Just a few years ago, when teens dominated the pop charts, to be a singer of a more senior age say, about 30 was something to be downplayed or outright omitted on one's musical resume.
Indeed, as the likes of 'N Sync, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera posted hit after hit and sold millions and millions of albums, the most coveted part of a performer's act seemed to be his or her youth.
But these days, Justin Timberlake has graduated from `N Sync to sexy adult club tracks, Aguilera is a married woman singing mature ballads and it no longer seems necessary to shave a few years off your age. While teen acts like JoJo, Rihanna and Chris Brown are still creating hits, they are no longer ruling the marketplace. Most of this year's top-selling artists were in their 20s or 30s, like Gnarls Barkley, Mary J. Blige, James Blunt, Nelly Furtado and Shakira. And oldsters like 60-year-old Barry Manilow and 65-year-old Bob Dylan also had strong sales.
"There has been more product that was clearly adult for the last five to ten years," says Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming at Edison Media Research, which tracks radio trends.
"Thirty-five-year olds are going to a point where rap is O.K. and 18-year-olds want more mellow music. ... It's more like there's nothing galvanizing in the center and that lets everybody see what's in the fringes."
Still, there may be the rumblings of a teen craze on the horizon. The year's biggest-selling album was the soundtrack to the Disney TV movie "High School Musical," although it was aimed at the tween set. And a graduate from that film, Vanessa Hudgens, is having some success on radio with her solo debut.
In addition, while there have been no monster albums from teens this year, there have been other radio successes with acts like 16-year-old singer Paula DeAnda ("Doing Too Much"), 15-year-old rappers Jibbs ("Chain Hang Low"), and 15-year-old JoJo, whose ballad "Too Little Too Late," was a top five Billboard pop hit.
"I think a lot of times it's been older people, but now the teenage group, the younger group, it's very youthful now," said DeAnda. "There's hot new artists out there. ... It's a real big year for us."
"I think it's kind of happening," JoJo said of a possible teen resurgence on the charts. "But I don't think it's in the same way that it happened maybe seven years ago with the boy bands and Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera."
Back then, acts like Spears and Aguilera made blockbuster albums that sold millions of copies apiece during a music-industry boom.
But as the acts grew older along with the teens that once worshipped them, the craze began to fade, along with the decline of the music industry with the advent of Internet downloading.
"Teen stuff continues to sell, it's always going to sell, (but) it's not a craze like it (was)," says Rick Krim, executive vice president of music and talent relations at VH1. "I think a lot of the teen music tends to be disposable, and it's not the kind of music that stays with you for your lifetime."
A recent survey from the Recording Industry Association of America showed that from 1996 to 2005, the number of 15- to 19-year-olds purchasing music declined from 17.2 percent of music buyers to 11.9 percent. The percentage of buyers in the age groups between 20 and 44 either declined very slightly or remained about steady, but the biggest leap was in the over-45 group: They now represent 25.5 percent of music buyers, up from 15.1 percent in 1996.
Even though Manilow and Dylan had No. 1 debuts with their albums this year, it's not as if pop is no longer a music that appeals to the youth. After all, one of its biggest sensations, Beyonce, is a certified veteran at age 25.
But her boyfriend, 37-year-old Jay-Z, had one of the biggest sales debuts of the year with his album, "Kingdom Come." On it, he talks about being mature and seasoned and even has a song, "30 Something," bragging about his elder status.
"When you're 50-years-old, you still love hip-hop but you just can't relate to the music any more because the people making it as they grow, they're still trying to cater to a younger audience," he told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "I just felt it was very important for me to make a grown-up album and that's the tone of it, the whole album."'
Jay-Z isn't ruling out selling to the kids either. And it seems that these days, there's less of a distinction between the MTV set and the VH1 set.
"(Certain acts) start off appealing adult, but just because it's really great music ... it's appealing to other demos," said Krim, noting the success of acts like Blunt and the rock group Keane, reports AP.
Daniel Powter, 36, had one of the year's biggest hits with "Bad Day," a sing-a-long piano track that first got popular when it was used as the sendoff song on "American Idol."
Powter credited his life experience for helping him to finally make a hit like "Bad Day."
"I think I've put a foundation in. I couldn't have written the music when I was 18," he told The AP earlier this year.
"I don't want to lie about how old I am. I still feel good. I still feel great. I love to play music."