, Queens.

Syd Youth? They’re three hot young women who, eh, um … have this as the second featured image on their home page …

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.11.24 PMUnder the BIO section of the Syd Youth website, we learn that Syd Youth is “the zealous pursuit of expression”—an unintentionally ironic declaration for a group with a first single that includes the lyrics, “Turn up the sound/And forget the world/Pull out your crowns/Queens of the underground.” We also find out that Ashley is funny, Tess is passionate and Sheela uses painting to express herself.

Glub.

Why am I writing this? Because Syd Youth is 2014. It really is—image first, image second, image third. Sell a plastic product to kids, watch them lap it up and scream and cry and pay big bucks for concert T-shirts and tickets and such. Get a radio station to play the song every hour until it’s stuck in a 14-year-old’s head. Turn up the sound/And forget the world. Turn up the sound/And forget the world. Turn up the sound/And forget the world. Turn up the sound/And forget the world. Turn up the sound/And forget the world. Turn up the sound/And forget the world.

The group is a product of the Twitter/Instagram era, where how you’re presented matters 1,000 times more than what you actually do. Check out the girls in their bikinis! In their short skirts! In their tour bus! Amazing! Exciting! Amazing! Exciting!

Sigh.

Where are the New Kids when we need them?