Sit down, my babies – I’m going to tell you a story.
Back in 2008, I was at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA on the night that the Phillies would end up clinching the World Series title. A dangerous day to be out in that city for sure, what with the local sports fans’ penchant for setting cars on fire. But no matter. I was there to see the band I’ve loved since I was but a preteen – live. For the first time. Ever.
Between the opening band and the main act, two couples in their early 20s walked in. These dudes were bros to the max, and completely decked out in Phillies gear. They’d almost certainly pounded a few beers already. As they walked to their seats two rows in front of us, the guys would periodically get into someone’s face and ironically yell, “HANSON, YEAH!” My friend Becky and I were rolling our eyes, sure that these morons were about to ruin the night for everyone. Their girlfriends clearly dragged them here, when they’d much rather be in a bar, covered in wing sauce and watching the game.
And then, something magical happened. The lights dimmed. The band walked out. The music started. Taylor Hanson started singing.
And so did the bros.
For the next two hours, our dudes sang every word of every song from Taylor, Isaac, and Zac Hanson’s flawless, career-spanning set. They twirled their girlfriends and high-fived strangers. They were having the TIME of their LIVES. My heart grew 3 sizes that day.
If you want to see my head explode, go ahead and talk shit on my favorite band. My desert island band. I mean, I will get UGLY.
I didn’t hit my boy band phase until I was at the end of my sophomore year of college.
I know. I wasted SO MANY years repressing my inner fangirl.
Frankly, the years of repression explain a LOT about why I am the way I am today.
I remember hearing rumblings about The Backstreet boys and rolling my eyes over them. Like Sage, I was MUCH too cool for bubblegum pop (and I already had much on my plate damming me to be a geek, being that I was a massive X-Phile). I worked at The Gap and “As Long As You Love Me” and “All I Have to Give” were in heavy rotation on the store playlist. Over an eight-hour work shift, I would hear them at least three times. Soon, I knew all the words, despite my best efforts to ignore them. Not long after that…I was singing along. And THEN I would find myself looking FORWARD to when they would come on and doing a little dance of rejoicing when those now familiar opening chords would play.
They had gotten me.
However, I remained a closet Backstreet Boys fan for a long time. Wasn’t I, at 20 years old, too OLD to love a boy band so ardently? Wasn’t I too old to save magazine covers and article to secretly tape up in my closet? WASN’T I TOO OLD TO HAVE A FAVORITE BACKSTREET BOY?
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. NO. Never. You are NEVER too old to have a favorite Backstreet Boy.
And then the Summer of 1999 happened. And you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing the greatest boy band song (and arguably the most perfect pop song) EVER.
I’m sorry. If you don’t love (and know all the words to) “I Want It That Way” then there is a problem deep inside your soul. It IS one of the greatest pop songs ever written. The nonsensical “that way” (NO REALLY WHAT WAY DO YOU WANT IT, BOYS?). That Bridge. THAT FLAWLESS KEY CHANGE AND BRIAN’S “TELL ME WHYYYYYYY” RIFF AT THE END. It is a perfect karaoke song. It has inspired countless fan tributes, parodies, and flash mobs (this one is my most favorite). “I Want It That Way” is pure and incandescent joy and it personifies everything I love about the Backstreet Boys. You can’t listen to it without breaking into a massive grin and wanting to dance around like no one is watching you.
“I Want It That Way” always tends to be my trump card whenever I get into a debate with someone about Backstreet vs. *N SYNC. Cause no other *N SYNC song, with the possible exception of “Bye Bye Bye”, has the timeless perfection of IWITW. Can a debate be won on the merits of one song?
When it is a song as perfect as “I Want It That Way” I believe it can.
But more reasons why I pledge my eternal love to the Backstreet Boys are after the jump…