‘‘In the future,” pop artist Andy Warhol said in 1968, “everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Pop music listeners who tune in to Buffalo’s primary pop trafficker Kiss 98.5 are regularly served the latest flavors of the moment on the air and in annual showcases such as the Kiss the Summer Hello concert, which returned to Coca-Cola Field on Saturday night to present seven young pop stars before another crowd of about 5,000 – mostly teens and tweens teeming with starry-eyed screams.
This year’s lineup asserted the dominance of rap and electronic dance music on today’s pop charts, as every young act on the bill employed both in some way. Also apparent was that the floodgates are open for adult subject matter in the music marketed to children, a fact that is accepted and adjusted to by parents such as Tammy Gordon, who brought her 10- and 12-year-old daughters back for a second year along with friends making their debut.
“We usually listen to country music, but this music is different – it just doesn’t seem as wholesome,” she said from the stands as her kids looked out to the stage beyond second base.
“The kids like 98.5, so we do it in small doses. We use it as a teaching experience. Just because you hear it, doesn’t mean you can say it.”
Such is a good approach when opening act and Vampire Diaries star Kat Graham sings in “Put Your Graffiti On Me” to “Tag me” and “Throw me up against the wall first/I take advantage of you/You take advantage of me” during her 20-minute set of lip-syncing and struggling to hit high-note hooks on songs such as “Heartkiller.”
Some perspective that profanity is nothing new to these young ears enables a brushing off of the not-safe-for-radio chorus of fellow L.A. duo MKTO’s “Goodbye Song,” whose energetic rap-pop approach scored well among the early birds.
The former Nickelodeon actors name-dropped Prince and Marvin Gaye in calling the apple of their eye “Classic” while covering Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and the Beat” to the delight of kids like 11-year-old Megan Stypa, a Heim Middle School student.
Megan and her 12-year-old brother, Jonathan, raised more than $10,000 for the Bald for Bucks campaign benefiting Roswell Park Cancer Institute, with which Kiss partnered to raise more than $550,000 this year and rewarded participants with a YRoswell VIP tent in right field.
While Jonathan shrugged his shoulders at winning VIP tickets to Bieber’s upcoming concert, Megan was overjoyed at that opportunity, as well as the chance to see the evening’s headliner, Emblem 3, “because I like their songs and they’re really cute.”
“Kiss is a great mouthpiece for us,” said Bald for Bucks founder Tony George, a teacher at Lake Shore High School. George founded it with students in 2002 after his sister died from cancer. To date, the campaign has raised more than $2 million.
After Canadian rapper Classified asserted his adamant beliefs in “That Ain’t Classy” and got the excitable audience bouncing to his hit “Inner Ninja,” LMFAO member Sky Blu asserted his solo career by calling out to the obviously mostly underage crowd in song, “Put your hands in the sky if you wanna get drunk tonight” in “Pop Bottles,” before which he joked could be referencing apple juice.
But perhaps enthusiasm is more memorable than song material. Sky Blu running into the stands to jump around with the crowd was called the most memorable moment of the show so far from Gordon’s girls, and got the attention of the Stypa kids and their friends who had previously wandered off.
It was a fun time, which, for most of the acts on the bill, will likely last about 15 minutes.