Story & Photos by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank
There’s something uncanny about hearing a 26-year-old rap a song they performed when they were 12. Especially when that rapper is Aaron Carter and the song contains the line “I always tried to be the flyest kid on the block. The popular one with the rising stock.” But almost 15 years after the release of Aaron’s Party (Come Get It), the musician, dancer, and occasional Disney star is back on tour with new music and a new outlook on life.
Carter topped the charts in the early ‘00s and is the youngest male solo artist to have four Top 40 singles. As he entered his teen years, Carter’s success dwindled and he was largely out of the public sphere before ending up in rehab for drug addiction and declaring bankruptcy shortly after. In 2013, Carter surprised fans with his first tour since 2005, and is back on the road again with 2014’s Wonderful World Tour. While Carter was hoping for the same success of his 2013 tour, his October 2nd show at the WOW Hall in Eugene, Oregon, a venue he had almost sold out a year ago, only drew around 40 fans.
These fans, mostly women in their late teens living out their preteen dream, even sang along to the songs played in-between sets and danced during the mediocre openers, Matt Ryan King and This Boy That Girl. King, who with bleached blonde hair and backup dancers could easily be dubbed “Baby Carter,” had some catchy pop numbers included “That’s What She Said,” but his voice seemed to still be going through puberty. King was followed by none other than his brother and twin sister, Alec and Becca King respectively, who make up This Boy That Girl. The King’s energy on stage was dynamic and Becca’s singing complimented Alec’s rapping, but their lyrics lacked authenticity or depth (see “Music is My Language”).
Finally, with the piercing scream of a bunch of 20-somethings, Carter bounced on stage with the chutzpah of a performer realizing he was playing to a mostly empty room. What followed was a condensed hour and a half of older hits as well as a few new songs. When he sang hits like “That’s How I Beat Shaq” and his cover of Jet’s “Crush On You,” the audience sang along like it was 2003. At not one but two points in the show, Carter brought female audience members on the stage and serenaded them by caressing their hair and singing into their ears. Carter was not straying far from his days as a teen pop star. At one point he even complained that so many men tell him that their partner’s first love was Aaron Carter, but when he started singing “I Want Candy,” a song I loved from when he performed it on Lizzie McGuire, I was singing along.
The show wasn’t all 2000s nostalgia commercialized for the enjoyment of an adult audience. Carter touched on his struggles with drug use and being so famous at such a young age. When performing a new song, “Recovery,” Carter admitted that he was singing the song for himself, not for any fan who still saw him as a teenager with bleached blonde hair who was in a love triangle with Lindsey Lohan and Hilary Duff.
In actuality, Carter was doing something that many artists before him have struggled with: finding the balance between who they were and who they want to be. Most child stars fail at this and arguably Carter did too. In “Recovery” he sings “I’m still healing” and with a world tour across 50 cities and new music, Carter’s making a recovery.