Here’s the problem with teen pop: it’s not punk pop. And god, I love punk pop. I love it more than I love Friends and Family. I love the spiky blonde hair and the dancing foam anarchy symbols and the palm muting and and the halfpipes and corny bleeped curse words and the forced angsty ballads and EVERYTHING. I love it and I want to live it. And I’ll never get to review ANY of it for this dumb teen pop blog about boy bands or WHATEVER.
What stupid, stupid mistake I’ve made?? How do you delete a blog. Please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to help me delete blog please.
My love for punk pop is similar to my love of turn-of-the-millennium teen pop – it’s fun, liberating teenager music usually dismissed by adult listeners as garbage disposal music for idiots. Heck, it’s kind of a cheat, cuz punk pop is teen pop, just marketed towards 13-year-old boys instead of girls. What were Blink-182 and Sum 41 if not boy bands that just happened to wear ripped jeans and leather jackets instead of hotpants and mesh vests?
It is all about the PRESENTATION, folks. Both genres represent the adolescent fantasies record labels have assigned to their respective genders: girls get hunky shirtless hotmen singing sensitive kissin-you ballads while pouring rain caresses their nipples, and boys get bratty ugly malcontents chugging Mountain Dew and crashing pool parties thrown by porn stars before auditioning to be in porn. Because according to 50-year-old suited white dudes, girls and boys are COMPETELY DIFFERENT and they like COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS and must be treated DIFFERENTLY. Put a fuckin Eastern Bloc between those genders and keep em apart.
I mean, jeez – could you imagine a GIRL liking Good Charlotte? A BOY liking 98 Degrees?? OF COURSE YOU COULDN’T BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IMAGINE EVEN IF YOU SIT DOWN AND RUB YOUR BRAIN FOR HOURS. IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED AND NEVER WILL HAPPEN.
Heck, punk pop bands were boy bands that I, as a 13-year-old boy in 2000, was expected to like. No social stigma there. If any of my middle school friends caught me comparing Sum 41 to the Backstreet Boys they’d probably call me “gay” and throw my Lunchables cheeseblock into the overhead cafeteria fan. And then I’d cry and run home and my mom would call someone else’s mom cuz I couldn’t stop crying. Ah, memories.
Today we’re gonna talk about one band that dared to cross the Terrifying Forever Gendergap between these two eternally separate genres: the UK punk-pop boy band Busted.
Go ahead and read those words out loud to yourself, once and maybe once again. “Punk pop boy band.” Punk pop. Boy band. How does that makes you feel? Confused? Scared? Beautiful?? It should make you feel BEAUTIFUL. Because the existence of Busted is nothing but a BEAUTIFUL thing.
Now, a “punk pop boy band” could be one of three things:
1) A brilliantly crafted send-up of the punk pop genre, exposing it as cynical testosterone-overloaded boy band music for dumb young men, tricking teens with its rebellious rock ‘n roll image and anti-pop-starlet attitude while stealing their precious lunch money.
2) A hilarious, fun & fascinating attempt to merge radio-ready teen pop with rockin’ punk pop, celebrating the best of both genres while delighting Digital Get Down writer Sean Rose.
3) A boy band dressed up to look like Sum 41 to get dumb 14-year-old boys to buy their stupid album.
Can you guess which one Busted were??
Yes, Busted were a boy band, through and through. They were auditioned like a boy band, produced like a boy band, and sang like a boy band. Their only concession to “punk” was their blonde spiky hair, faded jean-jackets, and curse words in their lyrics. Actual punk-rock music – even punk-pop music – had nothing to do with Busted (unless Yellowcard and the Starting Line are your idea of “punk rock”).
Now, this revelation was upsetting for me at first, ’cause the idea of a punk pop boy band could be SO much fun and Busted are far from the incredible genre amalgam I hoped they would be. But their 2002 self titled debut, Busted, reveals a strange piece of millennial product that would cast a larger shadow over the next decade of teen pop than you might expect.
Let’s dig deep, boyos…
ADOLESCENT BOYDREAMS: THE BOYBAND EDITION
The Busted Way of Life is laid bare in their debut single “What I Go To School For,” one of the most entertaining and bizarre teen pop singles of its time. Musically, this is all pure boybandism – drum loops, processed guitars, pained young guy vocals, the works. But then we get to the lyrics, a dread-inducing tale of a schoolboy lusting after his 33-year-old teacher with uncomfortable details galore: he drops pencils in class to stare at her butt, watches her changing at her home after her boyfriend leaves (“I climb a tree outside her home / To make sure she is alone” – AHHH), and all the while is confident she wants to fuck him back (“You can call me crazy / I know that she craves me”). And in the end, they hook up. He was right. Of COURSE he was right.
And so, the evolution of the modern boy band reaches a new & terrifying plane. “What I Go To School For” ditches the sweet romanticism that defined boy band music up to 2002 for an unabashed exploration of adolescent teenage boy fantasy, with all the misplaced cocksure arrogance and cringe-worthy creepiness that comes with it. Whether or not this is a horrible scourge or simply an accurate brainscan of what 13-year-old boys actually think is hard to determine (hint: it’s both) but its status as a fascinating pop cultural artifact – and a hyperentertaining pop song – is unquestionable.
A fun game: listen to those stalker lyrics and take a look at that album cover again. CONTEXT??
The “adolescent teenboyfantasy” theme runs deep throughout Busted. Next to “What I Go To School For,” the purest example of this takes the form of “Britney,” a song about how the Busted boys want to fuck Britney Spears. “Sweatin all over your video / watching every single scene in slow mo / Trackin’ you down on the internet / coz I ain’t seen you naked yet.” Oho. “Pepsi lets me taste you.” Ahuah. “And you say that you’re not a girl / but I’ll make you a woman!” OH NO.
Again, that conundrum. Is this an accurate portrayal of how millions of millennial 14-year-old boys felt about Britney Spears? Yeah. Do you really need to hear it like this? NoooOOOOOOOO
(kudos to the “god must’ve spent a little more time on you” line though, boys. “I don’t care who your boyfriend is” – a subtle dig at JT? I get it, I guys. I GET it.)
I prefer Busted when they drop the misguided machismo and dig deep into dumbheaded teenage vulnerability. “You Said No” (originally titled “Crash and Burn” and retitled after the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, one of those strange pop-culture-meets-terrible-tragedy moments) is an adorable teenage whine, playing up the tendency of youngerfolk to turn little problems into a soul-shattering world-crushing tragedies (“I asked you to dance at the disco / But you said no! / The whole world was watching, and laughing…”). It’s endearing and funny and offers an accurate slice of what it really FEELS like to be a teenage boy gettin dissed by a girl you like WITHOUT resorting to creepy assholery. A step forward?!?
Well, not quite.
Here’s where things get a lil weird.
For a so-called “punk pop boy band,” there are a lot of ballads on Busted. Ballads that, for the most part, drop the “teenage boy jerkoff fantasy” angle entirely and stick with tried-and-true boy band cliche. In other words, they’re just Westlife songs.
I mean – that’s kinda lazy, isn’t it? Who are they kidding here? Are we really expected to believe that these scummy punk yahoos are opening their hearts to us all the sudden? Sure, “Losing You” and “Sleeping With The Light On” and the nicely arranged “When Day Turns Into Night” are well-crafted enough, but in the context of Busted they make zero sense. If there is one thing that mucks up the entire “punk pop boy band” concept of Busted, it is these slow dull ballads.
With the exception of one: the borderline irresponsible “Psycho Girl,” an ode to a girl who is a total psycho! Like, whoa fellas, you KNOW what I MEAN. Chicks are NUTS. Chorus: “She’s my psycho girlfriend / everything I say / she takes it the wrong way!”
Another fun game: read those lyrics, take a second look at that album cover and imagine what assuredly innocuous thing these three charming winners said to offend this girl. “I just said your sister had fat tits I wanna kiss! I can say that!! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU WHY ARE YOU MAD GOD YOU’RE SUCH A PSYCHO”
Woman-hating lyrics set to sweet boy-band balladry. “She’s so weird, it scares me.” Gosh, this is wrong. An awful perversion of a lovely thing. What happened here? Even Blink-182 were sweeter than this! And they wrote at least THREE songs about fucking dogs!
Hey. Let’s let some sunshine in on this review. In terms of heinous scummardry, those ballads are as bad as it gets for Busted. Thankfully, they’re a minority – most of the songs you’ll find here are silly fun teenage boy band anthems that more often than not are sweet & fun & endearing. “Dawson’s Geek” is a song dissing a kid who’s obsessed with a popular television program! “Everything I Knew” sounds like a New Radicals song for some reason! “All The Way” is a song shaming a girl for not having sex with the Busted guys, which is terrible, but it’s got a fun sugarrush melody!
But no. The eternal masterpiece gem of the Busted canon is “Year 3000,” the funniest sci-fi novelty teen pop hit since Hanson’s “Man From Milwaukee.” Oh goodness. Oh my god, this song.
THE INIMITABLE, PERFECT PLOT: the Busted boys find out that their dorky next-door-neighbor, Peter, has created a time machine ala Back to the Future (vaguely referred to here as “a film I’ve seen” for reasons unknown to my heart) and has visited the Year 3000. So what does Peter have to tell the Busted boys about the far-flung future?? Three things:
-Everything is pretty much the same.
-Oh wait, except for the fact that everyone lives underwater.
-Their great great great granddaughter is HOT AS HELL AND FUCKABLE (implying that either Peter wants to have sex with her or that he is offering her to the Busted boys, both terrifying terrifying implications)
He then takes Busted along with him, where they – amazingly and wonderfully – discover that the year 3000 is a perfect fantasyland where all their goofy boydreams come true: their older selves not ONLY still alive, but are huge multi-platinum megastars cavorting around with naked triple-breasted women and outselling Michael Jackson. Heck, there’s even a misguided dig at boybands! (“I saw everything: boy bands, and another one, and another one… and another one”)
Folks, it’s a big ol goofball masterpiece. It is the one thing that will forever justify the existence of Busted. Throw the above description outta your brain and just watch the video. The music video is just as hilarious as the song! It’s full of animated fish and hijinks and good times!
So much fun! Can you imagine if every song on Busted was like this? Man. Maaan.
The painful truth is that, if we’re going off this debut record alone, Busted were kind of a joke. Maybe it’s just unrealistic expectations on my part, but they don’t come close to the hilarious potential of an actual “punk pop boy band” in Sean Rose’s mind. Throwing a bunch of curse words and misogynist lyrics into run-of-the-mill boy band tracks is not enough, fellas! You’ve gotta COMMIT to this. Yeesh.
And yet none of this changes the fact that Busted is superfun pop entertainment from beginning to end. It’s such a bizarre idea, such an awkward attempt to give teenage boys a boy band of their own, that I can’t help but sit back and gawk at it in loving awe. This is as scummy and beautiful as radio pop gets.
But there’s more to these boys than meets the eye. Busted was conceived at a time when the millennial R&B teen pop rush was starting to die out, a post-9/11 world where the dancey neon boy band glitz was starting to look kinda silly. Busted was the first explicit attempt to create a “rock ‘n roll boy band,” a model that would set the standard for the next decade of hunky boygroups. Busted begat McFly, who begat the Naked Brothers, who begat the Jonas Brothers, who begat One Direction.
Heck, is it any coincidence that the Jonas Brothers covered not one, but TWO Busted songs for their debut album?? And scrubbed away all the creepy lyrics and made them totally boring? It is not. It can’t be.
Busted – the most important and influential boy band of the past ten years?? Maybe. Yeah, OK, sure. I’ll give it to them. What else do they have?