VIENNA, Va. — The concert opened with a fanatical countdown chant.
“Five, four, three, two … one!”
Legions of fans in oversize hair bows let out a collective high-pitched shriek. They leaped out of their parents’ arms and the sweaty plastic seats of the Wolf Trap amphitheater, scrambling for a clearer view of the sparkling silhouette onstage: 16-year-old pop sensation JoJo Siwa.
Joelle Joanie Siwa is an enigma to most adults. At first glance, the former “Dance Moms” star looks like an escapee from the Candy Crush universe, whimsically dressed in a mishmash of neon sparkles, rhinestones and glitter. Her music is similarly shiny — a message of self-love, confidence and girl power over a manufactured electro-pop beat. But parents who’ve been through it will tell you: Once a child has sipped the JoJo juice, there’s no going back. It opens the doors to a world of colorfully excessive merchandise, loud YouTube shenanigans and — perhaps her greatest parental selling point — G-rated, good-natured fun.
Her songs, with titles such as “Boomerang,” “Kid in a Candy Store” and “High Top Shoes,” sound juvenile — but then again so are her fans. The Siwanatorz, the official name for her fans, fall typically within the toddler and tween age range.
“It’s fun, but I know it’ll be a short-lived obsession,” Cassie Lutjen said. For now, the obsession is real, she said, nodding to her daughter Maisie, 7, who was clutching a glittery poster that read “I HEART JOJO.”
Maisie recently celebrated her birthday with a JoJo-themed party and owns “too many bows to count,” scattered across their home in Manassas, Va. (A bow was ceremoniously clipped onto Lutjen for the occasion.) But JoJo’s empowering and cheery lyrics are what makes Lutjen willing to buy into the phenomenon, for as long as Maisie’s interested.