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Throwing it back to Brie Larson's teen pop career
Kid actress, indie darling, Oscar-winner, director, activist and now a superhero, Brie Larson has already had quite the range of jobs in the entertainment industry and she’s doesn’t even turn 30 until later this year. Being a multi-hyphenate isn’t unusual, but Larson has added a lot of strings to her bow, including a brief stint as a pop star.
Music and acting often go hand-in-hand, with a number of big name stars weaving their way between the two. In the mid-'00s Disney unleashed a number of projects that utilized teens who could both sing and act — or at least do a very good job at one and a serviceable job at the other — with Hannah Montana, High School Musical and Camp Rock. While Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Zac Efron, and Demi Lovato became household names, Larson tried out the pop career move with less success. Instead of a TV show or movie with a music component, Larson instead released a bubblegum-pop-rock album that was more Avril Lavigne in tone.Prior to this, Larson had small acting roles in movies such as 13 Going on 30 and a recurring part on Raising Dad. There was no face or name recognition, but this was also the age of MySpace, a platform that has since faded into insignificance — but in 2005 it helped artists like Lily Allen and Kate Nash (with the latter pursuing a successful acting career on GLOW) launch their songs to a wider audience.
In music, as with other creative industries, timing can be just as important as talent. There are often many artists with a similar sound and look striving for success; for every best-selling album, there are another 20 languishing into obscurity. Both Allen and Nash had relatable lyrics about both the mundane and the personal, which helped carve out a particular authentic niche for them in a crowded market. They stood out because their music didn't sound like a combination or rehash of other pop stars at the time."Finally Out of P.E." is the title of Larson’s debut (and only) album and I can’t think of anything more relatable than hating this particular lesson at school, but this did not translate into sales. Heartbreak and boy issues are, of course, the foundation of teen pop, but I applaud Larson for addressing one of my personal high school enemies.
She also nailed the aesthetic for this particular era; when waistbands went as low as they could possibly go without being obscene, hemlines were short, and outfits were a weird mix of smart and casual attire. The latter often looked like you had grabbed whatever was closest or cleanest. This was the time of heavy bangs, heavier eyeliner and the going out top.The video for "She Said" is also like playing mid-'00s pop video bingo and you will definitely score a full house; the rebellious girl with the guitar who dreams of escaping her minimum wage job, a Napoleon Dynamite reference and two women bearing a strong resemblance to Paris Hilton. It is also a pretty catchy song — I have had it stuck in my head for two days — that could definitely do with some lyric work on the chorus, but again, it is serviceable. These are the kind of tracks that would play well over a teen movie montage sequence, but don't light your world on fire. Poor sales and industry disillusionment put a premature end to Larson’s pop career, but this isn’t the last time she picked up a guitar or strutted on stage. In 2010, she appeared in Greenberg and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. In the latter, she plays Scott Pilgrim’s (Michael Cera) ex-girlfriend Envy Adams, a peroxide-haired, red lipstick-wearing rockstar taking a page out of Courtney Love’s book as the lead singer of The Clash at Demonhead. Gone are the sneakers and wedges of 2005, now replaced by red platform knee-high lace-up sandals. She dominates both on stage and is the queen of the backhanded compliments, telling Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), “I like your outfit. Affordable.” She’s got the stage presence that comes from a brief stint at being a pop star. With a song like “Black Sheep,” who knows what could’ve happened to Larson’s music career.
A glimpse at an alternate timeline in which Larson is in an all-woman band with Kristen Stewart and Anne Hathaway became a reality when Jenny Lewis released the video for “Just One of the Guys.” Appearing alongside Lewis, they wear all-white suits, as well as fake facial hair, baseball caps, and Adidas tracksuits. It is funny, charming and high on the steeze levels. Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video wishes it could be this fun.This video was recorded nearly 10 years after “She Said” and style has come on a long way since then, even if low-rise jeans are threatening to make a comeback. If Brie wants to sing again, sure, but these mid-'00s trends should stay confined to Instagram Throwback Thursday posts; something which Larson has been very good at sharing. Speaking of throwbacks, the ‘90s is taking center stage in Captain Marvel with Carol Danvers sporting a Nine Inch Nails T-Shirt. This is a more than acceptable style choice both in that decade and this one. Will Carol get her karaoke on? If she does, Brie Larson is well-equipped to sing the part.