Monthly Archives: March 2012

Take That – Take That And Party (1992)

You might not know this, but boy bands are everywhere. Everywhere. All around you, at every moment of every day. Just take a look around you, for once. It’s a hunk’s world. Hunky hunks all over the place!!

No, for real. Real. This is fact. Boy bands may have petered out unceremoniously shortly after the turn of the millennium in the United States, but in almost every other part of the world they remain a constant, powerful commercial force. And while particular regions of the world are particularly nuts about hunky boys with nice hair (Korea, Japan, some South American countries I THINK) there is no area in the world zanier about Dude Troupes than Europe – or, more accurately, the UK.

Yes, the UK is nuts about fun singing boys. Always have been, always will be. And not only do they love their boy bands, they are fiercely loyal to them in ways that I don’t think would make sense in America. I mean, in what other country could Westlife have stayed together for thirteen years and had a #1 charting record almost every year of their existence?? Yeesh. And the Backstreet Boys can’t even get one lousy single in the top 40 nowadays. Obama.

In fact, the UK’s love for boy bands is so consistently strong that it’s actually started to spill over onto American shores once again (in a maybe slightly more limited fashion) with the likes of One Direction and the Wanted. And it’s a bigger deal than you might think considering that, by and large, even the biggest of UK teen pop groups have barely managed even a sole hit in the United States over the past decade, let alone actual sustainable success. Sure, the late 90s teen pop boom spawned the mega-popular Spice Girls, but their Britishness was almost a novelty more than anything – American acts dominated the teen pop airwaves in the late 90s, at least in America itself.

So in the wake of all this, I feel like it’s only appropriate to talk about the group that first made boy bands a “thing” in Europe, the group so gigantic on their side of the Atlantic (rhyme) they didn’t even need American success. Yes, I am talking about none other than maybe the UK’s most monumental contribution to 90s teen pop, the five boys that broke every teenage British girl’s heart simultaneously and never looked back: the one and only Take That.

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‘N Sync – No Strings Attached (2000)

This is a learning experience for me. Digital Get Down, that is. Every new review I write, I learn something new. Forgive me if I’ve said this before. I’m still learning.

Here’s the lesson I learned this week: my trepidation in reviewing the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium a few weeks back? Thinking it was The Biggest Boy Band Album Ever (TBBBAE) and that it was all downhill from then on? Wrong. Unfounded. Bullhickey. Bzzzzzt.

While we’re at it, I would like to submit a formal apology for the following excerpt from that review:

“Boy Band History after Millennium is mostly just malaise, earth-tones and soul-crushing anonymity. And what’s more fun than that??”

Oh ho hoho. You know what’s more fun than that, mid-February Sean Rose? Mid-March Sean Rose pointing out that you are wrong and a God-fucked dummyhead. That’s right. It’s almost spring where I’m at, doggo! I got sweet sunlight and I am in the right. You think Millennium was the Biggest Boy Band Album Ever? You do? Is the snow sucking the brain out of your ears too hard for you to notice ‘N Sync’s butt-crushing megahit No Strings Attached waiting right around the corner??

Gosh dangit, you tit-witted tinyman. Get a haircut already.

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M2M – Shades Of Purple (2000)

So how often is “teen pop” music written and produced by actual teenagers?

That’s barely a rhetorical question. Really. This is something I am working through my head right now so any answers anybody might have would be fantastic.

But I think it’s a fair question. What I refer to “teen pop” here, I am referring to music that is often written, produced, and distributed by adults. To make money off of teenagers. Money that, more often than not, they get from their parents. Kind of insidious. Kind of evil.

I mean, let’s run down the list, here. Boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync were masterminded by shady business types (Lou Pearlman) and superstar monolithic producers/songwriters (Max Martin). Usually only one or two members of those groups were actual teenagers, with some of them actually pushing 30 by the time they started generating actual hit singles. Solo pop stars like Britney and Christina, same deal, entering their 20s by the time they hit it big. The Spice Girls and S Club 7 were Simon Fuller pet projects, whose members were mostly all in their 20s. Aaron Carter was like 13 but he is not worth talking about. If we’re talking more recent pop stars – well, okay, Taylor Swift seems pretty in control. But despite all being actual teenagers (for a while), the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus were Disney creations, and I don’t think Justin Bieber has much creative control over his music outside of a few songwriting credits here and there.

It’s all about money, here. Teenagers hand over their allowances for music that is designed specifically to appeal to them. Adults receive this teenager money. Rich adults. It’s a very simple process, and it doesn’t matter if said product is coming from actual teenagers. Teenagers are too dumb to care, right??

OK I’m really trying to not come across as cynical, here. Honestly, I love teen pop so fucking much that the fact that it is generated and profited from by people who might be actual Snidley Whiplash-level villains does not bother me even a little bit. It doesn’t! I am listening to music incubated deep, deep in the slimiest bowels of Capitalism and I don’t even care. I don’t know what this says about me. I can’t dwell on it.

(jesus christ Pearlman, you psychotic ponzi-scheming jailbird, I love all of your boy groups SO much)

What I’m trying to say is, knowing where teen pop comes from and who benefits from it, it’s almost impossible to toil in the genre and create something that actually relates any level of sincerity or feeling. And when someone does, it’s a big fucking deal to me, the biggest idiot in the world. I’m the one sitting here swallowing this music up, foot by foot, waiting to hear something I can relate to on a fucking human level. And most of the time it does not happen.

But when it does, hey. Hey. It’s great. A few artists here and there have managed to overcome the intrinsically evil nature of teen pop music and create something that hits me in the heart, something that communicates youth in a way that doesn’t feel chintzy or dumb. Robyn’s “Show Me Love,” for example. Hanson’s goofy early stuff. And, welp, M2M.

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