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Big Time Rush Is Head of the Class

PARADE Published: August 5, 2012
With more than 800,000 votes cast, Big Time Rush wins PARADE magazine and Wetpaint Entertainment’s first annual boy band smackdown.

Wanna Meet BTR? Enter to Win Four Tickets to See the Band in Concert and Meet the Guys As Well!

We start with a riddle: four twenty-something pop singers, usually greeted by throngs of hyperventilating girls, pile out of a car and land face-to-face with a woman old enough to be their mother. How many seconds before they lose interest?

The typical young man would be scanning over my shoulder in the time it takes him to say, “Excuse me, ma’am.” These guys, however, belong to Nickelodeon’s boy band Big Time Rush, and their behavior would make any mom proud. They have no idea yet that I’ll be interviewing them, but they smile and extend hands. They politely ask if they’re in the right parking lot in Columbus, Ohio. When it’s clear we’re all in the wrong place, they chat about the two dogs that have joined them for their 60-plus-city concert tour.

James Maslow, 22, unzips a cat-size carrier to reveal Fox, a 1-year-old Alaskan Klee Kai. “I’ve always loved big dogs,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “He’s a husky I put in a dryer.”

A few steps away, Carlos Pena Jr., 22, furrows his brow as he coaxes his 2-year-old German shepherd, Sydney, out of her crate. Booties are strapped to her front feet. Carlos squats and looks into the dog’s eyes as he speaks. “She burned her paws on the tarmac,” he says. “They said she’ll be fine, but she’s hurting right now.”

Kendall Schmidt, 21, and Logan Henderson, 22, join James in consoling the pooch. “You’ll be okay, Sydney.” “Good girl, Sydney.” “Aw, poor Sydney.”

A cynic would say this is just part of Big Time Rush’s happy act. A cynic would be wrong.

Over the next four hours, these band members mix it up with dozens of strangers during a photo shoot for PARADE at Grandview Heights High School. They never complain or swear, never throw a fit. They are a frenetic bundle of inside jokes and gentle ribbing, relying on each other to get through all the leaping, dancing, and running in polyester school jackets required on this 96-degree day.

When asked if they like each other as much as it seems, they light up like fireflies. “Yeah,” says Logan. “We argue like brothers, but we love each other.”

Good thing. They’ve been virtually inseparable since 2009, after Nickelodeon cast them as a frolicking foursome that becomes a pop band and sings through life’s capers. The show’s creator, Scott Fellows, modeled the story line after the 1960s show The Monkees, though in this version, the squeaky-clean leads started as high school hockey players. But as with their TV predecessors, Big Time Rush have become an offscreen phenomenon, complete with hit records and countless girls whose knees buckle in syncopated swoons at the sight of them.

“This is not a new story. It started with Frank Sinatra and all those screaming bobby-soxers,” says pop culture critic Elayne Rapping, professor emerita of American Studies at the University at Buffalo. “You’d rather have girls attracted to the good boys like Big Time Rush.” Her laugh is full of mischief. “I was attracted to the bad boys. I loved the Rolling Stones.”

The Rolling Stones? One look at Mick Jagger and Mom banned him from our house. No matter. Being the oldest, most dutiful child, I was drawn to the good boys.

I was in first grade when the Beatles debuted on The Ed ­Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964. That night, I sat frog-legged in front of the TV, mesmerized. I’d just met my future husband. I was sure that Paul would wait for me. Of course, millions of girls just like me were planning their own nuptials to John, Paul, George, or Ringo.

But it’s the music that really weds us to our memories. I cannot hear “Penny Lane” without thinking of the barber­shop I passed on my way to West Elementary School. I listen to Paul McCartney sing “Michelle” and remember whining to Mom, “Constance? You had to name me Constance?”

When my daughter fell hard for the Backstreet Boys, I became a fan just to be in her orbit. She was a moody 12-year-old hiding behind a block of bangs and the slams of a bedroom door, but there was one way to coax her out. “Hey, honey?” I’d say innocently. “How ’bout playing ‘I Want It That Way’?” She’d slide the CD into the living room stereo, and we’d sing along softly together.

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