While some of his peers have become derisive public figures, a space is opening up for teen Youtube sensation Austin Mahone. His two Billboard Hot 100 charting singles say a lot about his potential.
The better of the two tracks, "What About Love," peaked at 66 in 2013 and had some moderate summer radio play. The song works to Mahone's strengths by casting him as a romantic, and, though the production sounds like vintage N'Sync, it balances dance breakdowns with a good chorus. The vocal gets obscured by the production and it would be nice to let the singer show more of his abilities, but the track works regardless.
"MMM Yeah" featuring Pitbull is another story. First, it positions Mahone as a womanizer and is a less-successful dance track because of it. (Though the clunky production does it no favors.) Of course, pop music can be a great outlet to express lust, but the way the singer's paramour rejects his advances and then is reduced to the sum of her parts in the lyric (a la O-Town's indefensible "Liquid Dreams") leaves a bad taste in the track's wake. This crass macho nonsense is heightened by Pitbull's presence, as the rapper continues to deliver some of the more misogynistic rhymes on pop radio. ("MMM Yeah" currently sits at #62 on the Hot 100.)
If Mahone and his label are keeping abreast of how his more strident contemporaries (namely Justin Beiber) have been met by the media and radio, they would be wise to highlight Mahone's softer side. He has a good voice, lots of energy, and a growing fan-base. If he is to achieve significant mainstream success, he may want to seek out stronger and sweeter material.