The Backstreet Boys are back. Cool. Neat-o. Whoop.
Social media may be alight with all-caps cries of “BACKSTREET’s BACK (alright!)” and “so good I don't even care,” but I can’t help but feel, well, unenthused. (And before you ask, no, this has nothing to do with my ‘90s-era allegiance to *NSYNC.)
Don’t get me wrong, when I first heard that one of highest-grossing boy bands of all time—a band which defined both my musical taste and sexual awakening in the year 2001—was reuniting to drop "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," their first new single in 5 years, I had that now-familiar surge of anticipation I always get when a name from the past makes splashy, punny headlines.
But then I watched the video and realized that nothing, really, has changed. The Backstreet Boys (should we rebrand them to Men? Just a thought) are now squarely in their 40s, celebrating 25 years since their inception, but they’re still performing the same song and dance. Literally.
In an interview with Vulture, the Backstreet Boys said that they had been scouring the YouTube in search of old videos so that they could recreate their old routines for diehard fans. In “Don't Go Breaking My Heart,” they not only brought back the dance moves (albeit, a bit slower, to accommodate their older bodies), but their signature style, too. In promotional material, they’ve also been spotted in those immaculate white looks reminiscent of their Millennium album cover.
Not to mention, they haven’t been exactly been out of the loop, either. After “reuniting” following brief flirtations with solo careers in 2005 (see below), and then dropping new music just 5 years ago, the Boys have had Vegas residency as well as a "Backstreet Boys Cruise." Just last year, the group performed at Jingle Ball.
Other late ‘90s and early aughts contemporaries, meanwhile, are truly worth discussing. Love him or hate him, there’s no doubt that Justin Timberlake has made at least some attempt to reinvent himself and to take his music in a new direction. Over the past ten years, we’ve received R&B Justin (“Sexy Back” era); suave, Tom Ford-wearing Justin (20-20 Experience era); and camo-chic Justin (the current, polarizing iteration).
VIDEO: Backstreet Boys Debut Their First New Single in 5 Years
Even Christina Aguilera, who is emerging after a hiatus that was one year longer than the Backstreet Boys—announcing her first new album, Liberation, in 6 years—has realized the significance of reinvention. Her “Dirrty” girl stringy hair look is long gone, and it looks like her “Ain’t No Other Man” pin-up image has been buried as well. While there was a lot of chatter about her new sound (mainly, that it didn’t harness enough of her sound), there was no denying the impact of her fresh faced, pared back look as an artistic statement—a coming out of sorts. “With the old Christina you see the hair and the makeup and the clothes, but you don’t’ really see Christina,” “Accelerate” stylist Zoe Costello told InStyle. "[In her new video], you see her."
That’s not to say that there isn’t value in nostalgia—just look at the success of the Revival Era: We’ve resurrected Gilmore Girls, Roseanne, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Full House and all the former teen stars that came with them. (Nothing like a “What Do They Look Like Now?” story to suck you in.) I mean, did I want to see what 46-year-old Kevin Richardson looked like in a bucket hat? Of course! And some studies have even shown that nostalgic flashbacks, when they evoke the positive emotions of our past, can counteract depression. An antidote for 2018, if you will.
But the adrenaline rush from seeing the band standing in that perfect arrow shape, reviving the jerky choreography that was novel in the ‘90s but now just outdated, wore off after about 30 seconds. Their new music, which sounds like their old music, had the same effect.
Plus, did we collectively forget about the 2003 rape allegations against Nick Carter, brought to light only just last November? Carter has denied the accusations, but not much regarding the case has resurfaced since February, when Santa Monica Police confirmed they were investigating the matter.
Regardless, there's no denying the Backstreet Boys are back. But this time, they're not larger than life.