The year was 1995 *cue old grandpa voice*, I was on a field trip during summer day camp at the local roller skating rink, Horizon Fun FX. We were playing one of those mandatory group games which requires going to four corners or something, idk. All I knew was that I wanted out immediately because I’m not that good at skating and I don’t like group games. I’m also not good at summer camp. Anyways, my younger Kindergarten friend ended up winning said game, and her “prize” was a cassette tape single of Backstreet Boys’ We’ve Got it Goin’ On (looking back, it was clearly free promo swag that Horizon needed to give away, not a special once in a lifetime prize like I thought). Kindergarten friend came up to me and said, “I don’t want this, do you?” I looked at her incredulously and said, “BACKstreet Boys?? I’ve heard of BLACKstreet, but not BACKstreet.”
Cut to me buying the very CD We’ve Got It Goin’ On was featured on, and me looking like this for the next few (18) years:
Since that summer’s day in ’95, I went to every single concert tour, lined my childhood bedroom with posters and clippings from teen magazines, purchased every piece of paraphernalia you can think of, voted incessantly for their music videos on TRL, and even used to buy two copies of each album – one in CD format and one in cassette format, because you know, just in case. Basically I was the epitome of a teenybopper. Perhaps it was your worst nightmare, but it was some of the best days of my life.
I’ve stayed a fan to this day, and although I don’t get as fangirl-y as I used to, the excitement is still there. These five boys have really been only one the most constant presences in my life. Friends have come and gone over the years, but my love for their music and how it makes me feel has never left.
The guys celebrated their 20th anniversary on April 20th (yes, you’re/we’re that old), and I was lucky enough to attend a special fan celebration they held here in Hollywood. I got there about two hours early, waiting in the hot LA sun with a bunch of girls/women my age, who had also grown up with them. People were wearing shirts from tours past, and someone in front of me even put to use an old BSB branded metal lunchbox (which I also had, but did not bring with me) as a purse. After hours of waiting, we were clearly hot, thirsty, hungry, and all waayy too old to be doing this shit anymore. The atmosphere has since changed since my first BSB concert back in 1999. More people were looking for seats to sit down in rather than rushing towards the front of the stage, and alcoholic beverages were being thrown back everywhere you look. But the feeling is still there – we were all excited to see the Backstreet Boys.
To add to the 20th anniversary celebration, the boys also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that following Monday. Obviously this is a big deal for any entertainer, but as each of them went up to speak at the ceremony, you could tell that this meant a great deal to them. For all but one (stoic Howie D) was overcome with emotion and brought to tears with the long journey it’s taken to arrive at that very moment.
AJ (my boo) said, “Aside from my wedding day and the birth of my daughter, this is by far the best day in my life.”
Kevin, who if you don’t know, left the group circa 2006 and officially rejoined this year, added, “Who would have thought 20 years ago, when we began this journey together that this would be a stop along the way? The first time the five of us sang together it was a Boyz II Men song. We picked up those harmonies and that was it. It was on.” (Feel free to listen, and not watch because they look horrendous, to their a cappella cover of End of the Road)
And guess whose star is planted right next to theirs? Yup, Boyz II Men.
As I watched the live stream of the ceremony, I too was brought to tears, not only because I cry easily, but because I felt like I was going through the same emotions they were. They’ve gone through surgeries, breakups, rehab, a man swindling millions from them, marriage, babies, and more – and they never could have imagined that they would be among those forever cemented in Hollywood history.
That day at work, I was wrote a story about one of the big entertainment news items of the day: BSB getting a star on the walk of fame. There I was, scrolling through professional press pictures of these five guys, whose faces were plastered all over my walls and notebooks and anything else you can imagine. I couldn’t help but think the same thing Kevin thought, “Who would have thought 18 years ago, when I got that cassette tape that I would be getting paid to write about my favorite band?”
I was hit with an incredible sense of surrealism. I started off the day watching the live stream of the Walk of Fame ceremony on my computer in my apartment, had to leave for work, so I streamed it on my phone because I’m insane, and literally drove past a closed off Hollywood Boulevard because they were getting their star, only to arrive to my place of employment where I was being compensated to spout off my BSB knowledge? This can’t be my life.
I know this all sounds really cheesy, so thanks for sticking with me this far. But in that moment of realization, I felt incredibly #blessed and thankful that a nine-year-old fangirl from Rochester, NY could make it to Los Angeles and have a veritable dream job that allows me to write this stuff. I try my best not to sound jaded or show off-y or cynical about my job or life in general, but everything that I’ve done, everywhere I’ve been in the past 18 years was worth all the worrying – the crying, the ‘what the fuck am I gonna do next’ questions – because it led to something that is perfect for me.
At the ceremony, the guys chose “superfan” Lori Meono to say a little speech on behalf of the fans. She said, “They have created the soundtrack for my most memorable moments… from braces to bridal showers, to Happy Meals and heartbreaks, the Backstreet Boys have been there consistently through it all.”
And it’s true. It’s why you’ll see fans waiting overnight and lined up around the block in order to attend the 20th Anniversary party. If BSB isn’t your jam, replace it with another music group, a favorite sports team, what have you. They have helped you get through things in a way no one else could, and induced joy and happiness that is incomparable. Being a Backstreet Boys fan hasn’t always been easy since a lot of people don’t take them seriously, and I get that. But I would never take back the past 18 years of my life. They’ve been the only thing I’ve consistently followed and liked for nearly two decades, and really, has been the longest relationship of my life. As much as the boys have grown up since 1993, their fans have too. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.