While the Spice Girls are currently inflicting their 4th division nightclub appearance act on their poor fans
I was rather surprised to see a tiny
little ad in the newspaper announcing a UK tour by the Backstreet Boys
. While on the surface it seems that this reflects the popularity of one over the other, I can't help thinking that this is pretty much the way they want it (hee!) having observed how completely insane their fans used to be.
In 1997 I tolerated BSB because a) my 11 year old sister loved them and b) they were ok singers I guess and had a few catchy songs. However they were nowhere near as entertaining as the online BSB fan community. (Remember when Rolling Stone were forced to put them on the cover, pants down, after thousands of fans voted online? Leading of course to a saturation of pop artist covers.) The big daddy was, of course, Backstreet.net which had daily news updates, sightings by fans (bordering on stalking) and an unbelievable list of fansite links. A large number of these were BSB humour sites, which rapidly multiplied thanks to We Like Girls, the original and best written by the mysterious Cheryl. Far from being a squealing shrine to everything BSB, Cheryl had some pretty fan-unfriendly, offensive (and sometimes funny) comments on how much she hated HowieD
, why Nick was Gay
, how they treated their fans
, NSYNC being a carbon copy
of BSB, and a pretty insightful prediction
of AJ's forthcoming addiction.
Her website spawned tons of imitators (all long gone now) but the other end of the spectrum produced the Mature Fan Club
. A place where older (think 25-70) fans congregated and began their mission to support the positive image of BSB across the world. Yeah. Their website today is just a small forum now, but at one time they were huge, ruffling the feathers of the 'kewler' older fans at Livedaily
. The stuffy, uptight Mature Fan Club didn't think much of the Livedaily lowbrow topics of discussion, such as Kevin's rather blatant booty obsession
But of course the fun and games had to end, and it pretty much came down to their double-edged popularity in the US. Foreign fans were pissed off that they weren't visiting them anymore, US fans were pissed off at foreign fans for whining, and the sheer number of online fans made it impossible for any member of BSB to even sneeze unnoticed. If you ever caught that short MTV special on their 100hour world trip
you'd have seen a pop group in meltdown. Shortly afterwards the official site announced the cancellation of several tour dates due to Nick injuring his arm, but they didn't stand a chance against the legions of online fans who quickly spread the word that AJ was in Arizona for rehab
. Literally hours later they went on MTV to confess all, leading a chorus of "See?! I told you so!!" by older sisters to their younger siblings (ahem). While they never actually broke up, they did lose Kevin and faded into the background with the usual solo albums and occasional appearances. Funny that they seem to be dismissed as a flash in the pan now, while the likes of Take That are somehow being allowed back on TV again. But you know, when my sister (now 21) and I started singing I Want It That Way at karaoke a few weeks ago, the WHOLE damn pub joined in.
(NB Quite a few links above are from archive.org and may not work all the time.)