An image of the members of Big Time Rush

Big Time Rush Is Reuniting, but Will They Update Their Sound or Opt for Nostalgia?

The boyband announced they will be releasing new music. But will their previous personas as child actors prevent them from becoming mainstream artists?
September 3, 2021
9 mins read

Gen Z remembers the red-black aesthetic, swooping haircuts and the lyrical inquiry “Don’t you feel the rush?” as features of the Nickelodeon tween comedy series “Big Time Rush.” Undeniably, fans of the group can now relate to “the rush” of excitement the band once sang of, as the group’s long-awaited revival is now on the horizon.

Kendall Schmidt, Logan Henderson, Carlos PenaVega and James Maslow hit the tween sitcom scene in 2009, when their show, “Big Time Rush,” premiered on Nickelodeon and subsequently aired for four seasons. The premise of the show was simple: “Four best friends from Minnesota trade in their hockey sticks and high-school life for the opportunity of a lifetime: pursue pop music stardom in Los Angeles as a boy band.”

Marketed to children, the comedy of the show consisted of nonsensical gimmicks, slapstick stunts and a smidgen of surrealism through every foolish twist and timed sound effect.

Although the silliness of each episode would beg to differ, there was a definite heart underneath the show’s immature exterior that contributed to its popularity. Arguably, the ability of the series to make its young audience feel like a part of the gang themselves contributed to the hold Big Time Rush still has over their fans to this day, resulting in all the fanfare around their recently promised reunion.

Beyond that, the sitcom itself was a vessel for the band’s original music, which mostly consisted of catchy tunes about young love, heartbreak and living life to the fullest. Armed with sweet voices and good looks, the members of the band played fictionalized versions of themselves. Their characters even borrowed their real-life first names.

Still, although they shared names, the band members didn’t exactly share the personalities of their characters.

Each adhered to a character archetype. Kendall was the level-headed yet reluctant leader, Logan the awkward brainiac, Carlos was the reckless one and James played a narcissistic pretty-boy. Though they were reading from a script, fans really got to know their characters through the life, energy and comedy each actor brought to the table. Their chemistry on and off-set contributed to their ability to be a dynamic group to watch, both as their characters and as themselves goofing off behind the scenes.

Looking beyond the characters’ antics in the posh fictional world of record deals and teenage celebrities, the series ultimately promoted a deeper understanding of collectively working hard to make it “big time.”  Each episode could be boiled down to a simple yet effective moral— true friends will have each other’s backs and stick together through anything. It was a perfect form of role-modeling for BTR’s young audience.

One audience reviewer on Google claimed the series changed their life, calling the show “a metaphor” to encapsulate “the opposite” of “toxic friendship.” Though the show was a silly form of entertainment, each episode featured the characters fighting hard to remain down-to-earth and stay together through all their tribulations.

“Big Time Rush” may have ended seven years ago, but that didn’t mean the band had permanently disbanded. It was clear there was no bad blood between the group members when their reign on Nickelodeon ended. The band simply ceased to stay in close proximity.

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The cast was ready to live their own separate lives. Kendall still released music with his band Heffron Drive, and James continued to act in romantic comedies such as “Stars Fell on Alabama.”

But it was Carlos who remained the most visible in the public sphere. Not only did he start a family with Disney channel alum Alexa PenaVega, he also appeared in “Dancing with the Stars,”The Loud House” and The CW’s “Life Sentence.” Alongside his wife, Carlos maintained a YouTube vlog channel and a spirituality blog. Recently, however, the young renaissance-creator was accused of being a Trump supporter. His nondenial of the rumors only made some fans brutally unforgiving. Some even refused to support his career after speculation began.

In a TikTok posted by Logan featuring the guys hanging out and goofing around, commenters continued to gripe over Carlos’ alleged support of Trump, while others defended the singer, saying his political beliefs should not damage his friendships or the band’s fresh start.

Regardless, with all the screen time the four had together after seven years apart, it became abundantly clear that some sort of project was brewing between the former stars, now in their 30s.

In the middle of quarantine, the band performed an acoustic version of their hit song “Worldwide” together, albeit in separate locations, later posting it to social media. True to name, it was a performance heard around the world, as fans were overjoyed to see their childhood idols back “together” again, voices blossoming in maturity.

Prior to this iconic performance however, a video of the band wishing safety to their fans through the pandemic hinted at something more to come, as Carlos signed off, “Spread that love, spread that aloha and who knows…a lot to look forward to at the end of this.”

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Then came the infamous red tide earlier this year. Big Time Rush resurrected their Twitter page and changed their profile’s icon to a red bubble, each member of the band following suit on their personal accounts.

Fans on TikTok went ballistic over the teasing, as something big was evidently on the way.

Between the Jonas Brothers’ comeback, “iCarly” reboot and now Big Time Rush revival — it was a good time to be a kid of the early 2000s. After the year of stagnation in quarantine, this growing wave of nostalgic revivals is well-received.

Fans did not have long to anticipate the announcement. Soon a trailer appeared on social media. In the same goofy comedy style of the original series, a voiceover previewed each band member in various scenarios, then announced two comeback shows in New York City and Chicago for the end of this year. To fans’ disappointment, these are the only two shows that have been so far announced. Each of which promptly sold out.

But Big Time Rush is not done yet. Each of the bandmates took to their Instagram stories to tease the release of new BTR music currently in the works — sharing behind-the-scenes photos of them together in the studio. The band even shared a brief snippet of a new song on a recent Instagram livestream.  

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Although the band’s comeback is well-anticipated, there is still much confusion over the band’s return to the industry that has yet to be clarified. The question remains — will Big Time Rush stick to their child-like image and reclaim their characters, or will they try to make it big time as themselves, in a legitimate band?

With the promise of new music, fans are wondering whether the band will adhere to singing cheesy songs about love or if they will branch into new musical territory. Though they have a loyal fanbase, the era of boy bands has long gone extinct, begging the question of if they will be able to acclimate to the ever-changing artistry of popular music.

It remains uncertain how Big Time Rush will blend their former television personas with their actual personalities, now that they are no longer forced to have their words fed to them. Fans are likely to conflate them with their characters, unless BTR mimics other child-stars-turned-serious-musicians of the past who immediately resorted to vulgarity to escape their perceived goody-two-shoes reputations.

Even so, their former roles may lead to a strange entitlement on the part of their fanbase, who may think they know the band members better than they actually do, expecting something different than what they end up delivering.

Regardless, there is a clear swell of excitement to see where they will head with their comeback. Their style begging for an update, determining if the boy band can maintain relevance beyond their previously established fanbase will contribute to the hype around their return, either giving fans a mature sound to vibe to — or sticking with what’s reliable.

Olivia Wisse, Hofstra University

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Olivia Wisse

Hofstra University
English, Creative Writing and French

Olivia never goes a day without a cup of coffee. She is passionate about writing and all things bookish. She hopes to write a novel of her own one day.

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