My Favorite Turn-Of-The-Century Boy Bands
Fond Memories: My First Venture Into Pop Music
I like that phrase, turn-of-the-century. It lends some distinction to a topic that, otherwise, I feel many would not take seriously. Although it makes them sound old (I don't know about you, but I first think 1900 ;), nevertheless, it's true! Think about it. (For example, NSYNC's first album was released in '98. Their second was in 2000, I believe.) Weird, huh?
I have to admit, there aren't many pop culture items that stand out in my mind... at least, not those ones that are so unforgettable, so awesome that I still have or wish I had one. (That's not to say I haven't had fond memories resurface upon reading others' memories; however, I would never have thought of those items myself.)
But, the music!
In particular, those remarkably-similar-to-the-untrained-eye-or-ear boy bands that captured the hearts of girls everywhere -- bands like NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, BBMak and Westlife. Even now, I can hear one of those songs and sing along without missing a beat, (although I might not be able to consciously repeat the lyrics without music).
Needless to say, in those days, my eyes and ears were highly tuned to the differences between the groups, and those boy bands and their songs will be deeply ingrained in my memory for years to come.
Image: Nsync by jonobacon. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0
Those Were The Days... Er, The '90s...
Ah, I remember them well...
Sitting by the radio for hours and days, just to catch that one song and record it on tape...
(I did this for 98 Degrees' song, The Hardest Thing... I only broke for food, and maybe the odd bathroom visit -- I was hardcore! I waited by the radio, morning to night, and they didn't play it for a day or two. Of course, on the third day, I ran down [literally] to grab lunch, and I ran back upstairs to find the song finally playing and already half over! What a bummer... back to the waiting game! Don't worry, I did eventually get it, but once I bought the CD, it seemed like a lot of time wasted. :P)
Listening to a song (and bits of song) over and over, as we painstakingly interpreted the lyrics...
(My sister and I did this for a lot of songs, but mostly NSYNC. ;) I just hated when they didn't include lyrics in the CD booklet, and... we were slightly obsessed.)
Writing papers for school and choosing my favorite song as the topic (a lyric analysis)...
Oh! Was that just me and my sister? :)
Did You Have A Favorite?
NSYNC, 98 degrees and Westlife were my favorites. My sister liked Backstreet boys and BBMak, so I heard plenty of them, as well. I guess they all had their good points (and here are a few of those ;).
NSYNC was far and away my favorite group, and I think my sister's, too. I loved their harmonies, especially in their occasional a capella songs. I just bought their first CD at a flea market, so now I own them all (with the exception of specials, tributes and compilations like this, which are kind of redundant, once you have all the tracks on the other CDs).
If you don't have the other CDs, this is a great place to start... because these are the songs you know best, anyway, right? ;)
I felt like 98 Degrees was my own personal band... because I was the only person I knew who really liked them. :) I like that they have a little different sound and dynamic, because there are four, instead of five, like the two groups above. I do own their first two CDs (I just noticed they have another,) but I guess I lost track of them after a while. Still, this would be a good addition to your collection, if you like any of their music.
The numbers continue counting down: BBMak is a group of three. They also have the foreign distinction on their side (everyone loves an accent, even if it doesn't come through as much in song). They're a British pop group that grew in American popularity around the same time as the rest of these (i.e. late '90s, early 2000s). I do really like their sound: their upbeat songs are fun, and their mellow songs are relaxing.
Last but not least, Westlife: the Irish boy band. They were never as great as 98 Degrees and NSYNC, but I got into their music for a while. My first and favorite song by them, (probably their first hit,) was Swear It Again... and I liked it enough to buy their CD... and later a biography. :P
Fun fact: they were originally discovered (or signed) by Simon Cowell. At the time, I didn't even know who he was... but a couple years ago, I pulled out their CD for another listen and discovered this while I was reading the fine print on the back of the case.
What? Everyone doesn't do that? ;)
The Two Front-Runners Were, Hands Down... - BSB and NSYNC
It seemed everyone was on one side or the other. Like the Twilight of its day, with Team Jacob and Team Edward -- except maybe a bit more subtle. :P We didn't call ourselves Team NSYNC and Team Backstreet Boys... but we knew who we were. ;) Ok, so which side were you on? Who was cuter? Who had better music, better harmony, better dance moves?
Backstreet Boys or NSYNC?
My family all listened to Oldies before we older kids discovered "93.1 WDRQ" (now "93.1 Doug FM") and "Q 95.5" (before it became "Channel 955"). They were both pop music, once upon a time; now 93.1 is an "everything" station, and 95.5 is rap. They used to play a variety of popular songs, ranging from Creed and Kid Rock to NSYNC and TLC.
It's funny, thinking back on that time. When I listen to NSYNC's first album now, the songs all seem pretty slow (except for #3, Here We Go, which is a silly, party song -- I was just dancing to it the other day in my kitchen: it's great dance music! ;). I vividly remember being afraid to play that song in my mom's presence. (My sisters and I always skipped it, if she was in the room, because we were afraid it would be too "heavy" for her, and she would get the wrong idea about our music. As it turned out, when she heard it, she actually liked it!)
The same thing happened with the second album, No Strings Attached. We listened to it for the first time, and we thought, "Whoa, this is way too heavy... they're turning into hard rock music." Of course, once we got used to it, we liked it better.
On their third CD, Celebrity, we thought they were drifting more towards rap, and we didn't like it again. And again... we did, after a while, but we still agreed that the second album was the best tempo and had their best songs.
On The Tube
Not only did we obsess over learning the lyrics of the songs, my sister and I also videotaped every TV concert we could. (I think we only ended up watching one of them again, but for that privilege, we suffered through snowy screens, freaked out when the videotape ran out of space in the middle of the feature and acted as human TV antennae, when necessary.) We never got to go to a concert in person, but I guess we had the next best thing. :P
The ones that stand out in my mind are Good Morning, America, which is, of course, the only one we didn't tape. They performed the dances for Bye, Bye, Bye and It's Gonna Be Me. Both were fun to watch, but the latter was the best. We tried and tried to find a video of the dance, but we never could. They only ever had Bye, Bye, Bye. (On a bright note, there was an open skate "skate guard" at the hockey rink who apparently knew the dance to It's Gonna Be Me. He made our day, each time they played the song at open skate. ;P Doubly talented, he even did it while on skates!)
The second concert I remember was one with Tim McGraw, where they performed a duet (or sextet) of Lean on Me and Stand by Me.
They also performed Just Got Paid from their Celebrity album on the Billboard Awards in 2000. Although I don't particularly like the song, I really enjoyed the first half of that performance -- it was great, from cardboard cars and mirrors to outfits!
It's Gonna Be Me - Was our favorite dance
The official music videos for the No Strings Attached album are a little weird, even somewhat creepy (maybe it's just me), but the dances (we saw this one on Good Morning, America) were pretty impressive, I always thought.
NSYNC + Tim McGraw - Atlantis Concert
The song starts around 1:35
I Almost Forgot "On The Line"! - Full-Length Feature Film Starring Lance Bass and Joey Fatone
Lance was my favorite (his birthday was in May, and he was shy, like me -- why wouldn't he be?) so of course, we had to see his movie. This clip is from the end credits: a behind-the-scenes look at their hair and makeup artists -- surprise! Justin Timberlake and Chris Kirkpatrick. ;) We laughed hysterically and watched it more than once. My sister and I still quote the Marlon Brando/De-knee-row part.
The Story Continues...
Oh, it didn't stop there! My sister and I had biographies, sticker books, mini hardcover books, and a trivia board game... Hey! At least we didn't have the dolls! (Or the ty bears I saw at a garage sale over the weekend. ;)
I also received Darrin's Dance Grooves for my birthday one year and attempted to learn the dance for Bye, Bye, Bye. (If you're not familiar with it, Darrin's Dance Grooves is a video put out by the choreographer for NSYNC, Britney Speares and others, so that you can learn their dances. It's a lot harder than it seems: I thought the video went a bit too fast for beginners, and since he's facing you, you have to reverse everything to make it correct. Not to mention, VHS tapes are not too navigation-friendly (for all the times you'll have to rewind). :P Even so, I'm thinking of digging it out and giving it another go.
Dance Like The Pros!
This is the DVD of the program I mentioned above. I think this would work much better than the VHS, and I'd like to try it again!
He also released a second DVD with more dances and tips on breaking into the pro dance world.
Here's the board game I mentioned. You move around the board, answering questions about each member of the band (when you answer correctly, you get a game piece to put in your line-up). After you successfully collect all members, you hightail it to the stage (usually the most intense part of the game, since my sister and I were finished at the same time, almost every time) and whoever gets there first wins the backstage pass until the next time you play. (We just kept it in the box, and we never wrote the winner's name on the card, so ours is still in mint condition. :P)
This is one we never had: the official book of NSYNC. :P We had a plethora of "unofficial" books, though. I never understood what made them "official," at the time...
Well, I Did Mention They Were My Favorites!
I feel like I'm short-changing the rest of these bands... but to be fair, I did say that NSYNC was my very favorite; hence, it follows that I watched and heard the most with them. (Also, I think they were a bigger sensation, with the exception of BSB -- not just in my mind -- so there was more opportunity, like the TV concerts.)
Regardless, here are my two cents on the rest of the bands. :)
That's All, Folks!
Thanks for joining me in this trip down memory lane (ok, maybe my lane isn't as long as some, but it's still hard to believe it's been a decade or more for many of these songs or bands).
This really took me back, and I had a blast recounting my boy band "adventures." I know there were others flying in and out of my head as I wrote; I tried to capture them all, but alas, I may have set an impossible task. ;)