Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is this generation's Spinal Tap, but the pop antics the Lonely Island tap into go back to the Eighties. In constructing Conner4Real, Andy Samberg's goofy, cocky pop icon, the trio pulled from some of pop's most famous moments and personalities to create one whole publicity stunt of a person. From DJs-turned-ostrich farmers to surprise album mishaps, here are some cultural moments that built Popstar.
Tim Meadows portrays Harry Duggins, the long-time manager of Conner and the Style Boyz who once had his own musical aspirations. Though he's not as much of a shadow over Conner's career as some famous boy band managers have been, he is still an important influence. Duggins was once a musician — an original member of Tony! Toni! Toné! — like Maurice Starr, who often sang on New Kids on the Block tracks. Though he's not as corrupt as Lou Pearlman, he does create his star's competition, taking rising star Hunter under his wing even as Conner is beginning to flounder; Pearlman was responsible for creating the Backstreet Boys and controversially heralding the Beatles to their Stones with N'Sync. Finally, there's a touch of Johnny Wright within Duggins' approach; Wright not only worked with NKOTB, BSB and N'Sync, but he helped guide Justin Timberlake's post-boy band solo career.
As with all of Popstar's references, the Lonely Island would take a real-life pop star event and have it crumble in the hands of the inept-but-earnest Conner. During an interview with Rolling Stone, Andy Samberg revealed that the on-stage magic trick that left his character "dickless" was inspired by Katy Perry's Part of Me concert documentary where the pop star also tries out a new magic trick, though hers goes much better. The film also takes audience shots from famous pop star docs, making Perry another important inspiration for the mold of Conner4Real.
While former Style Boyz Conner and Owen remain together as Owen becomes Conner's DJ, the third member of their crew, Lawrence, has abandoned the business to live on a farm in Colorado. Exiting extreme fame to live a quieter farm life is much more common than it may seem, and one possible inspiration for the Lonely Island may have been Public Enemy's Terminator X, who left behind the biz to raise ostriches on his family's farm. "I left the music business because I was fed up with the greed and cutthroat environment that it is," the DJ has said of his reason for leaving it all behind. Lawrence is similarly fed up with Conner who had taken full credit for the "catchphrase verse" the farmer penned. Before Colorado, Lawrence had released a song called "Things in My Jeep" that never took off, but may also be a nod to Terminator X's debut solo album Terminator X & The Valley of the Jeep Beats.
Of everyone in Conner's life, his pet turtle Maximus is the pop star's closest, lifelong friend. His dependence on the turtle mimics the type of relationship Michael Jackson had with his chimpanzee Bubbles, who traveled everywhere with the pop star and was basically treated like a human and allowed to roam freely at Neverland Ranch. Conner and Maximus' relationship comes to a tragic end when the pet dies during the height of Conner's fall from fame. Though Jackson and Bubbles were separated in 2003 when the chimpanzee became too old and violent to be around humans anymore, Bubbles lives on in an animal sanctuary well after his former owner's own tragic death.
The entire world watched as Kanye West proposed to Kim Kardashian. The rapper not only rented out San Francisco's AT&T Park but he also hired the Chicago Symphony to perform Lana Del Rey's "Young & Beautiful" on his soon-to-be wife's birthday. On top of that, West let the Keeping Up With the Kardashians' cameras roll as he dropped to one knee. Conner's proposal to actress Ashley Wednesday was just as elaborately romantic: He led his blindfolded girlfriend down a path of trees where she was surprised with several wolves — her psychic told her she had been one in a past life — and a singing Seal as paparazzi captured every moment.
Hunter the Hungry not only has a name totally reminiscent of Tyler's but the description of his off-stage antics, pranks and zero-fucks-given attitude are the mirror image of Tyler's public image. The rapper is so outrageous, with his lyrics and behavior causing entire countries concern for public interest, that he's been banned from the U.K. and New Zealand. While Hunter doesn't get that far in Popstar, he does Single White Female Conner with his pranks and crazed stare that incites a little fear in each of Conner's crew members.
On "Equal Rights" featuring P!nk, Conner supports gay marriage in the only way he knows how: by reaffirming his straightness. While Macklemore wasn't being that dense in his approach to equal rights in his hit "Same Love," the Seattle rapper came under fire from the LGBT community for exploiting their struggle and fight as a straight man. People grew more irate after his corny VMA performance where he and Madonna performed the song as 33 couples wed in the audience — a stunt Conner would never shy away from.
Conner4Real causes a power outage and plenty of bad press when he partners with an appliance company that makes his album Connquest play out of every appliance in people's homes. The outrage over the home invasion mirrors the same type of reaction U2 received when they partnered with Apple in 2014 for their album Songs of Innocence, which was suddenly available to over 500 million iTunes users on their devices on the same day. The backlash was so strong and immediate that Bono later had to apologize for forcing the album on every iTunes user.
The goofy trio of the Style Boyz is more Beastie Boy than boy band – with a teen pop twist. They're lifelong best friends who become huge influences on hip-hop culture, just ask Nas and Usher. Even the song "Sick Glenda" that they toy with toward the end of the film has hints of the vibraphone beat on Beastie Boys' immature, but playful, Licensed to Ill classic "Girls."
Bieber is the mold Conner4Real is primarily based off of, right down to the white-boy propensity for hip-hop, bad tattoos, couture streetwear style and general cockiness. Yet, there are some specific moments in the pop star's career that get referenced. The movie opens with an infant Conner playing the drums, recalling a video of a young Bieber drumming. Popstar also references the pop star's controversial visit to Anne Frank's house, and while Bieber never made a mess in the bathroom, he did fill in the guestbook with his wish that Frank would've been a Belieber.