The German goth-pop band Tokio Hotel is like some sort of nightmarish blend of Evanescence, t.A.T.u., and the Jonas Brothers, with just a hint of Adam Duritz’s dreadlocked aesthetic thrown in for good measure. It’s the kind of band that would never exist without the Internet, and I’d have remained blissfully unaware of its existence if not for a fateful run-in with its fanbase on Tuesday morning here in Madrid, which, thanks to my uncle, was captured on video as a record of what might be the most unwarranted mania in the history of pop music. And that’s including LFO and Limp Bizkit.
My family is visiting me this week, and at around 10:30 on Tuesday morning I was dutifully marching them down calle San Jeronimo to the Prado museum, which houses an impressive collection of works by Titian, Velazquez, Rubens, and Goya. But fate, it seemed, had loftier plans. We’d gotten about ten steps out of their hotel when we hit barricades and a mass of Hot Topic preteens*. At the very second we approached the crowd, it let loose a collective shriek, the likes of which I have not heard since Jingle Ball toyed with the hearts and minds of Long Island’s biggest Jonas Brothers fans. Needless to say, we were startled and confused, and I think I caught a couple of people laughing at us for for literally jumping back in reaction to the caterwauling. As it turned out, the crowd was gathered in front of a hotel awaiting the arrival of Tokio Hotel, and the sudden hubbub was a reaction to the approaching tour buses, which happened to pull up just as we were walking by.
Since we couldn’t get past the crowd, we stood and watched the mayhem for about fifteen minutes with some equally bewildered Japanese tourists who were also en route to the Prado. Luckily my uncle had his camera on hand to document the madness. Here’s the video, which isn’t much to see beyond general pandemonium, but at the 2:30 mark there’s some footage of a phone conversation that gets pretty amusingly emotional.
After it became apparent that Tokio Hotel was not emerging from the bus anytime soon, we decided to cross the street and reluctantly surrender our day to great works of art. Needless to say, the incident inspired a bout of curious Googling, the results of which both disturbed and perplexed me. As it turns out, this is what all the shrieking was for…
Look, I understand the appeal of provocative girly boys. Men who play up their feminine qualities inspire the most manic fandom among a certain subset of pop fans. But come on! Those two in the middle (they’re twins, by the way) make Panic at the Disco look like the starting defensive line of a fireman’s league football team. It’s not that they’re girly. It’s that they look just like girls, which in general is totally fine and their business, but I fail to understand it on a teenybopper appeal level.
And then there’s the music itself. Oh, boy.
I will never understand the appeal of leaden alt-rock, much less how it could ever sneak into the J-14 arena. Seriously, this song is so boring. Imagine if you were thirteen and having a pool party and you put this on the stereo system. Your guests would drown themselves to escape the maudlin dreariness.
Their English-language offerings aren’t any more entertaining:
But it seems that the band has got something going for them that’s even more important than enjoyable music: a good publicity team. Their YouTube channel hosts a large spread of promotional videos documenting their endless publicity tour around the world. The most interesting thing about these videos is hearing the twins’ deep German dude voices.
Oddly enough, the New York Times seems to think they’re just the cutest little things.
The occasion was the first New York performance by Tokio Hotel, a German act that scrambles musical categories in a way that feels ideally suited to the current era. Why shouldn’t fans go nuts for a goth-punk boy band influenced by the darkly theatrical love songs of HIM (from Finland) and AFI (from California) and led by a sexy androgyne with spectacular hair? Why shouldn’t the members of Tokio Hotel be given a chance to bring their not-quite-idiomatic refrains — “We are here tonight/Leave the world aside” — to the United States?
As this paragraph implies, it is a free country, and young girls have every right to strain their vocal chords over whomever they please. But at some point you have to wonder if “why not?” is good enough. While Tokio Hotel can, and, by every means, should write and perform music to be enjoyed by whomever is up to the challenge, it’s a shame that groups like The Spinto Band don’t have the kind of publicity machine to thrust them into international super-stardom. Because if this song…
… were just as likely to be played at some suburban thirteen-year-old’s pool party than “Monsoon,” the world would be a much happier place.
* I wonder what the equivalent to Hot Topic is here in Spain? I’ll get back to you on that.