Boy bands, they're like "Merci" chocolate: Even if you don't really like the bars at all, you can always find a variety that you find okay. And bands like the Backstreet Boys conveniently contained the very different varieties Nick, Brian, AJ, Howie and Kevin. Something for everyone. The pretty, the funny, the cool, the wild, the cute and the masculine.
The Backstreet Boys have been on stage for 30 years now. For anyone who devoured every "Bravo" article about the US combo at the age of 15, a hard blow, as it makes you aware of your own age. Worse still: I only saw my first live concert by the backyard guys a few years ago, when they were touring with the "predecessors" of New Kids On The Block, of all people. I had images in my head of screaming teenage girls, paramedics under constant stress, Nick Carter's blowing blonde pot cut. Instead, everyone present was my age – mid-thirties and upwards – and used the evening for a little trip back to their own youth.
There was screaming anyway, it was all fun too, but it was somehow sobering. The middle-aged men on stage no longer looked like the ultimate desirable poster boys of the 90s, but like middle-aged men. For whom life has not always played well. AJ was already struggling with drugs and alcohol in the mid-2000s, Nick Carter with his broken family (he lost his sister and recently his brother Aaron) and also various substances, Brian turned out to be a conservative Christian and Trump fan.
Financially, the five should be doing rather mediocre, because the time in which a boy band can be really successful is logically limited. The Backstreet Boys broke up in 2003 for the time being, until then they were under the thumb of manager Lou Perlman, who was later convicted of fraud, and who secured a handsome share of their earnings. How much of the money from back then do the band members still have today? Unknown - but the fact that they still tour to this day says something about it.
But once - once they had absolute super hits: "I Want It That Way", "Everybody", "Quit Playing Games With My Heart". Bad catchy tunes that played on a loop in our children's rooms while we tried to dance the choreographies from the music videos. At school there was extensive discussion about which Backstreet Boy was the cutest (actually it was always Nick) and who instead favored Caught In The Act or Boyzone or even the KELLY FAMILY was viewed with skepticism.
In Germany, the quintet was the quintessential boy band and always outperformed the competition from N'Sync - who were far more popular in the US. That Paris Hilton once made out with blonde Nick Carter seemed like a perfectly logical development to German fans, while Americans couldn't believe that the hyper-it girl was hanging out with such a B-star.
Maybe today's look at the boys is a bit sobering because you can see from a distance that "Merci" chocolate is rather dull. And that members of a boy band, like the cool kids in ninth grade, experience an early peak followed by a slow, long, and ugly descent. How can someone who was the biggest star in the world for my fifteen-year-old self now be a tired, aged guy with money and cocaine problems? A normal person?
But: Actually, we're not interested in what the Backstreet Boys are doing today, are we? They are saved as part of our youth, forever young, happy, dancing and perfectly styled. They're an untouchable reminder of the days when school used to be tossing notes, walking around in clouds of Vanilla Kisses deodorant, wearing tattooed collars, and falling in love with Benni from the parallel class because he had such a similar hairdo like Nick Carter. The real people behind the singers have never really interested. But we will always be grateful for how they accompanied us through these wild times.