From Hanson to Fiona Apple, these minor singers are turning the pop charts into a playground

Ah, sweet birds — and boys — of youth. Rock & roll, like Trix, was originally for kids, and it looks like teenagers just might be taking over again. Befitting pop’s growing factionalization, today’s pubescent hit-makers are as puerile or as precocious as they wanna be — from Hanson’s chewy bubblegum to Jonny Lang’s weathered blues.

In the emotionally turbulent teen tradition of Alanis Morissette, whose Jagged Little Pill was something all too many middle-aged divorcees could relate to, comes chanteuse Fiona Apple, another old soul with very young lips. Don’t think she’s not ripe enough to have lived the world of mature woe in her gold-selling Tidal: ”Maybe I haven’t had 45 relationships, but the ones that I have had I’ve really thought about and felt really deeply. That gives me weight — not how long I’ve been alive.”

Fair enough. But if it’s weightlessness you want out of your kids, don’t worry. For those who yearn for the day when young ‘uns didn’t grow up to be Kurt Cobain quite so quickly, we have a happy resumption of the time-honored li’l-bro act in Hanson — none of whom, we’re happy to report, look, act, or sound a day over 16. May they never be too pooped to ”MMMBop.”


CURRENT EVENTS: Things are sweet for the 16-year-old, whose just-turned-gold blues-rock album, Lie to Me, tops Billboard’s blues chart and is flirting with pop’s top 40. HOME EC.: Jon Langseth Jr. got his first guitar at 13; his father gave up farming in Fargo, N.D., and later became Lang’s road manager, while his mother sings backup on Lie to Me. They live in Minneapolis. POP QUIZ! Who was your earliest idol? ”I really wanted to be Michael Jackson when I was little. He’s so cool.” WHOM HE CRIBS FROM: Stevie Ray Vaughan. MOST LIKELY TO… Prove blond bluesmen have more fun. AMBITION: ”This is what I want to do above all else. You don’t have to be sad to sing the blues.” HOW HE’S SPENDING HIS SUMMER VACATION: Touring with B.B. King, then Aerosmith. Filming Blues Brothers 2000, in which he’ll sing Wilson Pickett’s classic ”634-5789.”


CURRENT EVENTS: ”MMMBop,” the infectious first single from these fresh-faced Oklahoma siblings (from left: Taylor, 14; Zac, 11; and Isaac, 16), hit No. 1 after only a month in release and is pulling their album, Middle of Nowhere (now at No. 6), along with it. HOME EC.: The blue-eyed soul brothers are classically trained scions of a large, musically oriented Christian family. Dad works as an international financier for an oil-drilling company; Mom home-schools her brood. Says Zac: ”Our parents aren’t stage parents, but they’re behind us all the way.” POP QUIZ! Are you guys the alternative to alternative rock? Taylor: ”The alternative thing is fading. People don’t hate their parents as much anymore.” WHOM THEY CRIB FROM: The Jackson 5, the Osmonds. MOST LIKELY TO… Become hosts of The Hanson Family Variety Hour. AMBITION: Isaac: ”To keep doing our music whether we sell one record or one million.” HOW THEY’RE SPENDING THEIR SUMMER VACATION: Watching the charts and shooting a video for their next single, ”Where’s the Love.”