Marketing’s a funny thing — it can make a group hip or stale, make it ride a critical wave or turn it into a pop favorite. Never has that been more clear than at a show by these two teen-pop darlings, both of whom could have captured the hearts of other segments of the music population had they not been marketed straight for the 14-year-old girl’s jugular. Those girls screamed through songs from Cabrera’s pop-rock “You Stand Watching” and the Click Five’s power-pop “Greetings From Imrie House” (both Atlantic), not just for the performers’ good looks but for their sing-along choruses.
Cabrera’s best known as teen starlet Ashlee Simpson’s ex-boyfriend, and his new album’s jammed with breakup ballads that could very well be about the reality-show star, who watched from the balcony, waving to the frantic fans below. If Cabrera’s hair weren’t so perfectly coiffed and his face so shiny, “Last Night” and “With You Gone” both could be college-rock favorites; his best songs, abetted by saxophone, are most akin to Dave Matthews-light groups like O.A.R., and his worst are heavily influenced by the Goo Goo Dolls. It’s the MTV connection that draws his admirers and turns off his detractors, but on a purely musical basis, he’s more of a lite-jam guy than a teen-pop prince.
Likewise the Click Five, who have toured with uber-pop acts like the Backstreet Boys but have much more in common with power-pop groups like Fountains of Wayne and share a shaggy-hair-and-tie stylistic sensibility with the Wonders, the fictional group from the film “That Thing You Do.” Their songs are equally poppy, fluffy and enjoyable, though the harmonies on “Pop Princess” were a bit off thanks to singer Eric Dill’s tonsillitis. There’s no substance, but that’s not what the Click Five are going for; their sugary melodies may not win over grizzled power-pop die-hards but could be enough to get a couple of high school freshmen to seek out Cheap Trick or start a band. As far as music to swoon to goes, that’s pretty high grade.