Like Hilary Duff five years ago, Miley Cyrus is one of those stars who exists on the periphery of your consciousness if you are older than 17, but is smack in the center of it if you are younger than 12.
Cyrus, who will be 15 in November, is the daughter of country star Billy Ray Cyrus and the star of "Hannah Montana," an enormously successful tween television show on the Disney Channel about a "normal" teenage girl who has a secret life as a world famous pop star.
On Tuesday, she released "Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus," a double album of material that is half Hannah Montana songs and half Miley Cyrus songs (not that she wrote any of them herself).
To promote it, she performed a free concert in the courtyard of the Hollywood & Highland mall on a sweaty Tuesday afternoon. Subtracting all the parents there, the average age of the fans that came to see her was around 8.
What is the sound of hundreds of 8-year-olds constantly prompted to scream for 25 minutes? Imagine the roar of a crowd at a Nickelback concert played back at high speed.
Cyrus is Olsen-twin skinny and twice as perky as Jessica Alba. She's also creepily self-composed for someone who can't even get a learner's permit.
When the sound on her microphone went out for half of her opening song, she kept singing and wiggling and throwing her bony arms in the air as if everyone could hear her, never missing a beat. At least she wasn't lip synching.
"Hey guys, I think you can hear me now, but I can't hear you!" she said after the sound came back on. "I want to hear you make some noise!!"
That's a better reaction than crumpling in despair or running off stage, but her cheerful "I'm-a-professional-I-can-handle-this" attitude does not necessarily guarantee a healthy future.
Britney Spears, who also famously got her start at Disney, used to entertain armies of little girls with eerie robo-girl confidence too. Come to think of it, so did Lindsay Lohan.
Maybe that's why I started crying during her song "Life's What You Make It." It was a boring rock number like all five of the other ones she played, but this time two Disney backup dancers came on stage to help her out -- swinging their long hair, big smiles plastered on their faces.
All that joyful energy being channeled into CD sales really got me down.
Suddenly everything seemed so poignant and pathetic: a 5-year-old girl sitting on her dad's shoulders clutching a digital camera; a pudgy 9-year-old in a just barely not too short mini-skirt wavng a cardboard sign that read "I LOVE U MILEY" in the air; the little girl from Virginia who knew every word to the song; the 3-year-old shyly waving to the teenage superstar who couldn't possibly see her.
So much excitement and promise now, but then what?