Category Archives: Max Martin

‘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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Backstreet Boys – Millennium (1999)

I want to admit something. I have approached the idea of reviewing the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium this early on in Digital Get Down‘s lifespan with some trepidation. This is one of the Big Ones, after all – perhaps THE biggest and most recognizable boy band album ever released – and I’m worried that it could all be downhill from here. Blowing my wad early. Screwing the pooch. Because how many other boy band records even come close to replicating the all-encompassing success of Millennium? If this is the Biggest Boy Band Album Ever (TBBBAE), why talk about any other boy band albums at all??

But no. I choose not to believe this. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m actually looking forward to getting The Biggest Boy Band Album Ever out of the way so we can get down to teen pop’s nitty gritty. Boy Band History after Millennium is mostly just malaise, earth-tones and soul-crushing anonymity. And what’s more fun than that??

I also want to tackle Millennium for personal reasons, because I feel like I owe something to the Boys themselves. My review of their self-titled American debut didn’t really give them the introduction I feel they deserved. I guess I can chalk that up to it being the first Digital Get Down post ever – a rookie mistake, if you will – but considering the in-depth intro I gave ‘N Sync, I feel like it’s more than fair to even the score. Even if the Backstreet Boys never had the sheer force of personality as many of their contemporaries, they still remain the archetypal American boy band. And that, to me, is an important thing!

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‘N Sync – Self Titled (1998)

On a fated summer’s afternoon in 1995, a fresh-faced 24-year-old Christopher Kirkpatrick met with boy band Svengali (and future jailbird) Lou Pearlman to exchange a few words about starting a pop group. Lou agreed to help little Chris out if he found some more vocalists on his own, and the plucky young man quickly enlisted the help of fellow popboy hopeful Joseph Fatone Jr.. After scouring through some audition tapes, the boys were compelled by a Mickey Mouse Club tape featuring the sweet freshface of one Justin Timberlake. The boys snagged Justin, Justin snagged fellow Clubber Joshua Scott Chasez, and then they all snagged some guy nobody cares about before he realized he was in a boy band and left and was replaced by one James Lance Bass. Inspired by a comment from Justin’s mom about how well their voices meshed together, the group (or Lou, maybe, probably) dubbed themselves “‘N Sync,” and the rest – as they say – is history.

Or – well, no! No. No it isn’t. Oh goodness I’m sorry.

The real story here is that ‘N Sync (or *NSYNC or NSync or however else you want to write it out) were conceived as another cookie-cutter late 90s Boy Band marketed in the United States as the primary competition to the Backstreet Boys. “In the United States” is the important part there – both groups were actually formed around the same time in the mid-90s and broke into Europe around that time as well – but because the Backstreets hit it big in America first, ‘N Sync were largely viewed as Johnny-come-latelys when their self-titled debut record was released in 1998. The first in a long line of Pearlman-coached assembly-line prettyboys designed to hustle the allowance money of suburban 11-year-old girls across the globe.

Was this a fair assumption?? Well, uh, yeah. Sure.

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Backstreet Boys – Self Titled (1997)

I don’t know if there are any good teen pop records.

I don’t even know what that means, or if it even matters. I don’t know how to apply “good” here. For me a “good” album has always meant an album with good songs from beginning to end. The Beatles Stones Radioheads et cetera. Pop music primarily marketed to teenagers, by its very nature, does not work well in this framework. Because who cares about teenagers? Singles plus filler. Sometimes only filler. That is the name of the game.

This is a problem for me because I love pop music for teenagers. I love it in all of is test-marketed, overproduced hot-hunky-boy glory. I love songs with five swarthy buddies in white jackets singing in sweet harmonies. I love pointless Irish Spice Girls knockoffs that nobody asked for. I love poorly choreographed dance routines, awkwardly oversexed lyrics and Chris Kirkpatrick’s dreadlocks. I love it all and I want to live it all, all the time.

I can frame this blog as an attempt to analyse and understand records viewed by most as tawdry, promotional throwaways, to see if there are any great records in the murk. This is not a lie. But the real truth is that this blog is my excuse to devour every teen pop record I can get my hands on, to fully ensconce myself in this world of tanny hunks and smoochy ladies until I can’t escape, until I lose contact with every friend I have and feel good about it, proud. Until I drown like a dog and die in teenager pop. Maybe in the end it won’t even be worth it. But why would I care.

Why would I care.

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