Written by: Catastrophe Waitress, Special to CC2K
Is it embarrassing to spend half an hour watching old NSYNC music videos on YouTube? I didn’t think so. Today I used my morning time to type as many combinations of “boyband / tight pants / dance moves” as I could think of. Primarily because I have an endless capacity for dancing boys and tight pants. But partly because when I was twelve, I cared more for terrariums and science fiction than I did for hunks and hotties, and so I often feel like an integral part of my pubescent years were lacking in catchy rhythms and fancy footwork. Perhaps this is why I was, as they say, a “late bloomer.”
Girls have had a long history of losing control of their minds and bodies when exposed to tightly crafted professions of love and intimacy, sweetly delivered by baby-face balladeers in matching outfits. From early Beatles to New Kids on the Block to the Backstreet Boys, these musical Romeos can be credited for not only awakening the sex drives of billions of teenagers, but for making romance marketable. This very specific brand of romance is, at best, poetic infatuation (I use the term ‘poetic’ loosely here, simply to describe rhyming. And maybe name-dropping God), and at worst, a compilation of universal love clichés. These boys are not selling complexity; rather, they’re promoting Love for Dummies: A Beginner’s Guide, complete with obligatory references to stars, the moon, great bodies of water, and other oddly sexualized facets of Mother Nature. For someone who has actually been in love, statements like “Your love is like a river, peaceful and deep / Your soul is like a secret, that I never could keep” seem trite and, well, obvious, but to the green of heart, it’s proof that some day one of those sweaty, acne-riddled boys in math class is going to realize that he’d rather die than live without you.
With a few exceptions, most notably the Beatles, the shelf life for these commercially-driven pop groups is no more than five years (in five years, the majority of their audience will be legal, having sex, and probably involved in relationships that are less sunshine and moonbeams and more “we need to have a talk”). Interest fades, fads change, what once was harmless and fun becomes awkward and pointless. But then your little sister turns thirteen and suddenly it’s like watching a mini You, except this You is slightly better dressed, knows slightly more curse words, and is completely mortified by the thought of anything “boyband”-related. This little You is Generation Neo-Bueller.
Before I continue, this must be said: anyone who claims that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is their “all-time favorite movie” is a douchebag. That’s just me injecting a completely biased opinion (I hate that movie; mostly because I hate all movies about middle-class white teenagers that don’t involve substance abuse, incest, self-loathing or loads of gratuitous sex). However, I’ll admit that the character of Bueller has had a certain impact on many a young man (I have my suspicions that the fellas who “relate” to Bueller, also “relate” to Zach Morris and, to be more current, 90% of the CW family). These are men who openly defy the hand of authority simply because they’re bored, or in search of some low-maintenance “cred.” Rebels without a cause, minus the rebellion. They are bands like the All American Rejects, Good Charlotte, My Chemical Romance, and musicians like Avril Lavigne, Ashlee Simpson, and, as much as I secretly adore him (and not so secretly anymore), former boyband Lothario Justin Timberlake.
“Yes, but those bands write their own music and play their own instruments!” Sure they do. But why has that become a commendable capability? Shouldn’t all musicians write their own songs? Just because NSYNC had a handful of Super Songwriters to compose their tunes doesn’t mean that Avril Lavigne should be praised for setting her diary to electric guitars. No, that’s like saying that Pinochet was a better dictator because he didn’t kill as many people as Hitler. But now you’ve distracted me with your silly questions, anonymous reader. Where was I? Oh yes, Generation Neo-Bueller (GNB). GNB is not, as the name might imply, a cheeky group of Wang Chung-lovin’ suburban hooligans. No, these are kids who simply embrace the Bueller aesthetic, if you will—an attraction to mild acts of disobedience (i.e. cutting class, talking back to adults, wearing sunglasses indoors, etc.). Their idols, similarly, exude a self image of brazenness, hell bent on instigating a revolution against some ambiguous jurisdiction (The Man) or some arbitrary nuisance (rules). The baby faces are still present, but somewhat concealed by ill-advised attempts at facial hair and artfully styled “bedhead.” Gone are the matching outfits; instead, band members choose to dress like the girls they covet—tight t-shirts, skinny pants, a potpourri of self-proclaimed “man” jewelry (metal cuffs, earrings, hemp necklaces, exposed heart).
The irony is that, for all the lack of personal hygiene and the lack of propriety, some of these dudes are nice guys. Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance may wear what appears to be a combination of a black straitjacket and a Kevlar vest, but he’s quite open with his fans that “just say no” is the way to go (for the record, I’m in no way trivializing substance abuse; but fellas, Ozzy Osbourne snorted a line of ants, and he’s still doing…well/is alive. Think about it). Often I wonder what it’s like backstage at a Good Charlotte concert. I’m thinking beer, South Park and Hillary Duff. Maybe some “Dance Dance Revolution.” Maybe some group foot massages.
The Backstreet Boys have come and gone (and come again, and gone again), NSYNC is but a colorful memory from a time when dressing stylishly, affecting a tearful cadence, and dancing in sync (oh how I tried to avoid that pun) represented the height of masculinity. Will the All-American Rejects be able to tame that elusive beast called Longevity? Will My Chemical Romance trap, domesticate, and adorn with bows and tiny baseball caps the feral brute that is Relevance? Will Ashlee Simpson overcome her struggle with acid reflux, proving to the world that being disabled does not mean being a “talentless hack”? I don’t know. However, it is a scientific fact that there will always be young girls in the world and in the hearts of young girls exists a desire for accessible, meticulously produced pop music. The bands may have different names, but the music remains, for the most part, the same.