"I just turned 20,"
It was just a throwaway comment, an aside made during a professionally lit, 55-minute interview. And yet, it was also incredibly telling. Because in that one moment, the kid who said it — the same kid who was decked out in a studded black leather jacket, fingerless gloves and skintight Jack Skellington trousers, the same kid whose eyes were ringed with raccoon makeup, and whose hair stood three feet above his head in flamboyant Mohawk — actually appeared to be nothing more than your average, run-of-the-mill 20 year old. Because it was exactly the kind of thing an average, run-of-the-mill 20 year old would say.
This was important, because based on everything I'd read or seen about him, Bill Kaulitz was far from average, run-of-the-mill, or even 20 years old. His hair seemed impossible, his eyebrows inhuman ... it wasn't a stretch to assume he wasn't quite real. I don't think I was alone in these assumptions, either: They just don't make humans who look like him.
But when Kaulitz sat down with the rest of his Tokio Hotel mates (his twin brother Tom, stoic bassist George Listing and everydude drummer Gustav Schafer) for an interview with MTV News, I learned that everything I'd assumed about him — or the band, for that matter — was wholly, totally incorrect. Tokio Hotel aren't rock stars or space aliens or dark angels ... they're just like us. They've just got better stylists.
I know this because I got to see the Tokio Hotel most fans don't. I witnessed four twentysomethings (at 22, Listing is the band's elder statesman) behaving exactly the way you'd expect twentysomethings to behave: Cracking jokes about each other's bathroom habits, obsessing over Megan Fox, busting on the one guy who spends too much time on the phone with his girlfriend (again, Listing). They bragged and boasted and knocked each other down a few pegs, they made the occasional obscene comment, obsessed over video games ... it was strangely amazing. Before my very eyes, away from the squealing fans and the paparazzi photos, Tokio Hotel transformed into the kids I lived in a dorm with freshman year. The same kids who are probably punching you in the arm as you read this right now.
Tom is the alpha male, the one with the most female admirers and the biggest, uh, ego (or so he claims). He's constantly messing with his younger (by 10 minutes) brother, joking about Bill's lack of girlfriends or how he used to beat him up in the studio. Bill takes it all, because he's the sweet, good-looking one, the focal point of the group, and he knows it. Schäfer is the silent guy, cocksure and steady, deceptively funny. And Listing, by virtue of being the oldest member of the band (and the only one with a girlfriend), is constantly ragged on by everyone else: He's the old man, the guy who doesn't go out to the clubs anymore. Grossvater, as the Germans put it ...
There's a deft dynamic to it all. It's a hard thing to explain, but suffice it to say, you probably know what I'm talking about. Because you know guys like Tokio Hotel — you might even be one of them. Beneath the makeup and beyond the millions of albums sold, Tokio Hotel are apparently just four totally normal dudes in their twenties.
Because although I'm not a normal twentysomething anymore (not by a long shot), once upon a time I was ... which means that even I can relate to the guys in Tokio Hotel. There was a time when I used to think 20 was so old too. And there's nothing wrong with thinking that, even when you realize it's not true. In fact, it's pretty normal.