Boy bands are, by nature, as prefabricated as the Ken dolls of which their members are the living embodiments.They're assembled by record companies or TV networks or sometimes both with the studiousness, care and teen girl-centric market testing of a candy company introducing a new confection to the marketplace.
They're the artificial sweeteners of the music industry, manufactured heartthrob.
The current of-the-moment act of this ilk, Big Time Rush, started along these same lines, debuting with a TV show of the same name on Nickelodeon.
The fictional series, which premiered in early 2010, follows four hockey players from Minnesota who have been chosen to be a part of a new boy band, relocating to L.A. where they live in a hotel together and attend school at an academy for aspiring performers.
On some levels, the show can be seen as a modern day spin on "The Monkees," a light-hearted, knowingly goofy, laugh-track abetted chronicle of a young band's misadventures interspersed with music.
The series is as much a vehicle for promoting Big Time Rush's two CDs as it is a self-contained sitcom, a sly way of marketing music to teens without appearing to be overtly doing so.
Hey, it worked for the Jonas Brothers and Disney, who followed the same formula to platinum album sales, sold-out arenas and cable TV omnipresence.
Big Time Rush hasn't achieved that level of success yet, but they're on their way, and they're launching their first headlining tour in the very venue that the Jonas Brothers did the same a few years back: the Planet Hollywood Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Now comes the hard part: becoming a real band, which the group members insist that they are, even if they readily acknowledge their preassembled past.
"Sony/Columbia and Nickelodeon made the band and, at first, thought it was just going to be a band with a TV show. 'We'll pay huge producers a lot of money to write music, they'll sing them, we'll sell some tracks, make a lot of money and then we'll all be happy,' " says Big Time Rush singer/actor Carlos Pena Jr.
"But in the end, we all really honed in on being this group and really made it our own. On our last album, we wrote eight out of the 12 tracks. Nobody expected that."
Pena didn't expect to be here to begin with.
"I never wanted to be in a boy band," says the 22-year-old Florida native.
Still, his manager convinced him to audition for Big Time Rush, where he was one of more than 1,500 candidates who tried out, and he was surprised he got the gig.
"I remember being in a movie theater with my littlest brother watching 'WALL-E,' and I got a call from my manager, so I ran outside and he told me, 'I booked it,' " Pena recalls of learning that he landed the role. "I literally started bawling in the movie theater. People were like, 'Are you OK?' "
These dudes are more than OK now, with Big Time Rush becoming a hit.
But there are challenges in being a modern day matinee idol, especially with such a young fan base.
All the members of Big Time Rush are in their 20s, of drinking age, and yet, they can't really act like it -- at least not publicly.
Instead, they have to be role models for impressionable 13-year-olds.
"I'm not a big partyer. I'm not a guy who goes out and goes crazy, so it hasn't been that much of a change for me," Pena says. "I think the biggest thing is just the lifestyle. You have to always be on, people are always judging you, and that does get pretty hard sometimes."
Even more challenging is earning a measure of legitimacy with an act like this.
Pena knows this.
He wants to be taken seriously.
"It's taken a long time to try and develop ourselves as a real group, and I think it's finally happening," Pena says. "The tour is going to be huge. People are going to get to see that we're the real deal and not just some fabricated Nickelodeon boy band."