“They let a cow loose in the Palm Woods.”
So begins last night’s text conversation with my sister. I typed the only logical reply:
“How did they get a cow to let loose?”
Almost immediately my phone beeped. “They used it for their going green project. They hid it under a box that said Not a Cow.”
It all started in Belgium. After quaffing beers and tromping through an historic cemetery in the moonlight, my sister and I discovered our hotel TV had one channel in English (albeit with wonderful Flemish subtitles). And on Teen Nick, four adorable young gents were positively joyous because their number one hit in Kerplunkistan had earned them a beach party.
Then one of them started surfing in front of a green screen, and the two of us (educated, professional, 27 and 31 years old) were sold on Big Time Rush.
For the remainder of our Euro-jaunt, we’d repeatedly exclaim “Kerplunkistan!” or “Beach party!” while waving our arms in a maniacal attempt at green screen surfing. (Yes, we did this in the Louvre.) Once we returned to the States, my sister DVR-ed the show, I hit up Spotify for their two albums and now almost all our text conversations read like the one above.
In case you’re not me, my sister, or a 10-year-old girl, here’s the rundown: Kendall, Logan, James and Carlos are Minnesota hockey players and best friends who are transported to Los Angeles to break out as a singing group. They’re accompanied by Kendall’s clueless mom and enterprising little sister Katie, and they live in the Palm Woods, an apartment complex full of teen dreamers. Their producer Gustavo is loud and rude, his assistant Kelly is brainy and hapless, oh, and Carlos really, really likes his helmet.
And they are wacky. Oh, so very wacky. The second installment of the beach party episode involved a treasure hunt, a pirate, Russell Brand playing himself and some kind of race to win the affection of a cute girl.
It’s the last part that got me. Because at that point, a character popped his head in and referred to the fact that there is always a race on the beach to win the affection of a cute girl.
Yes, that joke would go right over the heads of Big Time Rush‘s core audience. But it sold me on the show: just sly and self-referential enough to acknowledge its audience of parents and curious adults, without being totally smarmy. And there was more where that came from: at one point James and Carlos dressed as Mario and Luigi (yes, I know they’re still around but it felt very ’80s/’90s). When the boys question if extras are important in a music video, the entire group of people in the screen yell “Yes!” The frontman is goofy Kendall as opposed to pretty-boy James (whose obsession with Mangerine Action Tan is the subject of an episode). Far from an Olsen twin wannabe, Katie’s a smart and enterprising kid. I appreciate that.
Also, I haven’t heard that many awesome sound effects since I watched The Monkees on Nick at Nite in first grade.
Sure, Big Time Rush’s music isn’t sixties-cool like The Monkees, but it’s catchy, tuneful and not overly saccharine. It’s hard not to love a song that opens with, “Wait a minute/Before you tell me anything, how was your day?” Aw, Kendall. You know just what to say to an overworked thirtysomething lady. Even Snoop Dogg likes them! (Or probably his daughter does.)
There’s a reason boy bands keep coming back. Even for those of us who dig indie rock and hated our childhoods, they represent simple fun in sweet melodies and silly antics. And sometimes, a life lesson or two is embedded in the lyrics. Take Big Time Rush‘s theme song, a chance for the boys to run around in their own album cover, and an enthusiastic reminder to those of us who balk at big life steps:
C’mon shake it up!
Whatcha gotta lose?
Go and make your luck with the life you choose,
If you want it all,
Lay it on the line.
It’s the only life ya got,
So ya gotta live it big time.
Don’t forget to pose at the end.