A funny thing happened recently on MuchMoreMusic, a channel that occasionally shows music videos betwixt half-hour exposés on the secret life of Pam Anderson's cooter. Following Gene Simmons Family Jewels but before Listed: Top 10 Items Found in the Rectums of '80s Child Stars , viewers were treated to marathon reruns of VH1's Mission: Man Band , a show where former members of Color Me Badd, 98 Degrees, 'N Sync, and LFO come together to form a pop-vocal group. They're hoping for another shot at fame, using the boy-band template to relaunch their dead-and-rotting careers.
They're grown men, so the notion is ridiculous. The show is predicated on schadenfreude, and viewers are implicitly asked to laugh along with the cameras at how retarded boy-band music looks on adults. All's well and good with the latest salvo against human dignity launched by reality TV, except cut to commercial and there's an advertisement for Unbreakable , the latest album from the Backstreet Boys.
Yes, Backstreet is back, again, and after 2005's ill-advised "rock" album, Never Gone , the "band" has returned to its roots, peddling crap-pop and triple-syruped ballads. The group has lost a member, some of the Boys have been in rehab, and one of them had surgery to repair his exhaustingly documented broken heart. In addition to starring in the utterly repugnant reality show House of Farters , one of them allegedly used Paris Hilton as the world's most haute couture punching bag. They may still call themselves boys, but they're rapidly getting to the age where Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA became unofficially known as the Beastie Men.
In an interview on the phone from Germany, Brian Littrell–the square-jawed silent type of the group–seems to have missed the memo that pop eats its young. "We've been blessed to have good-quality music and good-quality fans for 15 years," says the unabashed Bible basher, now a husband and father. "When we first got together in 1993, we were young boys at the time. When you look at us now, Nick [Carter] will be 28 in January, A.J. [McLean] will be 30, I'll be 33 [in February], and Howie [Dorough] will be 35”¦ All those boy bands that were out when we first came out are not around anymore, and we're still here making good music."
Ooookay. Everyone who knows when to leave a party, please step forward. Not so fast, Backstreet.
Littrell goes on to reveal that the theatrics and dance routines of their '90s act will be part of their 2008 stage show. Surely someone old enough to be the dad of teenaged fuck machine Jamie Lynn Spears knows that once you become a man, it is no longer appropriate to wag your dong at tween girls. You either take the money and run, become a vanilla hunk of adult-contemporary mancake, or rebrand yourself as Justin Timberlake. And sorry, only Justin Timberlake gets to be Justin Timberlake.
Given the financial rogering members of Backstreet endured at the start of their career (check out November's Vanity Fair for a shocking story on Boys' Svengali Lou Pearlman's downfall), only Eminem would begrudge them for continuing to shoot higher than the inevitable guest slots on Dancing With the Stars .
But what happens with Backstreet could set a dangerous precedent for other boy-band comebacks. If the Boys are "unbreakable", what other Kids are all right? Somewhere, Jordan Knight could be lacing up his dancing shoes, even though that dink Donnie Wahlberg continues to avoid his phone calls. It's a slippery, spangly slope to the Hangin' Tough reunion tour. Don't say you haven't been warned.