Ah yes, the specific sub-genre of pop music so hated and loved by so many: boy bands.
I’m a 27-year-old with a Bachelor’s degree and a job in my chosen field, but I’ve still got a thing for guys who sing songs about love while gesturing toward their hearts — you know the move I’m talking about, and I’m betting you just pictured it too. After nearly 19 years as a massive pop fan, I’m resigned to the fact that I am, and probably always will be, a boy band addict.
The appeal for me is simply undeniable. Their marketing is brilliant, their songs are always so darn catchy and it’s fun! I guarantee if you bust out a boy band track it will have you dancing before the first chorus comes around. Truth be told, I’ve had a love affair with multiple boy bands over the years — Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, 5ive, Westlife and One Direction (I’m not ashamed to admit it, that concert was super fun) to name a few. I’ve even been known to listen to The Wanted, 98 Degrees and O-Town.
I wasn’t always this way though, I had a life before boy bands… a life before my first headlong dive into bubblegum pop… a life before *NSYNC…
Okay, so I didn’t have much of a life. I was eight! The year was 1998 and boy bands were on the rise again after grunge had invaded the airwaves a few years prior. I for one was vehemently against boy band pop… at least for a little while. I grew up listening to my mother’s music in the car. Lady powerhouses like Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Whitney Houston and my idol Celine Dion filled up the soundtrack of my life.
Girls in my elementary school were already fangirling over boy bands but I just didn’t get it. I didn’t want to be into what everyone else was going crazy for. So what if they were good looking boys?! So what if they could dance?! I wanted to be different! I was not going to like something just because it was gaining popularity! And then it happened…
It seems strange that one of the strongest childhood memories I can recall involves a band. But I think this is the exact point where I began to appreciate other styles of music beyond what my mom listened to. It was February vacation and my then 13-year-old cousin was sleeping over at my house. My cousin turned around from her place in the front seat of the car and took out a CD. She asked me if I knew the band pictured on the front and of course I didn’t. The band was called *NSYNC and within ten minutes, she made sure I knew each of the members by name.
Chris was the one with the messy hair hanging down in front of his face, Joey had a goatee and mustache. JC had brown, spiky hair and Justin and Lance were both blonde. As soon as we went to my room and set up the sleeping arrangements for the night we popped *NSYNC’s album into my boom box (there I go again, making myself feel old).
From the very first line of Tearin’ Up My Heart I was hooked! To make matters worse, my eight-year-old heart had been captured by one blue eyed, frosted haired guy — Justin Timberlake.
I watched the Disney Channel concert special, memorized the choreography from I Want You Back and Tearin’ Up My Heart and I even liked to pretend Justin Timberlake was singing God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You just to me.
*NSYNC’s sophomore album No Strings Attached smashed CD sale records but also brought up unpleasant feelings against former boy band mastermind, Lou Pearlman. When you hear your favorite boy bands (yup, that’s more than one) have been cheated out of hard-earned cash, the fangirl claws will come out! Pearlman threatened the band members with stripping them of their name, and fans came out in droves to support them.
*NSYNC got the last laugh as their second album gave them the chance to defy the manager who sought to ruin them and poke a little fun at him as well (get it? Because they cut ties with him… and they won’t be his puppets?) all while selling millions of albums in the first week. I wore the No Strings Attached album out-so much so that I had to get a replacement for Christmas that year!
On their third studio album, Celebrity, Justin Timberlake took the lead for a whole song, a track entitled Gone and perhaps this should have been a sign of things to come. Breakout single Pop promised fans that the band wasn’t going anywhere and anyone who didn’t like their brand of music was jealous…but it wasn’t meant to last. Chris, Lance, JC, Joey and Justin went on a break and although fans assumed it was in preparation for a new album after a successful tour, those rumored plans never came to fruition.
In August 2013, *NSYNC reformed as part of the opening medley performed by Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award recipient and band mate Justin Timberlake on the occasion of the MTV Video Music Awards. After a few moments of the 15-minute set, the eight- year-old who first fell in love with pop music was back and squealing louder than ever!
Even after 14 years, I can still listen to *NSYNC’s albums and not feel one bit badly that I’m a (sometimes) grown-up who jams out to the bubblegum music that made up her childhood. After all this time I still know all the words and can vividly picture myself rocking out in my mom’s green Oldsmobile or watching Disney Channel for a second’s glance at the guy who is still the man of my dreams.
So here’s to my first favorite band and my first favorite boy band and the band that started this unending obsession with slick dance moves and multi-part harmonies. “Do Your Thing.”