Anatomy of a Boy Band, Part 2 – What Not to Wear

I know, I know, ANOTHER boy band post, but yesterday when I was watching videos on YouTube before meeting up with friends for a delicious sushi dinner, I came up with the idea for this post.

The band boy love ballads were very popular among teenage/college girls. You know, the whole “I’ll love you forever and ever” theme we all strive for in our real lives assuming we survive the minefield that is dating. But I digress.

One of these said ballads, “Drowning,” by the Backstreet Boys, is one I listened to on repeat in college. Don’t judge me. Okay, fine, judge me but at least finish reading this blog.

Apparently, there were TWO versions of the music video for the song, one of which took the drowning metaphor WAY TOO FAR. And made some horrific fashion statements. Behold:

First of all – a mesh shirt? Really? I’m not entirely sure what’s on A.J.’s neck, but it looks like a dog collar and combined with the facial hair, he looks like he belongs dancing in a cage at an after hours club on South Beach.

Then we have Kevin:

I find his eyebrows offensive and I’m pretty sure that he looks like he is begging to be in the sequel to The Crow. Is there a sequel? Oh, who cares.

Howie looks like if Cousin Balki was trying to Live La Vida Loca (god, I’m really dating myself here. Oh, who cares, I’m 31 and there’s not a thing I can do about it. Except turn 32.) and Nick is all, “welcome to Slytherin. I’m Professor Snape’s secret love child with Harry Potter’s mum.”

“Okay fine, there WAS no sequel to The Crow? What about The Matrix? Can I be in The Matrix?”

“Oh fuck it, maybe after this video shoot wraps I WILL go dance in a cage somewhere.”

“I mean it – don’t fuck with Slytherin!”

And then there’s ‘N Sync.

This isn’t bad fashion so much as they look like they are hung over at brunch rather than vowing to love someone forever.

However:

I have to assume the reason this chick looks so disgusted has nothing to do with him taking a call during their little picnic lunch and everything to do with his hair. My god the hair. When did that EVER seem like a good idea?

Here’s a better look:

That is just…I don’t even know. This is Chris and I always considered him and Joey Fat One the least attractive of all the boy band members in all of history and that hair is really not doing him any favors.

I wouldn’t call this “fashion” of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s but more would call it “WTF were their stylists thinking?”

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Anatomy of a Boy Band

I’ve loved two boy bands in my life:  New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize they’re the same band.

Allow me to elaborate:

Each band has five members, at least one of which is too old/young to be in a boy band-

NKOTB (current ages):

Donnie Wahlberg (43)
Danny Wood (43)
Jordan Knight (42)
Jonathan Knight (43)
Joey McIntyre (39)

Backstreet Boys:

A. J. McLean (34)
Howie Dorough (39)
Nick Carter (32)
Kevin Richardson (41)
Brian Littrell (37)

Nick and Joey specifically were like 12 when their bands formed and I could have sworn Danny Wood was like 50 when NKOTB was popular but I guess I was wrong.

Now let’s take a glance at two of their most popular songs.

Step by Step, 1990

Let’s go through the formula, shall we:

  • bad fashion  – check. My god, the hair.  MY GOD. And Danny’s sideways hat? Fail.
  • completely irrelevant segments of music video – check. Opens with Donnie riding a motorcycle…at some point he is lifting weights.  I’m confused. Isn’t this a love song?
  • confusing/inane lyrics – check. Step by step — ooh baby, gonna get to you girl.  That’s all well and good, but the rest of the lyrics?
  • Choreographed dancing – check, and mandatory and oh my god are they doing the SPRINKLER???
  • slow motion something…
  • rhyming – see lyrics, confusing
  • irrelevant member no one remembers – Danny Wood for SURE
  • falsetto – check – Jordan!
  • pretending to have a skill they don’t actually have (besides singing…hey OOOHH – see what I did there?) – Jordan “playing” the violin (albeit for two seconds, but still)
  • no actual girls in video — you’re going on and on about this girl and she’s not even in the video???

I Want it That Way, 1999

  • bad fashion  – what is going on with Nick’s pants and Kevin’s trench coat?
  • completely irrelevant segments of music video – check. Lots of walking, destination unknown, something about an escalator…
  • confusing/inane lyrics – check. Am I, your fire, your one desire, yes I know, it’s too late, but I want it that way. Be MORE confusing, thanks.
  • Choreographed dancing – check, and mandatory
  • Slow motion walking, dancing, spinning, etc
  • rhyming – I never want to hear you say I want it that way
  • irrelevant member no one remembers – Howie for SURE
  • falsetto – one of them…Nick? I don’t know. Maybe Brian
  • pretending to have a skill they don’t actually have (besides singing…hey OOOHH – see what I did there?) – Lots of pointing and gyrating and hell I don’t know
  • no actual girls in video — you’re going on and on about this girl and she’s not even in the video???  FANS DO NOT COUNT

So – that is the formula for the upbeat song.  Now we have the love ballad.

It’s obviously required that the cutest most innocent one sings solo:

Please Don’t Go Girl (Joey McIntyre)

OMG he SOUNDS like a girl and he looks like he’s ten.  It came out in 1988, which makes him around 15.  But he seriously looks ten!

And is that a RAT TAIL I see on Jordan?  Good lord, make it stop.

Between the mullets, falsetto’s and sideways hats, we again do not see an ACTUAL GIRL.

And now THIS could not be more staged:

Nick seriously looks like a bell boy.  That outfit…all kinds of awful.

I could actually not be more ashamed of this post, so I’m going to pretend none of this ever happened.

20 Years Later

So, I see on People.com that the Backstreet Boys are reuniting for the first time since 2006 and are recording an album to coincide with the 20th (!!) anniversary of their inception.

Let’s ignore, momentarily, how old this makes me feel and discuss the age old question:

What in the HELL is “I Want It That Way” about?  Released in May of 1999, it was a song I listened to on repeat driving around the back roads of New Hampshire in my Subaru, heartbroken over Ben.  I’m not kidding – I would routinely sleep over at Lisa’s, wake up at some ungodly hour, and go for a drive.  Even if I didn’t sleep there, I’d routinely take random drives just to be alone – often driving from say, Concord to Tilton, just to get gas.

It was a sad, lonely summer for me.  I didn’t want to do anything – and pretty much didn’t.  Instead of being excited to go to Miami for college, I was crying all the time over the relationship that wasn’t.  So, this album really brings me back to that summer and all the memories, for better and for worse.

What the hell was I talking about?  Oh right – the lyrics.  I could not have done a better job than LA Weekly did – you can read the blog in its entirety here, but below are some gems to think about (Ben Westhoff, whoever you are, you’re a genius):

“So, wait, the “that” that I say is different than the “that” that you say? You’re saying that I want it a different way? A way that is not preferable to you?

Then the chorus kicks in and this thing goes off the rails.

Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why
I never wanna hear you say,
“I want it that way”

None of the sentiments here seem to go with any of the other ones. Even worse, no further explanation is given for what “that” is.”

… and then…

“So, check this, it turns out that the popularized version of “I Want It That Way” was not the only version the Backstreet Boys recorded. There’s another version out there, one thatactually makes sense.

The key lyric:
No goodbyes (ain’t nothing but a heartache)
No more lies (ain’t nothing but a mistake)
That is why
I love it when I hear you say,
“I want it that way”

!! This is like discovering the rosetta stone of craptastic late ’90s boy band music!”

So basically the song was just never destined to make sense, as the blog later points out.  I mean, we know it’s about some sort of relationship – but what are they agreeing to disagree about?  Why are they two worlds apart?  Is it a long distance relationship?  And actually, because the song makes no sense, it was perfectly fitting that the accompanying music video – them singing in an airport hanger (?) in front of screaming fans before they board a private plane – also made no sense.

Also, can we talk about Nick’s hair?  Also part 2, he’s only 32!  That means he was 12 when the band assembled, which seems ridiculous.  Or maybe he was 13.  Either way.

The rest of the album (yes I bought it, bite me), however, does have some catchy little ditty’s that actually make sense.

My freshman year roommate, Kandyce, who was beyond awesome, also had the CD and we’d routinely listen to it all the time while studying.

My second favorite song on there was “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now,” and the lyrics are as straightforward as you can imagine.

Kandyce always referred to Nick Carter’s solo ballad “I Need You Tonight” as “Nick’s Penis Song” (a perfect descriptor).

This album brings me back to 1999 as I ended high school and 2000 as I finished my first year of college, none the wiser about life or the meaning of “I Want It That Way.”

I can close my eyes now and see myself walking around campus in Coral Gables in long sleeves and jeans, too self-conscious about my body to dress appropriately for the climate.  High 80s?  Pssh, didn’t matter.  Now I don’t care – with this past summer reaching the high 90s more often that not, people just had to deal with seeing my arm flab.

You’re probably thinking:  why is this bitch obsessed with an album that she associates with so many horrible memories?

Well, I can tell you that good and bad, the experiences I had that summer and my freshman year of college are all part of the wisdom I now have in my old age of 31 (yeah, right).

And before you ask – if given the choice, I would absolutely rather listen to this album on repeat until the end of time than another goddamn Taylor Swift song.