When I saw that a new book, “Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS” was going to be released, I was excited. I love love love reading books about this type of thing because, hey, boy bands are my thing – especially those from the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s.
The book, written by Maria Sherman, was released this week and has a very cute cover and inside art that was designed by someone else. There are no real photos of the boy bands in question, which makes the art more special.
And the art is good and honestly one of the best parts of the book.
The book begins with Sherman discussing how she found One Direction and didn’t remember life before them. I can relate. I feel the same exact way sort of.
I remember life, but I don’t know how I lived before New Kids on the Block and the time between them and my love of Backstreet Boys.
That quote, possibly the best thing written in the book is so true for any boy band fangirl.
Before the author gets into the boy bands, she includes a disclaimer that includes “Definitive histories do not exist, anyhow, and for that I apologize.”
I should have taken that as a hint that there was going to be some things that weren’t very factual in the book.
First there is a quick timeline of boy bands – from barbershop quartets to the Beatles and beyond. Even in that section, there are errors. (“Making The Band,” which created O-Town, started on ABC before moving to MTV. It’s a small mistake and I’m told I’m a know-it-all, but when it comes to boy band facts, I have no shame. It won me the BSB Trivia Queen title on the 2018 Backstreet Boys cruise. That’s why the next error, “2002: Both *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys embark on indefinite hiatuses” angers me. Backstreet Boys never went on an indefinite hiatus. Nick did a solo album. The others took time off starting families or working on sobriety before regroupoing to work on what would become “Never Gone.
Chapter One begins interestingly and probably one of the highlights of the book. It takes a look back at some classical musicians in the 1800’s and how they relate to modern boy bands. That part was pretty interesting and makes me want to research it more. I never even thought about how musicians back in the day like that could have had a following like boy bands do now. Obviously the ladies didn’t act like we do back then.
One of the best parts of the book is the “Crucial Boy Band Lingo,” which discusses fans calling a band “my boys” or “the boys,” to fan fiction, fandom, fandom names, etc.
That quote is so true.
I’m not going to nitpick every single thing that I found factually wrong in the book, I’m going to highlight a few things, especially in the Backstreet Boys section. Hey, this is a BSB fan site after all!
- It says that the Backstreet Boys’ “first single to hit in America, ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’.” “Everybody” was not released in the U.S. until March 1998 and was the third single from the U.S. debut “Backstreet Boys” (which was almost like the second International release of “Backstreet’s Back” elsewhere). The first single to hit in America in 1997 was “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).” Technically their first single was “We Got It Goin On” back in 1995.
- But one paragraph later …“Their second album, 1997’s ‘Backstreet’s Back,’ and its first single, ‘Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” remedied their America problem.” “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” was on the first international debut album. It was not on “Backstreet’s Back.” This is the part that a lot of non-fans get confused. There are two “Backstreet Boys” album – the “red” one (released internationally, but not in the U.S.), and the U.S. version that came out in 1997. The U.S. verison of “Backstreet Boys” is made up of songs from the red “Backstreet Boys” album and “Backstreet’s Back” (that has the same cover as the U.S. “Backstreet Boys.”)
- “The release [Millennium], which brought into the world such dry humping classics as “I Want It That Way,” “Larger Than Life,” and “Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely,” sold over 13 million copies worldwide by February 2001 (That success, mind you, wasn’t all organic: Britney Spears debut album, “… Baby One More Time,” released a few months prior, concluded with a hidden track teaser for Millennium.” Okay, so this isn’t so much a fact thing, but … Britney was still a new artist then and Backstreet Boys were much bigger than she was at the time. The track teaser had nothing to do with album sales. Also, dry humping? LOL!
- “It also didn’t hurt that the label gave away live Millennium CD teasers to grow hype for the band at Burger King.” Technically the whole BSB/Burger King happened mid-summer 2000, after the “Into The Millennium” tour was over and the boys were about to release their first single from “Black & Blue.” The Burger King CDs, called “For The Fans” which also went with a live VHS tape of parts of an “Into The Millennium” show, included teasers for “Black & Blue” (a song called “Its True.”).
- In a section discussing “Nick Carter girls vs. Brian Littrell ladies,” there was this section. First off, Howie Dorough is a national treasure. Without Howie, the Backstreet Boys would be nothing. But mediocrity? SERIOUSLY? HOWARD? *shakes fist* And then the description of Nick. Sure, Nick grew up in Florida, but Southern? Brian and Kevin are Southern. And “ultimately sexless.” I’m sorry, but have you seen Nick Carter? Unless the author is trying to say that both men and women can like him, but I have a feeling that’s not what they meant. I mean, “sexless?” He even asks if he’s sexual and the group and the world said, “Yeaaaaaah.” The funniest part is she said he had a six-pack. LMAO! Nick didn’t have a six-pack in the late ’90s/’00s. A six-pack of soda maybe.
- When talking about the music video for “I Want It That Way”: “The image reeks of Pearlman opportunism and his aviation pseudo-business: the camera zooms into escalator steps, fans surround them in a hanger, and the boys hit the skies at the song’s end, off to the next destination to be adored.” Actually, Lou Pearlman had nothing to do with this music video. They had already cut ties with him.
“… In the case of ‘Millennium,’ ten tracks of near-filler …”
“Back to Your Heart” is filler? “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now” is filler? “Don’t Want You Back” IS FILLER?!?!?! “I NEED YOU TONIGHT” IS FILLER? “SPANISH EYES,” “IT’S GOTTA BE YOU,” “THE PERFECT FAN.”
I’m okay. I’m calming down. I think.
“Millennium” is one of the best selling albums of all time and for good reason – it’s (pardon my French) fucking perfection.
Not to mention the next sentence after that says “As soon as both BSB and *NSYNC kicked the bucket …”
There are other things in the book that aren’t very correct, such as saying the Jonas Brothers got their start in television like The Monkees and 2Gether (They toured together long before they went on “Hannah Montana”), but the last thing I will point out is this.
I feel like this was true pre-Internet. Look at New Kids on the Block for example. There were some fans who kept following the guys the entire time while Joey was on Broadway or Donnie in movies and television, but not as many as there would have been if the Internet was around when they broke up.
But I think the Internet has made this statement untrue. For instance, look at the Backstreet Boys fandom. Twenty years after “Millennium” came out, they were selling out arenas last year across the world. Why? The Internet has given fangirls a place to still talk about the bands, stay in touch with them via social media or conventions. The Jonas Brothers and One Direction are good examples. Sure, Nick and Joe had solo ventures outside of Jonas Brothers, but when they made their comeback, “Sucker” went to Number 1 as if they never left. The fans have still been around on message boards, or blogs, or on Twitter or Facebook groups.
One Direction celebrated its 10th anniversary this week and the website crashed. Does that sound like a fanbase who has lost interest?
Overall, like I said, I was very excited about this book to begin with, but as I kept reading, I kept highlighting things. I feel as if the book should have focused on just One Direction and BTS. I feel like those were the chapters that the author knew more about. I mean, there are sections on girls they dated. (By the way, the girl both Chris and AJ dated was Amanda Latona from the girl group Innosense – There is a small section in the Backstreet Boys section about this and wondering who the girl was.)
I’m not the type of person who thinks only people who lived through eras should write about them, but there was something special about the era of New Kids on the Block at their height and Backstreet Boys/*NSYNC in the late ’90s/early ’00s. But … yeah.
I was a boy band fangirl for New Edition and New Kids on the Block before the interwebs. We had no TRL. We sat and watched MTV and waited until one of the videos came on. We taped the song with our cassette player speaker at the television speaker so we could hear the song until the cassette (yes cassette!) came out. We called the pay-per-minute 900 NKOTB phone number just to hear Donnie Wahlberg talk to us. We begged our grandparents to buy us that Big Bopper and Tiger Beat at the grocery store because we just needed that centerfold poster. Boy band fangirls with the Internet don’t have to work that hard. They have it easy today.
If more research had been done and talking to the right people, I feel like this book could have been a lot better. No one knows the history of boy bands better than boy band fangirls themselves – especially those that have lived through it all.
If you would like to purchase “Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS,” it’s available online. You can clickhere to order it from Amazon.