I was born in 1998. “Backstreet’s Back” wasn’t even one-year-old yet and “Millennium” would come out exactly one year later. Nick was rocking his blond bowl cut, Kevin had longer hair, AJ was wearing hideous sunglasses while both Brian and Howie looked like the guy next door, the one you would be proud to introduce to your parents.
I will say, therefore, I literally did not live the prime of the Backstreet Boys. I was not there to request them on “TRL.” I was not there when teens would gather outside radio stations waiting for them to come out and, most importantly, I did not have the chance to attend the “Millennium” world tour (this is what upsets me the most…I’m not gonna lie).
I can only see pictures and very low-quality videos of back when Nick had his signature curtain hair and nasal voice, Howie was rocking the curly hair, AJ was playing the bad boy and I will never be able to feel how huge the Backstreet Boys were back then because I am way too young.
When I grew up it wasn’t about the *NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys rivalry anymore. You were either team Jesse McCartney or team Aaron Carter and even then, where I’m from (Italy), the answer was team Jesse 99% of the time. But it was nothing remotely close to how big both *NSYNC and the BSB were just a few years before.
The closest I’ve ever seen to the craziness of the fans during the BSB prime years, I saw it with the One Direction phenomenon, and while it was pretty different because of the better accessibility to social media and the internet … it was still insane and this comes from a non-fan.
People were sleeping for weeks outside of the venues where they would perform. They would cry whenever their songs would play on the radio, buying the tickets to their shows was harder than running a full marathon on your hands and they were everywhere. You could not escape 1D even if you tried. They once came to Milan and they blocked the whole city center cause the fans found out where they were staying and next thing you know, 12.000 people were crying their eyes out hoping they would go meet them outside.
So no, I have no real and clear idea of what the Backstreet Boys phenomenon was because, back then, I probably didn’t even know how to walk but I can definitely imagine the grandeur of it all and I can be jealous about it and jealous of all of the people who did get to experience it first-hand.
Now, I don’t wanna make it sound like it is a tragedy because our boys are still going strong, (I’m glad I did not choose *NSYNC to obsess over), but it is pretty frustrating living in 2021 when you’re actually stuck in the 90’s/ early 2000s.
Why do I get mad when radios do not play the BSB? Why do I cringe when people ask ‘’are they still together?’’ and why do I have to count to 10 before replying to anyone that tells me ‘’you listen to the BSB? Aren’t they old?’’ Well, I’ve understood it now, it is because I wish I was there when they were the biggest name in music and they were everywhere, and while I cannot change it, that doesn’t mean I can’t share their music and their message to my friends.
What people my age do not realize about the BSB is that they are not old, they just have been around for ages. Everybody loves a good Backstreet Boys song, even my 11-year-old kids at camp blast “I Want It That Way” at any given chance… their influence is HUGE. Whenever anyone tries to age-shame them (is this even a thing?) I like to remind them that the singer of their beloved Maroon 5 is older than some of our boys.. and that usually shuts them up.
I feel like there is a stigma around ‘’boy bands’’ these days: people feel like boy banders range from 15 to 25-years-olds and then they just expire like milk under the sun…they get too old for that job. People automatically think the band must have broken up after a while because who wants to be considered a boy bander when you’re over 30? And it is true, some do not last too long but some do, and it is beautiful when they do.
Thinking members of vocal harmony groups have an expiration date is a very shallow thought, because think about it, you will never hear someone mention a musician’s age when saying you listen to a band unless it is a boy band. Try telling someone you listen to My Chemical Romance, for example, no one will ever make a remark about their ages, but if you mention an ‘’older’’ boyband people will tend to make jokes about it and if you’re a younger person listening to said group … you are bound to get comments and witty remarks on that.
My mother, who never obsessed over the Backstreet Boys because, in her own words, she was ‘”too old to be a fan’’ was pretty shocked when I told her I bought tickets to go see them in Canada all the way from Italy not because I was going to Canada but because she was surprised that people my age are still listening to them. Yes we are! We exist and there’s a good few of us in the fandom who are under 30 and absolutely love the boys!
In my personal experience, all of the OG fans that I‘ve spoken to were absolute sweethearts and never made me feel any less for not being there from the start, for only getting into the boys recently. If anything, they tried to bring me into their adventures by telling me the most amazing encounters stories, showing me the best videos and by sharing the amazing friendship they have built with people all over the world in a time where you couldn’t just send them a dm on Twitter, when it wasn’t so easy and immediate to talk to people who weren’t from the same place as you. This is really all I could have asked for when joining a fandom in which I feel like I am the little sister and I know I am seen as such.
As a younger fan, I try to ‘’educate’’ my friends about our boys and I am happy to say that I did turn a few of them into fans. I mean I talk so much about them, I play their music so much that it is impossible for them not to learn their songs.
Once they get over the ‘’they could be your dads’’ stage of the conversation, they usually look at me shocked and simply tell me that they had no idea those songs were by the Backstreet Boys and they get all excited.
I think this is the proof of how influential and various in genre these guys are cause some of my friends could not believe “Everybody,” “I Want it That Way,” and “Incomplete” were all by the same band … the more you know I guess.
It also proves that age does not matter when the music you put out comes from your heart. You do care about the fans and you want to release something amazing for them because your music will reach the younger fan just like it will touch the hearts of the older generation.
Music really does unite and, in a time like this, it is so important to find something that unites us.
So, yeah, there are things I will never get to experience, there are moments I will never get to see live, but I am here now, and I’m definitely here to stay and I feel beyond lucky I do get to make new memories and I get to live what I will hopefully someday tell other younger fans.
I am happy to be the little sister in this fandom and I would never change it for anything in the world.
You can follow Gio on Twitter @giogiorabbit.