You loved the '80s -- in big part because of Madonna. And you've been following the Material Girl ever since. So of course you're thrilled that the Material Girl is headed to the Bay Area for a pair of shows this week.
But hold on. The young music fans in your family weren't even born in the '80s. Their obsession is Justin Bieber, the Canadian heartthrob who is trying to make the difficult leap from teen idol to bona fide musical artist. And he's also in the Bay Area this week.
Clearly there is a generational divide separating this weekend's two gigantic concert attractions: Madonna on Saturday and Sunday at HP Pavilion in San Jose and Justin Bieber on Saturday at Oracle Arena in Oakland. After all, Madonna was already a world beater with millions of records sold, starring roles in movies and gazillions of controversies to her credit by the time Bieber entered his first singing contest at age 12 (placing second).
Yet plenty of families will turn out to see both acts -- and there's no reason why fans of all ages shouldn't enjoy the shows.
To help bridge the age gap, we're providing guides to both artists to help bring the uninitiated -- and, in some cases, the uninterested -- up to speed. Hopefully, after reading our tutorials, the young ones in the family will be more interested in seeing Madonna, and the chauffeurs (i.e., parents) will catch a bit of Bieber Fever.
1 Influence: Madonna is one of the most influential and innovative artists in music history. It would be absurd to try to list all of the modern female pop stars inspired by the Material Girl. Let's just say almost all of them owe debts of gratitude to Madonna Louise Ciccone.
2 Nothing's shocking: Madonna didn't invent controversy, but she certainly perfected its use as a marketing tool. Seemingly, anything is fair game in her world if it garners headlines. She's tackled such heated topics as abortion ("Papa Don't Preach") and religion (in her video for "Like a Prayer" and on her 2006 Confessions Tour). On her current tour, she's been criticized for using gun props and other startling imagery on stage. Tell me Lady Gaga and Kanye West haven't been
3 "Sex": A revealing outfit or "wardrobe malfunction" generates huge headlines for today's female pop stars. Then, of course, there's the private sex tape, which never seems to stay private for long and has helped turn Kim Kardashian and other beauties into household names. In a way, the Material Girl pioneered this path -- when she released 1992's "Sex," a collection of nudie and softcore-porn pictures of herself. And, believe it or not, she released it as a coffee-table book.
4 I Kissed a Girl: No, Katy Perry, you weren't first. Madonna brought girl-on-girl titillation into the homes of millions when she locked lips with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.
5 EDM: Electronic Dance Music is all the rage with the college set these days. Yet, it's nothing new to Madonna, who must be considered one of the pioneers of the genre, if not as a creator then as an artist who helped bring the genre into the mainstream. She's been collaborating with top-name DJs for years and helped popularize the style on her seventh studio album, 1998's "Ray of Light." Some youngsters, however, just have no respect for those who paved the way. Notably, superstar DJ DeadMau5 bashed Madonna by calling her a "funky grandma." Whatever, mouse man.
6 Real cred: Among her many honors, Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, which places her on the same ground with such immortals as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin.
7 Longevity: She was 23 when her first single, "Everybody," came out in 1982. She's now 54 and still on top of the world. Hard to name many other pop stars who have remained relevant for that long a period.
8 Millions sold: Sure, Adele, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have been hot as of late. Yet, they all have a long way to go before they approach Madonna's career totals. She has sold more than 300 million records across the globe -- which, according to Guinness World Records, makes Madonna the world's top-selling female artist.
9 Queen of all media: From the very start, it seemed like Madonna wanted to be more than just a pop star. She's certainly pursued other business and artistic endeavors with gusto -- such as running her own record label, Maverick, and starring in films like 1985's "Desperately Seeking Susan" and 1996's "Evita." She's also an acclaimed film director and clothing designer, among many other things. Diversifying is the name of her game, but so many other acts (including Bieber) are now playing along.
10 Key tracks: This is a tough one -- because there are so many. But, if we have to pick, here are five downloads that will help one get to know some of the Material Girl's many musical sides: "Lucky Star" (lightweight pop), "Crazy for You" (romantic ballad), "Papa Don't Preach" (topical), "La Isla Bonita" (tropical) and "4 Minutes" (dance-pop, featuring Justin Timberlake).
Bieber for beginners
1 The Hair: Bieber's 'do is a pop culture phenomenon. It's discussed as widely, and as rabidly, as any of his songs. His original hairstyle -- kind of a bowl cut, swept-to-one-side thingy -- is more memorable than most of his hits. Anytime Bieber changes his cut, it sends ripples through Twitterdom as well as junior high schools across the planet. His hair even has its own fan clubs and Facebook pages. Yet such attention to a haircut is hardly new -- as fans of the original mop tops, the Beatles, can attest.
2 YouTube: Bieber has arguably used online video sharing services more effectively than anyone. His videos have collected nearly 3 billion views on YouTube alone. The platform is new, but the effect isn't unlike what Madonna, Michael Jackson and others accomplished with MTV in the '80s.
3 Child star: He was only 15 when his first single, "One Time," hit radio. Now, he's 18 and trying to transition from child star to legit pop singer. He's hoping that the result is more Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears (both former TV Mouseketeers) than Tiffany and Lil' Romeo.
4 Cover boy: He's the bread-and-butter for all those teen idol magazines on shelves. Nothing sells copies quite like Bieber's cute mug out on the cover. Unless it's Bieber on a date with his girlfriend, Disney star Selena Gomez. Of course, some of these publications (like the immortal Tiger Beat) once turned to Shaun Cassidy, the Monkees, Leif Garrett and (gulp!) even the Righteous Brothers to entice readers.
5 Usher Jr.: If you want to know what Bieber is shooting for onstage, look no further than his mentor, Usher. He's trying to be a song and dance, um, man. And he's pretty decent in that role, but still nowhere near as good as Usher.
6 Influence: According to the social-media tracking website Klout, Bieber is a more influential online presence than President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama. That's impressive, but still might pale in comparison to the influence the Beatles once exerted on the pop world. Remember when John Lennon once infamously proclaimed that his band had become more popular than Jesus?
7 Twitter: These days, it's all about how many followers a star has on Twitter. Bieber has more than 28 million, which makes him the second-most followed person on the globe (just a million or so behind Lady Gaga). That's taking the old fan club plan, which has been used by pop stars for generations, to a new level.
8 Top seller: Bieber has released three studio albums, each of which has hit No. 1 on the charts. Yet, he still has room to grow: Bieber has yet to notch his first No. 1 single in the United States.
9 Merry Christmas: The "most wonderful time of the year" is a key period for pop stars. Hundreds have mined the Christmas songbook over the years to the tune of chart success. Bieber got in on the action in late 2011, with his "Under the Mistletoe" moving more than 200,000 copies in its first week on shelves.
10 Key tracks: Here are five songs you should download to prep for Bieber: "Baby," "Boyfriend," "Never Say Never," "Somebody to Love" and "Eenie Meenie."
Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.