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Backstreet’s Back? They Never Went Away

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 14: The Backstree Boys arrive for the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards on March 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Glenn Francis/Pacific Pro Digital Photography)

The Backstreet Boys at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards. (Photo by Glenn Francis/Pacific Pro Digital Photography)

Fun fact: The average age of the Backstreet Boys is 47. For four of the five group members, it’s been 30 years-plus since they were legally boys.

The baby of the group, Nick Carter, is 43 and passed into legal manhood a mere 25 years ago. Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?

Nick, who moved to Ruskin at age 4 and grew up in the Tampa Bay area, is performing as a solo act at The Straz on Oct. 22, but he’s still a Backstreet Boy. The quintet still is a solid draw in concert, even if it’s been years since the group – or anyone their age or older, it seems – had a hit record.

Chart success is fleeting, but fanhood’s flames burn longer.

Their audience likely includes many of the women who, as teens and tweens, shrieked for the Boys nearly a quarter-century ago. (Your scribe attributes his lack of upper-register hearing to the crowd at a 1999 BB concert he reviewed.)

It probably includes a few boyfriends and husbands who have finally conceded that “I Want It That Way” and “Larger Than Life” were undeniably catchy, well-crafted tunes.

Even if the Backstreet Boys continue performing well into senior citizenry, though, they will still be known as a boy band.

The term has less to do with age than with approach. Comparing boy band specifics to those of a rock band might help explain.

Boy bands rarely play instruments. Besides singing, their focus is on choreography. Their model is R&B vocal groups such as The Temptations and The Spinners.

Rock bands play guitars and drums. They focus on amplification and attitude, the more the better. Their models are, if they’re smart, the New York Dolls, who proved humor, chutzpah and the big beat will always triumph over limited instrumental skills (for rock bands, anyway).

Boy bands work with teams of professional producers and songwriters. Rock bands write their own songs, or pretend to, because it’s more authentic. (Note: Authentic does not always equal good. Of course, neither does professional.)

Boy bands project a mostly wholesome image no matter what unspeakable debauchery they get up to in private. Rock bands try to look wasted even if they’ve never had anything stronger than a Red Bull.

Boy bands play for arenas full of screaming girls. Rock bands play for crowds of guys who look like them and wish they were playing for screaming girls.

Presumably, no boy band ever refers to themselves as a boy band, since boy band has come to be defined as an act that’s over once their teen girl fans grow up. However, with Backstreet Boys and the even longer-in-the-tooth New Kids on the Block still active, that definition can be retired. Even ‘N Sync, 20 years dormant, recently released a new single, “Better Place,” from the upcoming animated film, Trolls Band Together, out Nov. 17. Yes, it’s the original lineup with established solo act Justin Timberlake returning to the fold.

The term boy band also helps isolate frivolous acts whose audiences consist of screaming teen girls, because nothing of consequence can come from an act whose audience consists of screaming teenage girls. Examples include Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and …  

Well, what do you know? Those screaming teenage girls might have been on to something.

Get tickets for Nick Carter’s Who I Am Tour in Tampa here.
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