The legacy of the Backstreet Boys–yes, they have one

By Amy Shaunette

In the grand scheme of things, one might argue that ’90s boy-band the Backstreet Boys matter little to the history of music. Their preteen fans are now adults, or trying to be, and you’d be hard pressed to name even three bands that were heavily influenced by Backstreet. But the faux-tan, baby-faced men of the Backstreet Boys are still the reigning kings of bubblegum pop, or at least they were for two solid hours at the Minnesota State Fair on August 23.It’s tempting to feel sorry for the Backstreet Boys, to label them as washed-up pop stars with shattered dreams and sex lives that revolve around underage groupies, or worse yet, their nostalgic mothers. But when the boys hit the stage at the fair, it was clear that even ten years after their peak, there was nothing humiliating to A.J., Brian, Nick and Howie about being a Backstreet Boy.

What stood out most were the similarities and differences between a BSB show then and a BSB show now. Things had changed for the better. The audience remained mostly female, but the pimply sixth graders were gone. Instead, the fans were loud college girls with beer in plastic cups and big breasts. The mothers were still there, but, recognizing the absurdity of the situation, weren’t afraid to shake it. And best of all, the show was way more sexual than it was in 1999. The boys executed electrifying pelvic thrusts, and large screens flanking the stage showed close-up crotch shots. The ladies shrieked and screamed. We puffed up our cleavage and hollered out the names of our favorite boys, breaking a sweat each time the camera zoomed in on their pants region.

Of course, there were startling changes. Kevin, the tall, dark, silent one with the sexiest voice, had quit the band to raise a family. After years of drug use, A.J. looked older, and bright-eyed, blonde-haired Nick was trying to look tough with his new tattoos. Most of the boys sang songs from upcoming solo albums, sadly unaware that only seriously deranged fans cared, and a third of the set was from their newest album-yes, the Backstreet Boys have a new album. And perhaps most startling was the boys’ new rap fixation. Nick performed his own rendition of the Kanye West-Daft Punk mash-up “Stronger,” and the boys even sang a bit of Aerosmith and Run DMC’s “Walk this Way.”

But when it mattered, the boys delivered exactly what we’d all paid our $27 for. There were costume changes, elaborate sets, props and, of course, all the promises they’d made us. I believed them as much as I’d believed them when I was ten when they crooned “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” and I knew that when Nick Carter sang “The One,” he really meant it-after all these years, I was still the one for him. He’d find me.

The Backstreet Boys’ current tour is in support of their 2007 release, “Unbreakable.” It’s an appropriately named album. The boys just won’t quit. The secret of the Backstreet Boys is their irresistibility. I would like to think that since elementary school I have matured a bit in my musical taste, that my position as Arts Editor perhaps says something about my cultural choices. But there I was, shrieking the words to nearly every BSB song, almost forgetting that I’d ever heard anything better. For a minute I believed maybe I hadn’t – after all, they are one of the best selling boy bands of all time for a reason.