The Back Street Boys: Signs point to a fall

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Date: Feb 25, 2001
Source: The Seattle Times
Submitted By: Carolyn

Concert Preview

The Back Street Boys: Signs point to a fall

By Patrick MacDonald pmac-new@seatimes.com
Seattle Times staff critic

The shelf life of boy bands is notoriously short. From the Cowsills to the Osmonds to New Kids on the Block, they tend to burn bright for a few years, then flame out.

But the Backstreet Boys have defied the odds. Together almost eight years, and on top of the pop charts for the past four, they seem to be at their peak. Their latest CD, "Black & Blue," released in November, was the first album in history to sell 5 million copies in one week. It's sold a total of 8 million, according to this week's Billboard.

How much longer can the Backstreet Boys stay on top? Forever, their fans are sure to say. But there are signs that the group is now on the downslide. The strongest, most surprisingly, is "Black & Blue" itself. Despite its record-breaking first week, and large sales total, it's not the blockbuster it was expected to be. It hasn't produced any huge hit singles, like "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" in 1997, "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" in '98 and "All I Have to Give" in '99.

Concert preview

The Backstreet Boys and Krystal, 7:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday at the Tacoma Dome; $49.50-$58.50, 206-628-0888, www.ticketmaster.com.

But there are other signs that the Backstreet Boys are going the way of New Kids on the Block, including:

Marriage among the ranks: Two of the Backstreet Boys have gotten hitched, rendering them ineligible as fantasy grooms. Moreover, both Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell rubbed it in by having highly publicized, elaborate ceremonies and talking a lot about how in love they are with their wives.

Nasty habits: Boy bands have to stay squeaky clean in order to remain perfect fantasy boyfriends for 12-year-old girls, who make up the bulk of boy-band fans. In a Rolling Stone cover story in December, various Backstreet Boys admitted to smoking, drinking and, uh, pleasuring themselves. Plus the unmarried ones bragged about their girlfriends, which undoubtedly broke millions of young girls' hearts.

Creative contributions: When boy bands get big, they always want to start writing their own songs. Big mistake. Writing sappy romantic ballads and bouncy dance numbers is best left to the pros who know how the formulas work. "Black & Blue" has five songs co-written by members of the group, plus two composed by all five members. Let's put it this way - they're not very good songs.

Maturity: The kiss of death for boy bands. "We're trying to go a little more edgy," Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean told Teen People magazine before "Black & Blue" was released. He said the songs would be "just a little older" and have a "natural, raw feel, where everything isn't perfect." Preteen girls aren't much interested in edgy, or in "older" guys.

The fans are also getting older. And as they do, the girls get real boyfriends and drop the fantasy boyfriends. And their younger sisters never go for the same boy bands. They always want their own. That's why boy bands will always be with us. And as new ones come along, the old ones fade away.

Delayed reactions: How can the Backstreet Boys be compared to New Kids on the Block when the Boys have managed to last much longer? Because the pop industry is better now at marketing teen sensations. They keep the videos, magazine articles, albums and singles coming, according to plan. MTV is a big factor, since it now aims its daytime programming at teens and preteens, with "Total Request Live" the key show. Rabid Backstreet Boys fans can be counted on to call and e-mail "TRL" on a massive scale for every new single the band releases. But teens are fickle. When they sense their peers are moving on to something new, it can become an avalanche, and this year's top stars can be next year's has-beens.

The sure sign it's over: When one of the Backstreet Boys departs for a solo career. It's bound to happen. We predict it will be the oldest and handsomest one, Richardson. But only Littrell could make it as a solo star, because he's the only one who can really sing.

Copyright 2001 The Seattle Times Company

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Background, Related Info & Multimedia:

'They're Baaaack Street Boys' contest winners

Tips for parents driving to the Dome

From wannabes to stars

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