In defense of boy bands

A Chico N&R intern defends the tradition of celebrity teen worship

HANG IN THERE, DOOFUS The author, enjoying the company of her Justin Timberlake marionette.

HANG IN THERE, DOOFUS The author, enjoying the company of her Justin Timberlake marionette.

Photo By Tom Angel

I am 24 years old, and I love boy bands. Most girls become infatuated with them around the beginning of their teen years. My experience started when I was 13 years old and the New Kids on the Block became the biggest boy group on the planet. The New Kids were five handsome guys from Boston, and before long young girls everywhere fell hard. I was one of those girls. I loved them passionately.

My love turned into a mad obsession. I bought New Kids tapes, buttons, videos, posters, pictures, earrings, stickers and eventually even a beautiful turquoise New Kids tour jacket, which still hangs in the closet of my parents’ house. I made a binder that had tons of pages decorated with pictures of my boys that I tore out from magazines. I memorized their birthdays, names of family members, likes, dislikes, shoe sizes. I sent Joe McIntyre, the youngest member and my favorite guy from the group, a fake California license plate for his birthday (I still haven’t received a thank-you for that, Joey!).

One piece of merchandise from New Kids on the Block that I put to good use was the buttons. These weren’t ordinary buttons. They were huge ones, probably about the size of a small plate, each sporting a picture of one of the guys. I pinned them all over my black denim jacket. I looked like a walking New Kids on the Block shrine. When I walked, the buttons clanked heavily against my back.

One day in the seventh grade I wore the jacket to school. When I got up from my seat during Spanish class to walk across the room to the wastebasket, a bunch of boys started whispering loudly and laughing. “Wow, she really likes them,” someone said. I tried to ignore the jibes, but after that I became known as the rabid New Kids fan around Colton Middle School.

Another time I was wearing my New Kids earrings. They were these plastic things—fluorescent orange and yellow colored—that said, “New Kids on the Block.” I was sitting in history class, and this guy Jeremy (who I was totally in love with) asked me if I would sell the earrings for a million dollars.

“No way,” I responded firmly. I was dead serious.

Jeremy looked at me and laughed, probably thinking that I was insane. I was so obsessed that I wouldn’t have traded those $3 earrings for riches. But, more important, I was willing to look like a freak in front of this hot guy that I liked. If that’s not loyalty, then I don’t know what is.

The first major concert I ever attended was a New Kids on the Block show. My mother, younger sister and two of our friends went together. It drove my sister and me crazy, because my mom could never get the name of the group right. She always referred to them as “new kids on the street” or “new boys on the block.” But she was a good sport for taking us to the concert.

SYNC ME UP The boys in the band share a casual moment.

We were sitting far away from the stage, but there were two huge screens set up on either side of the stage so we people in the nosebleed section could see. When a shot of McIntyre flashed up there, I noticed that his blue eyes were bloodshot, probably as a result of the guys not getting enough sleep while traveling around from city to city on their major tour. A jolt of concern for Joey’s well being shot through me, and I screamed out, “I’ll take care of you Joey!”

I thought those days were over. But flash forward to the latter part of the ‘90s when ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, 98 degrees—a flotilla of boy bands—appeared, all larger than life. I was now a mature 21 years of age, but the resurrection of my guys sent me backward in time to those innocent teenage days. The obsession returned.

I bought their CDs and posters. My best friend gave me an ‘N Sync calendar for Christmas just this year. Another friend gave me an awesome birthday present: a Justin Timberlake marionette doll (Timberlake is the lead singer and supreme hottie of ‘N Sync). He stands in my kitchen on his little platform, much to the chagrin of my roommate, Richard, who nicknamed him “Doofus.” I took the doll out the other night and started dancing him around and singing “Bye Bye Bye,” and Richard yelled, “Stop playing with Doofus!” He then called him a voodoo doll.

That’s what I have to put up with all the time. People are relentlessly mean to me about my boy band obsession. They love to insult the bands to my face. They call them “talentless” and “annoying” and complain about the fact that the members of the bands don’t write their own music. While it is basically true that the band members don’t write their own lyrics, ‘N Sync wrote eight out of 10 songs on their newest album, Celebrity, and Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez co-wrote some of the songs from their second album, No Strings Attached. So there.

I get really angry when the backlash comes from my own friends. However, I don’t mind defending my guys, and I couldn’t care less if people think I’m crazy. It certainly doesn’t make me love boy bands any less. Is it really so awful that I want to cling to my past, to that happy and innocent time of my youth? I don’t think so. So leave me alone with my delusions. I have liked the music for a long time and will continue to do so probably until the day I die.

Listening to pop music makes me feel good. It makes me want to get up and dance. I often get depressed thinking about the problems of this world and about my own neuroses. When that happens, all I have to do is put on ‘N Sync’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart” and dance around my apartment, and I instantly feel better.

I recently caught the love of my life, Joe McIntyre, on the Craig Kilborn show. When they announced who would be the guests that night, an interesting thing happened. I was lying on the couch in my living room and my leg started to twitch involuntarily and I squealed—like an animal in heat or something. I didn’t howl but it was close. He will always have that effect on me. I don’t care how old I get. Childhood crushes and idols never die.

I know that there must be a deep psychological reason as to why I can’t let go of my adolescent fantasies, something more than just the fluffy sweet sound making me a happy girl. My guess is that it has to do with being terrified of getting older. Not older as in senior-citizen status, but older in the sense of being a responsible adult. I’m not quite ready to grow up yet. I’m young, still in college, don’t have a husband or children—why shouldn’t I enjoy my youth for as long as I can? Just because I’m 24, does that mean I have to listen to adult music?

My love for the boy bands is different now than it was 11 years ago. It’s a more realistic love. I have crushes on some of the guys in the groups, but I know that they’re not going to show up on my doorstep with a bouquet of roses and a diamond ring and whisk me away.

And I don’t live my life according to what other people think about me anymore. In high school, I spent a lot of time worrying about whether people liked me and wanting them to so badly that I was afraid to speak my opinion. Those days are gone. I am who I am, and I’m no longer afraid to speak up. And that is why I’m not ashamed of my boy band obsession. It makes me happy. What else really matters?