MUSIC: A Pop Culture Confession

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Boy bands are like zombies – if you cut off their heads, they’ll simply grow another one and reform in 10 years, hellbent on world domination. It seems that as soon as one group of musically competent lads resigns their spot atop the global music charts, another has already been carefully groomed and prepared to immediately step into the freshly vacated spotlight.

Not that this is a problem for me. It seems there’s always a need for a group of fresh-faced teen boys to represent a thinly veiled (and entirely wholesome) sexuality in American popular culture. The dangerously high levels of estrogen coursing through the bodies of the country’s 12-year-old girls demand that it be so. In short, these young men live to make their prepubescent devotees scream.

Yet therein lies the dirty little secret — it’s not only the teeny boppers that fall under the spell of these squeaky clean kids in painfully color-coordinated outfits. No one is immune to their catchy hooks and tediously cultivated public personas. They are kryptonite to the image-conscious masses. No matter if you are the 14-year-old boy wearing a spiked dog collar and listening to death metal to mask your deep-seated insecurities or the 45-year-old office worker “getting hip” by tuning into the local Top 40 station on your commute, your feet will tap and your head will bob when exposed to this unique brand of bubble-gum magic, even if only for the briefest of moments. These things will inevitably happen, despite your best efforts to restrain yourself. It may as well be Newton’s previously unrevealed Fourth Law.

I am by no means immune to such indulgences. In fact, I am undoubtedly more shamelessly involved than most. I am, admittedly, a boy band connoisseur. Such an admission will undoubtedly earn me some sideways glances from other chronically insecure heterosexual males – but I’m OK with that. Yes, I know every single word and note to the Backstreet Boys’ classic hit “I Want It That Way,” but so do my closeted brethren. I have nothing to hide.

As long as I’m sitting in the pop culture confession booth, my first CD was Hanson’s “Middle of Nowhere.” I once considered LFO’s “Summer Girls” to represent the epitome of art. I re-watched my battered VHS tape of 5ive’s (yes, that’s how they spelled it) Disney Channel concert at least 100 times between the ages of 12 to 14. And I once convinced the faculty of my small alternative school to cancel classes on a Friday morning so my friends and I could live out our 7th grade boy band dreams by serenading the entire school from the cafeteria stage. Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.

But my indiscretions don’t stop there. I have been to five ‘N Sync concerts. Five. Many have scoffed at this feat, but I do not find it embarrassing. These experiences, though ridiculed by some, comprise some of the happiest moments of my adolescence. Now as a grown man many years later, I can trace my love for music and live performance back to that first show.

As an 11-year-old boy, I’d never been to a concert before. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what a concert exactly entailed. I thought I knew but, having never experienced one for myself, I was more than a bit unsure about the whole ordeal.

It was my mother’s idea. I had been ravenously spinning ‘N Sync’s debut album for months and devouring every candy-coated melody. I didn’t know the group toured. I didn’t know they existed outside of my mom’s car stereo. My eyes were about to be opened to a whole new world.

The concert tickets my mom bought from Ticketmaster said the concert (apparently also featuring some unknown teenager named Britney Spears) would take place at a mid-sized theatre in my hometown of Denver. All tickets were general admission and the venue offered no assigned seating. It was just going to be me, my mom and 3,000 screaming teenage girls.

Yet this arrangement apparently proved insufficient to accommodate ‘N Sync’s rapidly growing fan base. The show sold out quickly, undoubtedly alerting its promoters that there were still fistfuls of money to be made. The venue was hastily changed, leaving behind the intimate club setting in favor of the more spacious confines of McNichols Sports Arena. Now it was just going to be me, my mom and 15,000 screaming teenage girls.

The move presented a problem. While McNichols was certainly a larger venue, it also required assigned seating. Yet 3,000 general admission tickets had already been sold for the previous venue. How could those tickets (one of which was mine) be appropriately honored amid the site change? The only feasible response to this quandary was to offer a first-come, first-served general admission section, thus allowing those original ticketholders who arrived at the arena first to secure the best possible seats.

And that is how my mother and I ended up camping outside McNichols Sports Arena for 10 hours on a blustery January day with approximately 2,998 hormone-fueled 16-year-old girls.

While I was probably the only straight male in line that day, I’m not the only one with an appreciation for sparklingly perfect pop music and carefully choreographed dance routines. I’m just one of the few willing to embrace publicly the non-macho pleasures we all harbor inwardly.

Forgive us, father, for we have sinned.

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus, and regularly writes about popular culture. You can follow this ardent boy band apologist on Twitter @steve_pierce.

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