At this month's BET Awards, the Viewers' Choice award seemed like a battle of front-runners. Nominees Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kanye West were seated in the front row, a skip away from the podium. Chris Brown and Lil Wayne were also nominated.
They all lost to four teenage boys.
Mindless Behavior, the Los Angeles boy band of Prodigy, Princeton, Ray Ray and Roc Royal, bounced up to the stage to accept the night's only award decided on by fans. After catching his breath, Princeton ended his speech with a declaration.
"I've always been a misfit," Princeton, 15, said. "Be yourself and be proud."
It's a simple philosophy that's working for the young quartet. Besides besting their more established peers, Mindless Behavior has enjoyed a recent run of success, including touring with Justin Bieber and watching their videos surpass 100 million total YouTube views.
According to Princeton, the group's upcoming #1 Girl Tour, which stops by Pier Six Pavilion on Friday, will show that they're continuing to grow as artists.
"We don't just sing and dance," he said. "I'm going to prove that I'm a performer."
Princeton says he can see the Mindless Behavior fan base diversifying with each tour. While their debut record, last year's "#1 Girl," leans toward upbeat R&B, Princeton says the next album's material will have a broader reach.
"We started off in the urban community, but after [touring in] London and touring with Justin, we've gained pop fans," Princeton said. "We have a pop record coming out. The fact that our 'Mindless' movement can be diverse makes us confident for the future."
A large part of Mindless Behavior's appeal is the group's understanding of its Internet-savvy fan base, and the role technology constantly plays in their lives. Add the fact that the quartet's best songs are written with sticky melodies and minimal filter ("#1 Girl" producer Walter Millsap III previously wrote for Beyonce), and the Viewer's Choice win makes more sense.
"I'm just gonna keep calling you, texting you, blowing you up on your AIM," Prodigy sings on "Missing You." These are the type of lyrics that will eventually sound dated, but it's also an accurate snapshot of how teenagers are always connected via their cell phones in 2012.
Mindless Behavior's members are just like their fans, tweeting to their followers (more than 600,000 and counting) multiple times per day. While he enjoys interacting with fans, Princeton seems to momentarily miss a time when everyone wasn't a text away and his group wasn't gossip-blog fodder.
"There's some privacy everyone should have, whether you're in the business or not," he said.
He pauses and reconsiders.
"But it helps us, too," Princeton said. "Without the Internet, we wouldn't have fans overseas."
Like it is in America, many of those fans are female. And, judging by their album title and name of their current tour, Mindless Behavior enjoys it that way. For any fan hoping to become Princeton's "#1 Girl" — and there will be plenty in the sold-out crowd Friday night — he offers some familiar advice.
"I like a girl that's really artistic and loves to have fun with no negative energy," Princeton said. "If you're being yourself, I can trust you."
Mindless Behavior performs on Friday at Pier Six Pavilion, 731 Eastern Ave. Lil Twist and Jacob Latimore will also perform. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The show is sold out.