You probably never heard of them before, but the Dolan twins are very popular.
Videos documenting their teen lives on social media have amassed over 1.8 million dedicated followers on YouTube, putting the douchey captain of your high school football team to shame. Last Saturday, the 16-year-olds drew a crowd of over 2,000 to the iPlay America arena in Freehold, New Jersey for a performance and meet and greet. Their "model-good looks are the hottest talent around right now," the venue said of the duo, who stopped there on the beginning of their nationwide 4OU tour.
Harking to the mania caused by the Beatles in the '60s, the chaos inspired by the Dolan twins' appearance sent seven teens to the hospital and another 21 had to be treated on the scene. The sight of them shirtless led teens to bumrush the stage, causing sprained ankles, bloody noses, heat exhaustion, and panic attacks. But unlike musicians or actors or any other "old media" entertainers, it's unclear how their work translates to a live stage performance. They don't play music or do standup or act, really. They just document their lives.
Ethan and Grayson started their careers in 2013 on Vine, as some of the network's early breakout stars. They were part of a community of young Vine celebrities like Cameron Dallas and Nash Grier, who have been in their videos and followed similar trajectories. Vine served as a gateway drug to YouTube, where they were signed with the multi-channel network AwesomenessTV. They now live in LA, apparently on their own. A fan tumblr claims their career goals are set beyond social networks. They want to be models/actors.
But what do they do, exactly? Their brand of YouTube video mixes a blend of genres: vlogging, sketch comedy, pranks, and simply being shirtless on camera. Their most popular video follows Grayson getting his wisdom teeth removed and acting crazy cute under the influence of drugs. In another hit, Grayson and their british friend Harrison Webb duct tape Ethan to a door and leave him there for over two hours with a raw egg cracked on his head.
One of my favorites is "Our first time," in which the twins tell stories about their first Instagram post, first kiss, etc. A recurring "joke" throughout the video is about how they like to hold hands. They talk about doing it on the first day of school and the happy-go-lucky music stops. They repeat it into the camera slowly, sexily. "There's a picture of it!" one teases. Later they say they need pedicures and clasp each other's hands. The whole thing feels a little homo-erotic and incestual, in exactly the kind of way their teen fans go crazy for.
Their "cuteness" and "hotness" are at the heart of their appeal, as most of their videos center around this fact. For example, in hot tub confessions, the Dolan Twins tell their fans never-before-heard embarrassing stories and horse around in bathing suits. It's not very important that these videos don't really have another component, like musical skills or a highly developed sense of humor. It's simply enough that they are their hot selves.