The business of teen idols is still, fundamentally, the same as ever: Find acts who appeal to young women ages 12 to 17 (or so), and use music-industry magic to render them briefly irresistible. In 2014, though, there are more opportunities for upstarts to become objects of mass desire; if earlier teen-idol eras had T-shirts and issues of Bop magazine to burnish their demigods’ images, this one has YouTube channels, Twitter feeds, and countless websites and social-media services, too. Sunday’s show at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, which featured four acts from the latest crop of teen-pop acts, showed how flooding potential fans with information (and some music) can be just as effective as the old ways of doing things.
Opener Shawn Mendes grew his following on the six-second-video network Vine, and the Torontonian’s easy way with strummy, doe-eyed lite rock was pleasant enough to make his 15-minute set breeze by just as quickly. British foursome the Vamps, who fuse the boy-band template onto the idea of an arena-rock act, were gloriously (if perhaps unintentionally) campy, thanks to the outsize frontman persona of lead singer Brad Simpson; their appealing cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” united the tastes of the night’s core audience with those of the parents present.
Fifth Harmony, a five-member girl group born from the now-canceled “The X Factor,” offered a different type of idolizing; the message was all about giving props to the self, as evidenced by “Reflection,” a sassy love song to one’s mirror image, and “Miss Movin’ On,” a spunky ode to the power that comes from a well-timed breakup.
Austin Mahone, the night’s headliner, has accrued a rabid following of “Mahomies” thanks to his knack for retrofitting R&B hits to teenage tastes, which he showed off in a series of from-the-bedroom clips that garnered attention from YouTube-watching tweens and, eventually, the record business. He’s put out two EPs of stridently rhythmic pop that brings to mind not only Justin Bieber, but the big-tent teen idol hits of the early 2000s; on Sunday night his confident, dance-heavy set was punctuated by a breather where he reverently covered John Legend, Michael Jackson, and George Strait.
Mahone ended the night with “Mmm Yeah,” a Pitbull-assisted club banger about being blown off by a woman walking by him on the street. Which seems like a curious message from a burgeoning heartthrob, but it’s canny: Once that woman exits, after all, members of the audience can imagine themselves in her place, even if only for a few minutes.