Every once in a while, someone sends me a link to a young recording artist with talent. I listen to the music or watch the video, and almost always I like the kid. When the video and the song are age appropriate and positive, I’m impressed with the adults who are championing the kid.
That being said, I don’t buy into the idea that it’s appropriate to sign a kid to a recording contract when they’re so very young, and there are lots of good reasons why I don’t buy into the idea.
Tanya Tucker made her debut with Mel Tillis back in 1969 when she was 10 years old. She had loads of talent. Three years later, she had a hit with the song “Delta Dawn” and she became one of the youngest stars ever to enter country music. Over the years, her stormy relationships, May-December romances, and addictions were splashed all over print and broadcast media.
I remember seeing Britney Spears perform on Star Search when she was ten years old … back in 1992. Like Tanya Tucker, she had loads of talent. Her stormy relationships, outrageous behaviors, and legal woes were also splashed all over print and broadcast media.
Lindsay Lohan also began her acting career at the age of 10 on the soap opera, “Another World.” She had loads of talent. And like Tanya Tucker and Britney Spears, the pitfalls and downward spiral of her life became the fodder of print and broadcast media.
Billy Ray’s daughter, Miley Cyrus, had her debut in Tim Burton’s movie, “Big Fish” when she was 10 years old. She had loads of talent. And yes, her behavior and antics have been traipsed through print and broadcast media for quite some time.
It seems that it’s the norm, not the exception, for talented children growing up in the arts industry to somehow wind up in a tailspin of varying magnitudes as they grow up. Perhaps it’s just those who are 10 years old when they’re discovered who get pulled into the negative vortex, but I don’t believe so.
Justin Beiber was discovered on YouTube when he was 13 years old.
Brad Renfro began his acting career at 12 years of age.
Jodie Sweetin began her acting career at 4 years of age.
Macaulay Culkin began his acting career at 4 years of age.
Drew Barrymore made her first appearance as an actress when she wasn’t quite a year old.
The list goes on and on.
Now, I’m not saying that every kid that gets involved in the arts industry is doomed to a life of difficulties and ridicule and judgment. Not at all. After all, there are those like Shirley Temple Black and Justin Timberlake who have navigated the waters of ever-present disasters and troubles lurking in the dark, waiting to scuttle them on their shores.
However, I do believe that children should be allowed to be children, and no matter how desperately they want to grab at that brass ring, they should be encouraged to enjoy their childhood.
According to the CDC, the average American can expect to live to be about 78 years old, so doesn’t it make sense to let kids be kids for the first 18 years of their life? After all, there’s another 60 years after that for pursuing a career in the arts industry if that’s what they want. If they’ve got loads of talent, the world will embrace them when they hit that eighteenth birthday.
In the meantime, encourage them to enjoy their talent. Encourage them to volunteer their talents for fun events and school concerts and church gatherings and other such things.
Let them be kids.