BBMak – Into Your Head (2002)

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BBMak’s Into Your Head is many things. It’s BBMak’s swan song, a commercial non-starter in the dying years of the genre, a well-executed attempt to incorporate heartland rock into their affable radio jangle-pop vibe. But for me it will always be, first and foremost, a summer album. A record bathed in 95 degree browsweat and hot carseats and suffocating humidity. A record lamenting the end of good times that were maybe never all that good in the first place. Par the course for 2002, teen pop’s year in the twilight.

So let’s talk.

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Like any “teen pop” artist in the early 2000s, BBMak were trying to appeal to more adult audience with Into Your Head as a bid for both respect and longevity. But it’s not a stretch to say that Into Your Head is a record for teenagers, not from its lyrical content but from its feel. It is a direct mainline into the dying heart of teenage summer. In order to understand its appeal it is important to remember what summer meant to you as a teen, which is not easy if you are an adult person with a job and summer means nothing but having to shove your shitty air conditioner into your apartment window (if you are blessed to have an air conditioner at all). Into Your Head asks – nay, demands – us to remember summer as a beautiful capsule of youth once again. Are you up for it?

Don’t worry if you aren’t. You don’t have to be. Because I am!

We all have different backgrounds. I don’t know where you come from and what summer was like for you. Here’s what it was for me: the best. Oh, the best. The only time of year that I enjoyed. Like, really enjoyed. Christmastime was nice and autumn was a friendly time, but summer was all that mattered. No school. Pure freedom. All the time in the world to do whatever you want (that your parents will let you get away with, but let’s ignore them for now). Swimming. Swim in your neighbor’s pool or the beach or the YMCA or – man, I don’t know, swim anywhere. Anywhere where there is water. Skateboard. Ice cream man ice cream. Go on a road trip if you’re old enough – heck, even if you’re not!! Go to beach bonfires and stand over the water and watch the sun go down. Man, feel it. You’re free for three months! Completely free!

Gosh, was it intentional? The end of the school year synching up with the most cool-teen-friendly weather possible? Can you imagine if the school year ended in December and started up again in April? Summer would mean nothing. Teens would be caged. Yellowcard wouldn’t have a career. A tragedy. Makes me sick to my bones just thinking about it. Jesus! I’m sorry I even brought it up!

Here’s the problem with teensummer, or at least the problem I remember having when I was a beach-hungry boy: it’s always ending. Always. Every day is another day gone. A countdown to a terrible end, to that last weekend in August when the breeze starts to get a little too cold and the leaves start falling and those awful back to school commercials start airing and it hurts, hurts. Hurts so much. As much as I loved summer, July was the only month I could fully enjoy. August was tough. August was a panic. It was almost over, over and over again. Gotta get in one last pool swim, one last beach hangout, one last drive to the Sundae House. Can’t waste a second. It’ll all be over soon.

Man, it’ll all be over. You’re 18 and college is coming, and nothing will be the same. You’re leaving. You’re getting older. Before you know it you’re gonna be 20 and you’re gonna have to grow up. Enjoy that Slurpee on the beach, my young friend. Before you know it, this will all be gone.

This, in a nutshell, is Into Your Head.

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Into Your Head was released on August 27th, 2002. A summer album released right when parents across the country were forcing their heartbroken teenage sons and daughters to go backpack shopping. You could call this a boneheaded move, but it makes sense. Even in its brightest and most melodic moments, Into Your Head is a wistful goodbye. Wistful is the word. Wistful wistful wistful. Full of wist. The upside is that it might be the finest, most immaculate boy-band product of its time.

They didn’t change a whole lot. Listening to Sooner Or Later and Into Your Head back to back is not a shocking experience. But on Into Your Head BBMak avoid the singles-n-filler pratfalls of the first record, tighten and improve their songwriting, and throw meticulous string arrangements and vocal harmonies into the mix. Also missing from the first record: fun, happiness. Taking its place: Sadness. Reflection.”Staring Into Space” is a cool upbeat rocker, but that’s all you’re getting from these fellas. No “Still On Your Side”s here. The rest of the record is sweet bliss wist watching the sun go down goodbyes.

Into Your Head was not a hit. BBMak were never a big deal, anyway, so who cares? The record’s intended teen audience was not there to receive it. If I could venture a guess, I would venture a guess that Into Your Head was the soundtrack to approximately zero actual summers. It missed the summer of ’02 by a couple of weeks and then was promptly thrown into the bargain bin. This is how it goes.

Let’s not turn this into another “FORGOTTEN LOST CLASSIC” diatribe, shall we? All I can say is that Into Your Head is 10 songs that all could and should have been on The O.C. soundtrack. Definitive summer songs.

I love so many of these songs! Let me tell you why!

“OUT OF MY HEART”

Into Your Head‘s kinda-sorta lead single, and the closest it came to a for-real hit. I remember this being on the radio. My claim that Into Your Head missed the summertime was maybe a lil hasty – “Out Of My Heart” was released a couple months before. BBMak’s gift to the summer of 2002. A dare: listen to that guitar solo at the end and don’t let a SINGLE tear fall from your eye. You can’t do it. No cheating! I’m watching you!

“STARING INTO SPACE”

Cool fun harmony-driven rocker as mentioned above. It’s a rocker and it rocks. Neat harmonies in the bridge. “In the end, the love you receive / is equal to the love you take.” So the more love you take, the more you.. get. Okay.

“GET YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT”

(please, forgive/enjoy the hunkiness of the above video)

Into Your Head finds the BBMak boys taking an obvious but well-executed cues from 70s summertime rockers. And so, we have BBMak copping an obvious Don Henley vibe and nailing it to the wall. You can call it a ripoff if you like, bud! I’ll just sit back and take in those killer hunkharmonies, that dreamy guitar, and that GORGEOUS bridge. Kinda wish this track had been a big hit in the summer of ’03 instead of the Ataris’ cover of “Boys of Summer”. It might be a better song!

Okay, okay. It’s a better song.

“OUT OF REACH”

Amazing. We all dropped the ball by not giving these lads a Grammy for this track alone. To reiterate: We should have all given BBMak all of our Grammys in 2002. All of us. Because this song!

The height of BBMakdom. Higher than “Still On Your Side,” even. They didn’t need to release anything else after this one, and they knew it. Backwards guitars, those building harmonies. “You’re out of reach, but you’re so close!” Harmonies. Harmonies. Oh, can you feel that sadness? Can you see yourself at 17? No you can’t. That part of you is dead. BBMak are here to fill that void.

Did I mention the harmonies? I’m trying to keep my enthusiasm in check, because I understand this record was released after the turn of the millennium, a time when perfectly-blended vocals were easily pitch-corrected and buffed up. And I won’t deny that some harmonies on this record sound too perfect. But gosh, “Out Of Reach.” Few teen acts have hit it quite like BBMak did here. A special moment. You can feel yourself lift.

“RUN AWAY” / “SYMPATHY” / “I STILL BELIEVE” / “THE BEGINNING”

(once again: hunk alert in that above vid)

Here’s how summer ends. “Run Away,” “Sympathy”, and “I Still Believe” build slow before busting out big hooky chrouses (with “Sympathy” memorably breaking into string spasms in its last 30 seconds). A countdown to a terrible end. Three killer non-singles, and then we hit the ironically titled “The Beginning,” as heartfelt a goodbye song as you are likely to find in this genre. And then it is over.

“I don’t want to let you go / but in my heart, now I know / that’s it’s only the beginning of the end.” Well, there you have it. What else is there to say?

Into Your Head is a hopeless fight. It’s a hopeless fight against irrelevancy from a band who were destined to fall apart from day one, a hopeless fight against the waning days of a summer that ended as soon as it began, and my own hopeless fight against pathetic navel-gazing nostalgia that I lost the moment I started this blog. A constant reminder that time is against me.

Into Your Head might be a blip on the radar screen of pop, but let me tell you this. Every summer I will have this record, and every summer it will hurt me. Because every summer it will remind me of what summer used to be, or at least what I think summer used to be, and I’ll get desperate and stupid and try to make this summer just as important and great as I remember it being in my youth and it won’t work. It’ll never work. Into Your Head is a tease. An irresponsible, infuriating, beautiful tease.

Fuck you, BBMak. Fuck your great harmonies and your wistful guitars and your hunky pretty faces. You left this record here and now you’re gone and now I’ll be alone and sad forever. How could you do this? To me? To all of us?

Ugh. You jerks. You dismal, sullen, talented jerks. I’ll miss you.

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