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Hormones for the Holidays

Scream Tour 5, 1st Mariner Arena, Dec. 30

Jefferson Jackson Steele
SHIRTS AND SKINS: (from left) Bossman heats up and Pretty Ricky gets down to business at 1st Mariner.

By Al Shipley | Posted 1/10/2007

In the pop world, the era of boy bands and pubescent pop tarts is over, its stars either drifting into obscurity or crafting "mature" image makeovers. But in the R&B world, where the modern boy band formula was born with New Edition, youth is still king, and an endless onslaught of teen idols such as Chris Brown, Ciara, and Bow Wow dominate radio request lines. So when the fifth annual Scream Tour, BET's traveling circus of young black heartthrobs, swung through town for 92Q's Winter Wonder Jam, you'd best believe it was the social event of the season for every Baltimore middle-schooler.

Bossman, Charm City's own hip-hop star on the rise, opened the show with a quick set full of local radio hits and got the kids yelling along with "A-Yo" and the X-rated "Face Down." Then the other hometown boy on the bill, R&B star Mario, came out to announce, confusingly, that he wouldn't be performing that night. The smaller acts on the bill--One Chance, Jibbs, and Sammie--kept their sets fast-paced and under the 15-minute mark. But until closing with their respective one or two hits, they had trouble keeping the young girls screaming, which, judging from the name of the tour, is the measuring stick of success. Atlanta pop-trapper Yung Joc, whose entire career sounds predicated on the notion that Young Jeezy is just too complex for some people, also has just two hits. But he's managed to ride them to platinum status, and his set was appropriately grandiose. Even more than his inescapable summer jam "It's Goin' Down," it was his so-called "motorcycle dance"--popularized in the "It's Goin' Down" video and awkwardly immortalized by Tom Cruise--for which the arena went crazy.

For better or worse, the biggest spectacle of the night was Florida boy band Pretty Ricky. Entering in silk pajamas and creepy Eyes Wide Shut masks, they humped the ground, humped the air, and even humped chairs. And in 20 minutes, they ran through more costume changes than Mariah Carey does in an entire night. Only one or two members of the group actually sing, and the rest excitedly rap in thick Southern accents, like Pastor Troy stumbling into a fourth-generation Jodeci knockoff. It was a clusterfuck, but it was at least an entertaining clusterfuck, and it probably earned the group a few new fans that night.

At 24, co-headliner Ne-Yo is the oldest singer on the Scream Tour, and he classed things up a little with a live band. He's also the bill's only accomplished songwriter, so he made sure to remind everyone that he wrote Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable" in addition to the numerous hits from his own multiplatinum debut, In My Own Words. And when he wasn't trying out some ill-advised Michael Jackson dance movies, Ne-Yo came off more earnest and good-natured than any other performer that night--bland but likable, just like his album.

But it was clear that most of the audience was waiting for Omarion, the former frontman of boy band B2K who is shaping up to be the Justin Timberlake of this scene. (His new video, for the breakup ballad "Ice Box," even features producer Timbaland singing backup from the back of a car just like he did in the clip for Timberlake's "Cry Me a River.") And in "Touch" and the massively funky "Entourage," O's already got more great singles as a solo artist than with B2K, which couldn't shake mediocrity even when R. Kelly was writing the tunes. Still, his set was more captivating when the emphasis was on choreography and pyrotechnics than during the dull ballads where you were left alone with his nasal voice. At one point, he performed a brief tribute to some of his influences and idols, making special mention of the recently deceased James Brown. Omarion's fans might barely care about any performer old enough to buy liquor, but you've got to give the kid some credit for knowing his roots.

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