Can you guess which NKOTB was my fave?
Ever since it was revealed that the upcoming “Trolls” sequel, in which Justin Timberlake voices a character, is about a fictional boy band named Brozone, *NSYNC fans have been digging through social media for clues as to whether the ’90s boy band would reunite.
Until earlier this month, when the group, who called it quits in 2004, basically broke the internet by appearing together on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in an epic moment that had me and every millennial woman saying, “I Want You Back.”
I’ve since seen social media posts that say if *NSYNC announces a reunion tour and your birth year doesn’t start with a 1, you need to sit it out so millennials can score tickets. I’ve also seen one of a wife telling her husband that an *NSYNC reunion concert would be more memorable than their wedding.
And I get it. When my daughter was around 1 year old, I taught her to say the names of all the Backstreet Boys. (There’s video proof of this momentous occasion). The ’90s era of boy bands — Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and their counterparts in the U.K., like Boyzone and Take That — was my sacred time of life.
My love of boy bands began with New Kids on the Block. I was in third grade when the group first came out, and after seeing them in concert, I named my pet goldfish after the members.
By high school, I had stood outside MTV’s “TRL” with signs and gift baskets for AJ McLean, covered *NSYNC for Teen People magazine, and met 98 Degrees when the guys signed CDs at a local mall. I saw 5ive, LFO, walked a mile barefoot with Hanson (I don’t consider Hanson a boy band, but they fall into the category of bands we crush on), and traveled from my home in New Jersey to New York City’s biggest record store in Times Square just to buy import CDs from my U.K. favorites.
This sign I made for AJ McLean was just slightly problematic.
Boy band music was a sweet escape, a pick-me-up whenever I needed to change my energy. During a trauma-filled childhood, boy band music brought me happiness and something positive to focus on. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
In my 20s, my musical taste expanded to punk rock, but I never left boy bands behind. They always held a place in my heart and playlist. By the time Big Time Rush and groups like One Direction gained fame in the 2000s, I was embarking on a career as a publicist, getting married, then divorced and remarried.
Life, I learned, was nothing like a boy band song.
When my daughter was born, boy band music seemed like a kid-friendly alternative to endless viewings of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” As soon as she was old enough for YouTube, I played her boy band music videos, introducing her to the catchy pop songs that had impacted my life.
With my press badge when I was reporting for Teen People magazine in New York City when *NSYNC performed outside Macy's Herald Square.
Backstreet Boys have popped up from time to time over the years, and 98 Degrees are touring again. (Their performances end before 9 p.m. which is amazing for tired moms trying to relive their youth.) But it’s the *NSYNC reunion that is breaking the internet. For at least this millennial mom, there’s more to it than just nostalgia.
Millennial moms are really freaking out about the *NSYNC reunion because boy band music transports us back to a time we were carefree, when our biggest problem was waking up in time to line up outside Blockbuster Video’s Ticketmaster locations where the concert tickets went on sale.
I didn’t have a full-time job, burnout, anxiety, or a sink full of dirty dishes. I wasn’t worried about paying bills, taking care of a kid, or even my health.
Additionally, the years when I went to boy band concerts were the glory days of friendship. Making and maintaining friendships during adulthood can be a challenge, especially in motherhood. But back then we were a community, and we were united by our love of boy bands, trading posters from teenybopper magazines so we each could have one of our favorite members.
Once, my best friend and I made friends with a pair of sisters at a Backstreet Boys concert and stayed in touch with them after the event. When they invited us to come from our home in New Jersey to celebrate the older sister’s Sweet 16 in New York, we went.
For so many of us, boy bands were our first loves. We dreamed of meeting them, dating them (have you seen the T-shirts that say, “I was supposed to marry a Backstreet Boy?”), and maybe being the girl in the music video. Our boys said they would never break our hearts, they’d never make us cry, and we believed them. We had yet to experience our first heartbreaks, traumatic relationships, or divorces.
As young girls, a lot of us pulled out all the stops to try to get the attention of our favorite boy band member. We made signs, gift baskets, and more. We were creative in pursuit of our goals! Today, my love of boy bands continues to inspire me to pursue my passions. In fact, I just wrote and published a romance novel that pays tribute to ’90s boy bands.
Fast forward to the present day, when I took my now fourth grader — who reads about a fictional boy band named Bad Boyz in her “Dork Diaries” book — to see Big Time Rush in concert for the group’s reunion tour over the summer. As soon as I had discovered their TV show, I made us binge watch it, and I’d been playing their super fun new album on repeat.
My daughter and I seeing Big Time Rush at PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey.
Our friends joined us, along with the 16,000 fans in attendance. This was just the beginning of the boy band revival, but I’ve been here loving every minute. Take That just announced a reunion tour, and my fingers are crossed it comes to America.
Boy bands are making a comeback, but so are their fans. The resurgence reminds us of who we were back in the day — before marriage, children and juggling careers. Swooning over *NSYNC brings us back to the bits of ourselves that might have gotten pushed aside or lost along our journeys. Yes, we love the songs, the dances and the memories, but we also love reconnecting with the root of who we are, our passions and our dreams.
And now that the girls we were back then are a little bit older, a lot wiser and even more motivated, nothing can stand in our way. This I promise you.
Joelle Speranza is a storyteller, whether she is in author, book publicist, or journalist mode. Her goal is to write and share stories that empower and inspire girls of all ages and life stages. She lives in a NJ lake community with her husband, two children, and three dogs. Her new book, The Comeback Tour, is the romance novel for boy band fans. Learn more at www.joellesperanza.com.