Youth or consequences

By SHARON STEEL  |  March 14, 2007

Last April, Girl Authority entered the Billboard Top Kid Audio Chart at #9. Can Road Trip close in and threaten the Disney soundtrack to Jump In! or Kidz Bop 11? Possibly. Little girls are practically engineered to idolize a group like Girl Authority and accept the band’s simple, wholesome, slightly cringe-worthy Girl Power message without argument. “Mostly, Girl Authority is about reaching to the younger girls who don’t know who they wanna be yet,” 14-year-old Tarr says of their target audience. I’m not sure what she means by this, given the options. There are the six fashion identities of Party Girl (Kate), Urban Girl (Gina), Fashion Girl (Alex), Glamour Girl (Carly), Preppy Girl (Zoë, who is the daughter of Rounder president and CEO John Virant), and Boho Girl (Jess). There’s one sporty All-Star Girl (Jacqueline); Rock and Roll Girl (Tarr) and Country Girl (Crystal) offer the musical identities. What about an Art Girl, a Dance Girl, a Smart-Ass Riot Grrrl Girl? But if something is missing, the girls don’t seem to notice. As Tarr puts it, “Almost every girl has a point in their life where they watch a show and they imitate that person or they want to be that person. We really want it to get to the point where we do that. Basically we’re fulfilling our three-year-old dream.”

They’ve already picked up some surprising supporters. The Dresden Dolls took notice when they heard the girls rehearsing at Camp Street Studios; Amanda and Brian invited them to perform “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” and a PG version of “Sing” at the Orpheum last spring. They even appear in Jake Brennan’s new music video as a gaggle of heavies who pretend to beat up the local punk songwriter’s former guitarist.

Behind the scenes, there’s a team at Rounder and some industry A-listers pushing the Girl Authority concept. The group are managed by Michael Pagnotta, who worked with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen for nearly 14 years. And after the girls sing for me a cappella, I get a candid impression of how capable they are and how much farther they could go. Whether they have what it takes to achieve Olsen Twins–level success remains to be seen. But in my mind, they already trump MK&A (whom they worship, of course) when it comes to personality — I doubt any of these girls will wind up posing in publicity photos like zombie dolls who can’t remember how to relate to anyone who talks with a Michelle Tanner lisp.

As Girl Authority prepare for a nationally televised ad campaign on Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, as well as a summer tour, they are aware of how important it is to be role models, to be and not just appear relatable. Still, their individual ambitions are what one might expect from any girl who’s watched enough MTV to realize that most of the people on television aren’t as talented as she is. “I love singing,” 14-year-old Carly says. “I feel like there’s nothing else I could ever end up doing my whole life. I don’t see myself becoming an accountant.” She wrinkles her nose and almost gags over the word. The rest of the girls laugh hysterically. Thirteen-year-old Gina talks about going to Hollywood as if nothing else could be an option. At a time when the pressures of fame and celebrity have caused one of America’s biggest pop princesses to shave her head and check in and out of rehab twice in as many days, the notion of these innocent girls being thrown to the wolves of fame seems terrifying.

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