Most of my teenage years were spent camped out in front of the tv, desperately watching TRL, just waiting to see where the Backstreet Boys placed on that weeks countdown. My walls were wallpapered in their faces, I owned every single thing they released, from full length international releases, to singles, to unauthorized biographies. When they came to town, my mom spent hundreds of dollars to make sure I could go to their shows, and those nights were some of the best of my young life. I was dedicated, in love, and connected to their music.
Here’s the thing. Sure, my obsession was superficial in a lot of ways. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dream of my wedding day with Brian Littrell, and didn’t cry when he got married to his beautiful wife, Leighanne Littrell. But, for me, music has always been deeper than the face that sings it. Even if, as some might say, it was superficial pop music. It wasn’t superficial to me. It was very real, and I got it, and at that time in my life it was everything that I need.
When I was 12, my grandmother was incredibly sick with colon cancer. We spent a lot of time at her ranch in Nevada helping her, flying back and forth, doing what we could to help. It was hard on my entire family, and being that I’d spent the majority of my childhood with my mom and my grandmother, it was incredibly hard for me. During that summer there was a young man working on the ranch that was from Europe. He worked there, but he was a little younger, so he spent a lot of time with us kids. He was the one that was playing Backstreet Boys European debut album just as “Quit Playing Games…” was hitting the airwaves in the US. And I was officially in love.
See, while my family was going through this horrible thing, their music was one of the few bright spots that I had. It was a vacation away from the turmoil all around us. It was happiness wrapped up in a melody. Their voices alone could bring a smile to my face. Their promises to never break my heart made me feel like it would somehow be whole again. The music was healing. It was exactly what I needed at just the right time. And sure, I guess you could say it could have been anything, but it was them.
My grandmother passed away when I was 13. Before she passed, she would listen to their CD with me and ask me who each one was, request another song to be played. She wasn’t really there that much with us, but when she was, we had some musical moments. My grandmother, as it turns out, was always who inspired me most musically. And when Millennium came out not long after, with the “I miss you” song “I Want It That Way” and the incredibly heartbreaking “Show Me The Meaning” it was like they had custom made some of that album to fit the way my heart was broken. And most people, they don’t know this about my obsession with the Backstreet Boys. It remains a superficial obsession, that really got me made fun of in high school, and I’ve never really tried to explain it to people. But, it was always more than that for me. It was hope and happiness and survival when it really felt like the world was coming undone for the first time in my young life.
So, seeing them again, in all their glory… with all five of them on stage for the first time in a number of years. It was really something for me. It brought back a flood of memories, most of them incredibly amazing, most of them that brought me to some of my best friends. True story, I actually met my best friend of 15 years because I saw she had a Nick Carter pin on her backpack, and I desperately wanted another friend that liked the Backstreet Boys. So, I stopped her dead in her tracks as she was walking out of PE.
Seeing them again reminded me of that. It reminded me how many good times they’ve given me, how they still have the ability to make me laugh and smile, and that their music still holds true. I’m forever thankful to them for not being ashamed of where they came from, for embracing the music that they made some twenty years ago, and their willingness to really make it about the fans. Whether or not they are sick of singing and hearing “Quit Playing Games” or “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” they’ll STILL sing them. For US. For their fans. They played an absolutely amazing show at the Irvine Amphitheater last Friday, full of hit after hit, with a little mix of some of the stuff off their new album “In A World Like This.” I went with my mom, who sacrificed a lot to give me the opportunity to go see a band that made me so happy when I was younger, and both of us being considerably older, really enjoyed the night.
Pop music, whether we love it or hate it, is there for a reason. For some people, it’s what they need to hear at this moment in their lives. For others, it’s a dance floor anthem. And for some, it has no meaning and they think the rest of us are all crazy. While I’m not a big fan of a lot of the recent pop music, I get it. I get how it might mean something to someone else, because it meant so much to me when I needed it.