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Five Moments Teen Pop Stars Became Sex Symbols Five Moments Teen Pop Stars Became Sex Symbols

Five Moments Teen Pop Stars Became Sex Symbols

by Nona Willis Aronowitz
May 18, 2012

On March 1, Justin Bieber turned 18 years old, and a few weeks later, he released his single, "Boyfriend." The song offers the same fantasy as always—he just wants a girlfriend to cuddle, and that girl is you, baby—but this time, the Biebs sounds smoky, breathy, seductive, wheedling while semi-rapping about fondue and swag over a stripped-down beat. His lyrics say "love," but his voice says "sex." In the song's video (a pretty blatant Timberlake knock-off), he's a mere shadow of his former self. Gone is the cheesy smile, the purple hoodie, the video games. Instead, there's lip-licking, waist-grabbing, and a scantily clad girl—no, woman—sitting atop his very, very fancy car. A new GQ profile calls out this calculated reinvention for what it is: part hormones, part rebrand. 

Despite the ick factor of watching a famous kid turn into a sex symbol, it's a rite of passage. Most of the pop stars who survive their teenybopper years go through a sexually charged metamorphosis right in front of our eyes. In honor of JB's transition from "lil' bro" to "swaggy adult," here are the top five moments of teen stars owning their sexual awakenings:

Michael Jackson

Grown-up moment: Michael agreed to perform with the Jackson 5 for NBC's 25th anniversary show in 1983, on one condition: that he could perform a solo song after the brothers' lineup. "Those were good songs," Michael announced. "I like those songs a lot, but especially, I like"—dramatic pause—"the new songs." A raspy, hip-thrusting performance of "Billie Jean" ensued. 

Sample lyric: She came and stood right by me/Then the smell of sweet perfume/This happened much too soon/She called me to her room

Britney Spears

Grown-up moment: In February 2002, Britney told us she was "Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," but a few months before, she went on the MTV Music Awards and performed "I'm a Slave 4 U," panting and gyrating, wearing a boa constrictor and not much else.

Sample lyric: Baby, don't you want to/ dance upon me (Are you ready)/Leaving behind my name and age

Justin Timberlake

Grown-up moment: Most people remember "Cry Me a River" as Justin's more mature debut, but his first solo single in 2002 was actually the far racier "Like I Love You." Like Britney (and Bieber), the song features lusty, whispery interludes, but unlike his ex-girlfriend, he directly references sex—oral and otherwise.

Sample lyric: Play this free, joint called "brain"/Ma, take a hint/Make me swerve in the lane

Christina Aguilera

Grown-up moment: Just three years after her bubble-gum debut album and unfortunate mohair sweaters, Xtina was thrashing around on all fours in the 2002 “Dirrty” video, the raunchy masterpiece that earned her the title of the biggest slut in America.

Sample lyric: It's about time that I came to start the party/Sweat dripping over my body/Dance and getting just a little naughty/Want to get dirrty

Miley Cyrus

Grown-up moment: Miley got a lot of flack for poledancing (sort of) at the Teen Choice Awards and then posing topless (sort of) in Vanity Fair. Her 2010 "Can't Be Tamed" video was a big "fuck you" to the haters.

Sample lyric: I wanna be a part of something I don't know/And if you try to hold me back I might explode/Baby, by now you should know/I can't be tamed

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