Today, “Big Time Rush,” the Nickelodeon show’s titular boy band, feels like little more than a strange but beloved memory. In all, their best songs amount to the occasional pregame banger or maybe even a “hot take” favorite of your quirkiest friend.
Given this sentiment, it’s funny to think back to the early 2010s, when the show provoked whispers of a boy band resurgence to rival the days of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. For a brief but glorious time, it was not The Wanted or even One Direction that was leading that charge, but three simple letters: BTR.
Created by Scott Fellows (“Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”) for Nickelodeon in 2009, the show follows a group of Minnesotan hockey players as they navigate the ups and downs of show business alongside eccentric music legend Gustavo Rocque (Steven Kramer Glickman, “White Fang”). There are four members: Kendall (Kendall Schmidt, “School of Rock”), Carlos (Carlos PeñaVega, “Webheads”), James (James Maslow, “Celebrity Big Brother”) and Logan (Logan Henderson, “The Penguins of Madagascar”).
The show sought to mimic the strategy of the Disney Channel, which had found considerable success manufacturing pop stars through its programming, most notably with “Hannah Montana.” For the second time in Nickelodeon history (the first being “Victorious”), the network teamed up with Columbia/Epic Label Group. Thanks to this collaboration, the show was able to bring on countless celebrity guest stars, leading to regular cameos from artists like Snoop Dogg and Cher Lloyd.
Thus, a corporate-sponsored boy band experiment had begun.
To create the group, Nickelodeon auditioned more than 1,500 teenagers and young adults. The network let the band members pick the name, which they chose based on a hockey term, inspired by their fictionalized personas for the television show. With breakthrough hits like “Halfway There,” “City Is Ours” and “Til I Forget About You,” the band’s album BTR (released in 2010) reached No. 3 on the Hot 200 — a pretty impressive feat for a band now largely remembered as a silly gimmick.
With the success of their premiere, it seemed that the group was here to stay. In 2011, they were nominated for the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Push Act. The next year, when discussing the failures of recent boy bands to match the success of those from the late 90s and early 00s, the Chicago Tribune boldly declared, “Big Time Rush could change that.”
That same year, the band went on a tour that sold out six major markets in just a few days. The band that opened for them, believe it or not, was One Direction. The group even released a movie that featured covers of them singing Beatles songs — a move that proved to be quite controversial.
“I think they have ruined the songs, which I thought was next to impossible. I hate this band and basically all others of this era, and this is my generation,” one beatlesbible.com user hilariously wrote.
Even more controversy was sparked by the question of whether shows like “Big Time Rush” were selling unattainable goals of fame to children.
“Of course, there is a sense of escapism in these shows, which can be charming and magical, and that’s fine,” Deborah Nichols, the former director of the Children’s Media Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “But there’s also this sense that such achievements are possible, especially if you’re good-looking, when statistically they really aren’t.”
With a hit television show, a splash of controversy and smashing success in both the charts and the box office, it seemed like Big Time Rush had all the winning ingredients for a long, fruitful life of fame. So where are they now?
The group ended in 2013, along with the show, to give the band members time to work on their own music. Since then, frontman Kendall has been making music with his band Heffron Drive and occasionally stars in television shows like “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margot.”
Carlos is now a happily married father, who has spent time in Hallmark movies, live shows and even “Dancing with the Stars.” James continues to star in movies, work on his solo career and, strange enough, has also been on “Dancing with the Stars.” Logan released a debut solo album in 2018.
Most importantly, though, Steven Kramer Glickman continues to bless my TikTok with stories about the filming of “Big Time Rush,” including one about smoking weed with Snoop Dogg. Yes, you heard that right. Gustavo Rocque and Snoop Dogg have blazed up together. Life moves fast.
Though there has never been any bad blood since the split, the boys haven’t been able to match the levels of success they found in the early 2010s. This could be the result of a few things. For one, it has proven difficult for them to shed their Nickelodeon image and establish themselves as serious artists. We’ve witnessed tons of Disney Channel artists struggle with the same problem. Alternatively, as much as it hurts to say, perhaps the quality of their music just isn’t as high.
Whatever it is, there is hope for the future. Last year, the four bandmates hopped on a virtual hangout to catch up and cryptically tease that there is “a lot to look forward to.” Does this mean a fourth BTR album is coming? We can only hope.
One thing is certain, though: Just like The Beatles, Big Time Rush is better together. In the 2020s, I hope to feel the Rush — even if for just one last time.
Daily Arts Writer Ben Servetah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.