Don't let the barriers you have built to define who you are blind you from appreciating the unfamiliar.

Friday, March 26, 2010

*NSYNC - Bye, Bye, Bye

*NSYNC is perhaps one of the greatest stories in Boy Band history, if not one of the greatest stories in pop music. I know what you are thinking, but hear me out. To understand *NSYNC, to understand Boy Bands, you have to know about Lou Pearlman.

There are two reasons why there was a Boy Band craze of the late 90s.  Two reasons why we as a society had to endure the nearly half a decade of sappy, overproduced music from the likes of Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, LFO, O-Town, and non-Pearlman spin-offs like 98 Degrees.

The Boy Band craze happened because of Ponzi schemes and pedophilia. Boy Bands were created to hide Lou Pearlman's 300 million dollar Ponzi scheme and to satisfy Lou Pearlman's desire for young boys.

Lou Pearlman is the father of Boy Bands.  The term Boy Band was coined to describe the band model that Lou Pearlman invented and perfected.

Meet Lou Pearlman.

This is the face of the Boy Band.  What a cutie.

Lou Pearlman is just as sleezy and creepy as he looks.  He is currently serving a 25 year sentence in prison for heading one of the longest-running Ponzi schemes in history.  (It was the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, but Bernie Madoff out did Pearlman 200 times over).  Pearlman has decades of scams that include insurance fraud, consumer fraud, investment fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and stock market scams.  Oh and Boy Bands.  Did I mention Boy Bands?

Aside from fraud, Lou Pearlman is also pedophile.  Vanity Fair ran story in 2007 about the sexual deviance of  the man all the boys called Big Poppa.  Here is a bit from the article:
Some, especially the teenagers, shrugged and giggled when he showed them pornographic movies or jumped naked onto their beds in the morning to wrestle and play. Others, it appears, didn't get off so easily. These were the young singers seen emerging from his bedroom late at night, buttoning their pants, sheepish looks on their faces. Some deny anything improper ever happened. But the parents of at least one, a member of the Backstreet Boys, complained. And for any number of young men who sought to join the world's greatest boy bands, Big Poppa's attentions were an open secret, the price some paid for fame.
"Some guys joked about it; I remember [one singer] asking me, 'Have you let Lou blow you yet?'" says Steve Mooney, an aspiring singer who served as Pearlman's assistant and lived in his home for two years. "I would absolutely say the guy was a sexual predator. All the talent knew what Lou's game was. If they say no, they're lying to you."
To a number of his former band members, Pearlman seemed so enamored of his male singers that it called into question his motivations for entering the music business in the first place. "Honestly, I don't think Lou ever thought we would become stars," says Rich Cronin, lead singer of the Pearlman boy band Lyte Funky Ones (LFO). "I just think he wanted cute guys around him; this was all an excuse. And then lightning crazily struck and an empire was created. It was all dumb luck. I think his motives for getting into music were very different."
In this article, the mother of Aaron Carter and Nick Carter, member of the Backstreet Boys, said about Pearlman, "Certain things happened and it almost destroyed our family. I tried to warn everyone. I tried to warn all the mothers." 

So what does all have to do with *NSYNC?  Well, we are almost there.

In the late 90s, Big Poppa Pearlman decided that the New Kids on the Block were great way to make money.  He decided that he wanted to recreate the success of NKOTB by building a similar band.  Lou did a nation wide talent search and assembled a band of five teenage boys that would be called Backstreet Boys.  They soon climbed the charts and made Lou tons of money.

What the members of the Backstreet Boys didn't know is that Pearlman was robbing them.  This story isn't new.  Band managers and producers have been ripping off the artists since the beginning of the music industry.  New artists sign themselves into musical indentured slavery get screwed.  They Suck Young Blood. 
After receiving only $300,000 of the hundreds of millions being made, the band sued Pearlman and won.

So we get to *NSYNC.  They were basically a carbon copy of the Backstreet Boys.  Five young men with dreams of stardom were assembled by Lou Pearlman, being ripped off, and who knows what else.  After their first album and with the success of the Backstreet Boys in the lawsuit, *NSYNC got smart.  They sued Pearlman and tried to get out of their contract before the release of the second album, and they won.

This was no small feat.  For years, artists have been getting screwed over by unscrupulous record companies  and producers.  Most of the time, these artists are unable to recover the any of the earnings made on their backs.  The Backstreet Boys may have won, but they were on the downslope.  Their popularity had already peaked.  *NSYNC, on the other hand, were just about to reach the peak of their career.  They won when it mattered the most.

Bye Bye Bye the first single off of the album No Strings Attached.  It was the fastest selling album ever (until knocked out by the Beatles One compilation).  The album cover was no normal Boy Band motif of young guys, looking hot and cool, it was making a statement.  It features all of the members of *NSYNC on a stage but being controlled by a marionette.  They are referencing the control that the commercial music industry has over musicians, and specifically the control that Lou Pearlman had over *NSYNC.  The album title No Strings Attached is speaking about the freedom from contractual bondage.  

Bye Bye Bye video was the embodiment of this struggle.  The song was a sarcastic farewell to Big Poppa. The music video is the album cover played out.  The band is being controlled by a puppet master.  She cuts the strings and the members of the band try to escape, but escape is futile. They think they have slipped away but in the end they are still dangling from strings.  They may have cut ties with Lou Pearlman and RCA, but they signed to Jive Records and new puppet master was holding the strings. Sure, there is the standard choreographed dancing and the song is treacle pop, but it also insightful and self-reflective. 

Bye Bye Bye is the pinnacle of the Boy Band.  It was all down hill after that.  This is song is perhaps the most well-known, the most important, the most loved, and the most hated Boy Band song.  Share/Bookmark

1 comment:

  1. Actually the "pinnacle" song from a boyband is I Want It That Way. At least according to the more nonbiased sources of MTV and Rolling Stone, or just about ANY music source. Just saying....