I frosted my tips, rhinestone’d my tees, and got legitimately upset when the popular vote of TRL got the number one spot wrong by giving a NuMetal act the top prize–cue that blockhead Carson Daly quipping about doing it all for the Nookie. I used to be boy band as fuck–thanks to my high school girlfriend loving that shit and me not really having the self-esteem to have opinions/tastes of my own.
I was #TeamJC before the hashtag “Team(InsertTweenDemiGodHere)” was a thing. In an effort to seem cooler than I was, I adopted a third-fiddle vocal group 98 Degrees as my favorite, but if we’re real talking here, I was an *NSYNC frontrunner like the lot of us. JT’s baby blues bling’d brighter than dhose bedazzled bandanas emirite?
Nowadays I dabble in music writing and love folky indie pop/rock, but my roots as dark as what was below Joey Fatone’s Manic Panic dye job. I love this era of music, and saw plenty of boy band listicles that were traffic-driving, #tbt pic-laden, nostalgia fodder, and decided to do a “thinking (wo)man’s piece” of the platinum pop late 90’s-early Millenium.
I wanted to give love to the forgotten album filler.
We’re adults now–literally–there’s pieces of art from these groups that mean 1000% more to you (like when you Abercrombie & Fitch clothed body got to second based with O-Town’s “All Or Nothing” setting the mood or when got your braces caught with your adolescent lover to “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”.)
Ok for parameters sake, I’m only considering US official single releases. If I considered every special Moldavia or Papua New Guinea import singles release, this list would be as empty the poetry NKOTBSB spewed on that single. Also, I’m pulling exclusively from the TRL artists stable. I wanted to include Youngstown (Inspector Gadget soundtrack), 5ive, Take That, but those were too deep of deep cuts to include.
Here’s a link to the Spotify playlist I made: Boy Band B-Sidez (web browser)
27. *NSYNC “Giddy UP”– It has some “raw” (studio polished raw) and “soulful” (you know as much soul as a 16 year old homeschooled performer who’s done nothing but perform in their young lives has.) A lot of “uhhh’s” “ahh’s” “awww’s” “cjyea’s” “haa’s” are layered underneath to which I’m sure is subliminal messaging oh “Did you buy the oversized black t-shirt with our faces on’em?”
26. *NSYNC “Digital Get Down”–the music itself doesn’t age well, but the auto-tune vox modification was cutting edge then and still a thing now. The song is about sexting, fapping, and dirty snap chatting before it was cool/invented.
25. 98 Degrees “She’s Out Of My Life”–This a capella aria is why 98 Degrees had a place at the platinum pop table. It’s an MJ cover, but pumped with enough of pathos it feels good enough to be their own. I remember reading that they got their record deal by singing without accompaniment backstage at a Boyz II Men gig and that’s how we became familiar with clorox-blonde hair and natural-hue goatee swag Justin Jeffre rocked.
24. O-Town “Suddenly” (the pre-chorus mainly)–Like showing up to the party after your crush sucked face with your best/worst frenemy–this pop hymnal was too little too late. Released in ‘02, it never stood a chance as most boy band fans started getting dude drunk and white girl wasted off emo and singer-songwriters like Howie Day and Dashboard Confessional. With that said though, it’s like a real song that if you did it today acoustically you’d be like, “yea, that’s not the worst at all.”
23. Backstreet Boys “Get Another Boyfriend”–Swedish pop-sensei Max Martin (who just got a Grammy nod for T-Swifts “Shake It Off”) and BSB put that *Nsync/Britney funk on this one, perhaps as a Beatles “Rubber Soul” — Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”–Beatles “Revolver” type of sitch. Also, da faq is up with Max Martin–dude is ONLY behind Paul McCartney and John Lennon for the most number one’s on the singles charts for all time!?!?!? Broseph is responsible for more hits than dance moves/chair repositioning in BSB “As Long As You Love Me”.
22. LFO “West Side Story”–I wanted to put this on the Worst B-Sides list (bonus section at the end of this piece) because of the too-clean-acoustic-guitar, grade school lyrics, and doofy rapping sounds making the song sound like some Radio Disney shit but Devin Lima’s stirring vocals–especially the scatting he did on the bridge–is enough to be the groups lone entry on this list. As Psy is to K-Pop, LFO was the novelty act to this era (and that’s including mock pop quintet MTV’s 2Gether.)
21. Backstreet Boys “I Need You Tonight”–It has a MJ chorus feel, with Nick Carter doing the heavy lifting–the only exercise this doey heartthrob did back then (I’m kidding, I’m still bitter, he was my ex’s favorite, honestly, Nick had white boi swag before JT ripped him off and he made an earnest and legit solo record with Now or Never…I’M NOT BITTER). There’s some fuzzy Ty Segall-riffs in the piece (not really but still..), then some nylon Spanish guitar clicks for no reason.
20. Soul Decision “No One Does It Better”–Technically Soul Decision isn’t a song and dance/fireworks stage show/exploited by Lou Pearlman type of boy band, but they’re Canadian after all, there’s a conversion rate ahyy. Lush harmonies, a good looking frontman, Dolce & Gabbana too tight t’s, Soul Decision had us all “Faded”.
19. 98 Degrees “True To Your Heart”–????? Maybe. I think so. It was on a Mulan soundtrack, so it may not be a B-Side. Stevie Wonder is on the track, so that’s cool. Most bubblegum pop fans musta deeply appreciated this fact and went on to examine his early catalogue. o_0
18. & 17. *NSYNC “Tell Me, Tell Me…Baby” and/or/same difference “Up Against The Wall”- Timberlake tips his cap to the full-Jacko he’ll go on Justified, but JC dominates these tracks (I’ll understand the science of Interstellar before I’ll ever figure out why Chasez didn’t have a successful solo career.)
16. O-Town “The Painter”–Nothing like a straightforward, paint by numbers analogy. Record Mogul Clive Davis finally let Erik-Michael Estrada and Trevor Penick be more than harmonization machines on this one. Ikaika and Ashley Angel Park who???? No seriously who are those dudes?? They’re not on O-Town’s latest–and for reals decent–Lines & Circles, so I have no idea of them since I jumped on late to this group, like 2014 late..
15 & 14. *NSYNC “You Got It” and “Here We Go”–both feel like the same song, this record was released in ‘97 so there’s a lot of white boy “motownphilly-ing” going on.
13. B2K “Bump Bump Bump”–Ok, obvi this isn’t a B-side but fffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk its a good song.
12. 98 Degrees “Yesterday’s Letter”– There’s a histrionic piano riff. The words are AIM-away-message-post-break-up melodramatic. Ostensibly the shit’s velveeta cheesy (even for a boyband number) until the pre-chorus around 1:03 when Timmons comes in–then the song transform. The chorus is bigger than all of us.
11. Backstreet Boys “Get Down (You’re The One For Me)”–One of the B-siders on BSB’s debut record. The vibrato in the HGH harmonies hook you at the top, while the simplistic platitudes melt your don’t-know-better-mind. The out-of-nowhere, unnecessary rap breakdowns empowered plenty of suburban tweens into thinking they get urban culture. Also, can we talk about Howie D? Dude ended up being the most mysterious Boy Bander of the bunch. Well played bro.
10. BBMak “Unpredictable”– An anthematic showstopper from stationary vocalists* (*not doing Wade J Robson choreography.) I saw them open up for *NSYNC in ‘01 but prior to that show, I went to an autograph signing of theirs at Chicagoland’s Woodfield Mall, where I told lead singer Christian Burns he was a “Bad Ass” to which he said, “what”, and I was all flustered and like “you know a badass, in this country it means a cool dude…*NSYNC should open for you!!” Regrettable, there’s no hyperbole there, it’s a true story.
9. O-Town “Baby I Would”–This one feels like cheating. It was penned by Diane Warren–who was cigarette-still-in-mouth fresh from banging out *NSYNC (feat. Gloria Estefan) “Music Of My Heart”, Edwin McCain‘s “I Could Not Ask For More”, and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”. It closed out O-Town’s seminal record, with Dan Miller doing his best Laney Boggs from “She’s All That”–who woulda guessed this dork was so talented and hawt!?!
8. *NSYNC “The Two Of Us”– It has that Craig David “Fill Me In” 2-Step Garage to it, but more importantly, the ditty is sweet as fuck. Half the time, *NSYNC would either lie to us by leading us to believe they only want to be in a committed monogamous never-ending relationship with just us, the other time they way to give us the D. Also, can we talk about Chris Kirkpatrick? Dude’s falsetto was sneaky good whenever he got his shot and took all the fashion risks. You keep doing you bro.
7. 98 Degrees “The Way You Want Me To”– First of all, Nicky Lachey says “won’t throw no shade on you” in the first line and the hook. Trendsetting bastard, we’re all throwing shade now! The track is one of those where your upper torso dance as the lower operates your Pontiac Sunfire. It has a genuine sense of urgency. Also, Drew Lachey has helluva post-TRL career, so that’s cool and has nothing to do with this song!
6. Backstreet Boys “Back To Your Heart”– Gets a little George Harrison/Beatleseque with the tone and harpsichord picking sequence. AJ–the most underrated crooner of the period–sells every iota of every note he got to sling. He soars in the backend, and delivers so much euphoria it almost makes you forget of Johnny No Name.
5. O-Town “Love Should Be A Crime”–okay technically, this was a single in Europe, but shit if you’ve ever been to a Tower Records you realize all those $3.99 import singles were hat tips to across the pond because our boy banders couldn’t be bothered across the pond. The track is a rare uptempo acoustic boy band ditty outside of 98 Degrees “Give Me Just One Night”. A lot of high school aged fans of this song had no problem transitioning to the hecka sweet pop cuts that Teddy Geiger, Jason Mraz, and Ryan Cabrera joints that were released during their college years. Unlike most pop gems of that era, the best part of the song comes at the end. 2:17 in, the track resembles authentic pop-rock in it’s arrangements, and dat Dan Miller’s soulful tenoring, and Jacob Underwood’s arpeggio outro doe. Personally, this is my favorite Boy Band B-side of all time but I’m a journal-ish here so I must keep my integrity.
4.*NSYNC “Selfish”– Starts out with some way-too-chime keys, but it may be their best harmony/vocal arrangement on a B-Side. True story, I was going through a tough break up–my 16 year old gf, left 17 year old me for a 20 D-bag with tats & a cool car. (To be fair I had frenetic emotions, was in constant fear of not being loved, and genetically insecure, so she made the right move.) I played this shit on repeat like it was a panda sneezing .gif. Alas, I never got her back, and I’m still all those things in the previous parentheses–what a story book ending!! Also, the song shoulda ended on JC’s vocal run, but JTim would not be outdone.
2. & 3. Backstreet Boys “More Than That” or “Time” –Both of these Black & Blue offerings are more adult contemporary than it’s boy band ballad. There’s introspection, bargaining, and a whisker of existentialism. As I compiled the Spotify list, these were to of the easiest to still listen to.
1.*NSYNC “No Strings Attached”–It’s been featured in The Simpsons back when the show was still relevant, it’s the title track to the biggest first week selling album,the metaphor has a double meaning–it dealt with the band being ripped off, and it’s just a great love metaphor! I it’s the sole boy band b-side survivor on my iphone, as the song still gets me hyped.
My hope with this piece was to make you feel all the feelings, in an effort to pay it forward to these songs that
embarrassingly spoke to us. I don’t get this One Direction/The Wanted drivel, but I’m not supposed to. And if a pizza-face, try-hard, non-musical identity having aspiring writer like myself back then is reading, just know that years from now, you’re secretly going to still love this boy band shit. Now go frost your tips for me, because I’ll never have a chance to again–without getting my ass beat.
[Bonus Worst B-Sides:]
-5.98 Degrees “I Wanna Love You”– it sounds like a clunky, dissonant, sound fx SoundCloud track from a 16 year old “beat maker”, “R&B” singer from Ohio. It’s a hook-up number that couldn’t put the most promiscuous of sexual deviants in the mood. You can hear Nick Lachey being “over” this recording session mid-take.
-4.NSYNC “Do Your Thing”–The last fucking song we got from the asterisk boys was this abomination. It sound like background music to Super Mario 64 when you try to save the Princess or fuckaround with Toad.
-3.Backstreet Boys “It’s Gotta Be You”– IDGAF if it was released a year before NSYNC’s similarly title single. “It’s Gotta Be You” will never “It’s Gonna Be Me” (sic).
-2.O-Town “Make Her Say”– “ [narrator] in a world full of posers, phonies, and wannabees,
there finally emerges a group
which has come to set the record straight.
so, all you suckers better recognize, ya heard
can you say uhhh na na na na”
-1.NSYNC “I Need Love”–Haddaway rip off and from start to finish the piece is more cringeworthy than a pimple near your lips after your freshman class was introduced to the concept of herpes.