The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Guilty Pleasure: Backstreet Never Left, All Right?

Written by: Sherryn Daniel, Special to CC2K

ImageI may be way past my teens and currently enrolled into grad school, but my love/lust for The Backstreet Boys has never wavered. I’ve been in love with them since I first saw their music video for “Everybody” on MTV (back when MTV actually had music). This signature hit was their third single from their debut US album Backstreet’s Back in 1997 and in my opinion, propelled them to stardom. The music video was directed by Joseph Kahn, and sort of parodied Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Musical sequences shot Brian Litrell as a werewolf; A.J Mclean as Erik from “Phantom of the Opera”; Nick Carter as a mummy; Howie Dorough as a Dracula; and Kevin Richardson (the hot one) as Two- Face, much like Jekyl and Hyde.  


This video was a widespread hit for teens and tweens, back in the day when WB shows like Dawson’s Creek mattered, and when Pokemon trading cards were hot. I was much too young to appreciate Thriller but old enough to obsess over Everybody. Anyone (of my peers, at least) watching that video instantly felt like it was Halloween all over again. Well, Halloween is one of my most favorite holidays in the year and I feel that their music video’s Halloween ambience was what drew me most to the band. I didn’t know that boy bands had a sense of humor. The Backstreet Boys definitely had one and I don’t think that has ever changed.

To outsiders of the boy band culture, The Backstreet Boys were just one of several during that time, i.e., Nsync, 98 degrees, O-Town, and LFO ( Rest in Peace  Rich Cronin). But to us tweens from the 90s to the early 2000s, they were our everything. Their lyrics were about their love for us pre-pubescent, acne-filled, brace-faced little girls who couldn’t drive cars or truly party all night long. Slumber parties weren’t complete without “I Want it That Way.” And I still regret to this day that I never saw them live, even though I had the chance to.  I had a close knit of besties and they all had tickets to the “Backstreet’s Back Tour” in 1997. I was foolish enough to spend all of my money on Backstreet Boys merchandise instead.


I’m in my 20s and I still haven’t seen them live yet. Perhaps more embarrassing is that this fact still tortures me. I had another opportunity to see them live when I was in high school, and the band regrouped. I was a senior at the time, and their hit “Incomplete” is forever seared into my heart. I really felt like they were singing that song to me and that if I was in their life, they would feel complete too.  It’s important to note that I was old enough to know the truth, that they didn’t really sing solely to me but to all girls who wanted to feel complete too. I still liked the beats and appreciated how the band mellowed their songs to match my maturing ears. Who knew that the Backstreet Boys could transition from teeny pop into Adult Contemporary with ease. The Backstreet Boys actually have staying power, unlike Nsync, which I felt was more a platform for Justin Timberlake to branch out of.


I understand that most people feel that Justin Timberlake is the heart and soul of Nsync, but he’s kind of a punk. Timberlake ditched the band when they reached their peak. By contrast, even though Nick Carter was vying for a solo career around the same time, he never really deserted his brothers. Everyone stood by each other, through thick and thin no matter what.  This is especially true when A.J Mclean was on “Oprah” in 2003 and first admitted to his fans that he had a severe drug and alcohol problem. Little did he know that his bandmates were backstage and when they got on camera, they vowed always to stick by each other. I rather obsess over a band of brothers who love each other versus a band of lukewarm friends. Their friendship resembled my own friendships that I’ve had over the years and it was something that a lot of women can relate to.


Of course, most hardcore Backstreet Boy fans know that Kevin Richardson had to leave the band in 2006, but he’s always supported them. There’s no way anyone can ever hate on the hot one since he surprised his brothers on stage in 2008, during the final show of the band’s “Unbreakable” tour, he rejoined his brothers to sing the encore. As an adult woman, I envy anyone who has seen Kevin Richardson in person, since Kevin was yummy to look at. I don’t really care that most girls dug Nick Carter or Brian Litrell, since neither of them had a mature look like Kevin did. Kevin was literally tall, dark and handsome. He looks like a man, not a little boy like Justin Timberlake. It really sucks that he’s married though; I can still see pre-teens from the 90s try to claw their way into his mansion and beg him to be Mrs. Richardson.


Though I do consider myself a discerning music listener, the fact remains that, every other day, I still listen to the Backstreet Boys “The Call,” ” I Want it That Way” and ” Quit Playing Games with My Heart.” I don’t really care that my friends still make fun of me for almost memorizing their top hits, nor do I care to throw away my BSB T-shirts, posters, cups, bowls, Teeny Bop Magazines, or even their old VHS tapes. I will always be a die-hard supporter, and I take great pride in being an eternal Backstreet Boy fan. I’ve encountered Nsync or what I like to call N*stink fans over the years and have had verbal duels with them over who is truly supreme. No matter what, the Backstreet Boys will always be da’bomb.