I have a confession.
I actually like NSYNC’s song “Tearing Up My Heart”.
Mainly, because it sounded like a BSB song. Ten (ish) year old me thought it was one, for maybe the first few listens.
Then…the NSYNC versus BSB rivalry blew up and I basically banished that song from my mind.
Because that was the thing, wasn’t it? You couldn’t like both. I know BSB fans span generations but those who like myself, grew up in this fandom during the nineties know this to be a fact. If you liked NSYNC you couldn’t like BSB. If you were a BSB fan you absolutely weren’t an NSYNC fan. If you did manage to like both? Well you damn well couldn’t admit it. Ever. Or someone would make you choose. I was already a big fan of the Backstreet Boys (not as big as I currently am, but big for what…1998?), so when I realized they were “rivals” I dropped my interest in NSYNC like a hot potato.
Decades later, well – almost, and that still hasn’t gone away. That rivalry absolutely exists. Maybe not within the groups themselves as BSB and NSYNC members are totally friends, but with the fans? Absolutely. Turns out, this was all the fault of Lou Pearlman. Which is the main point of my little NSYNC confession above. This post is coming a little later than I planned but I re-watched that very interesting documentary and, honestly? I need to write this. I know a lot of fans haven’t checked this out because this documentary was spearheaded by Lance Bass, from NSYNC. Thing is, it’s a really fascinating watch for any fan of either boyband. (It’s now available to watch for free on YouTube. The link is below. )
Buckle in for a very long post.
The Boys have talked about their feelings with Lou Pearlman in Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, (which I enjoyed more but I’m absolutely biased) their personal documentary (in case newer fans don’t know. You can find it on Amazon, easy as pie). But this does in fact go a little more in depth in all the evils the creator of our favorite things, have done. It goes deeper into the history of the groups. It definitely puts a solid lens on the formation of NSYNC and the issues between them and Backstreet back in the day. It also takes a look at the 90s music scene in general. The people Lance pulled in for this are well picked I have to say.
“Boybands made people watch MTV all day long. They made them call TRL all day long.”
AJ is the stand in for the rest of the Boys, who declined to be interviewed. I can’t blame them. It’s a sensitive subject I’m sure. It’s a really dark thing to come to grips with. This man did so many horrible things. Yet he’s also why Backstreet Boys exist – we have to admit that. We have to accept that. The dichotomy of that is enough to make your head spin.
Obviously boyband wise, the focus is a bit more on NSYNC. It’s done by an NSYNC member. But it doesn’t gloss over BSB in the slightest. Because Backstreet Boys were the beginning. They were the originals, the first, and were in essence the guinea pigs. We start really with the story of the Boys which we all know, about the blue sheet auditions that drew in AJ, Nick and Howie. They skim over the members who left (which makes sense) and then ya know Kevin bringing in Brian. They do the same with NSYNC, though they do leave out that Chris was someone who auditioned (and missed out on) for BSB. But then Lou tasked him with forming his own group.
I actually like that they started with the origin stories.
Cause from the perspectives of both NSYNC and BSB, why wouldn’t they trust Lou?
I actually really found myself going whoa at the depths he went to, to keep NSYNC a secret when they were first formed. He called them a code name “B-5” on his papers. He never let them visit his offices. Basically for someone who thought it was okay to do this, he was very committed to making sure no one knew about it for awhile. I will never get over how shady it was of Johnny Wright to manage BSB and their competition. It’s pretty screwed up. Because that means he never looked out for either group’s self interest. He looked out for whatever made him the most money. Just like Lou. Sometimes life has those pivotal moments. NSYNC was drowning.
“Try telling the Backstreet Boys who’ve been working for years to become successful, and they turn down ONE Disney special…and now their competition is breathing over their neck. And their competition is managed, by their manager.”
Then the Disney concert happened. The infamous concert that the Boys couldn’t do because they were burnt out and Brian had to go get open heart surgery. The concert that NSYNC admits made them. I’m not a fan so I don’t really remember this but apparently this is what boosted their record sales and started everything. It makes you think, doesn’t it? What if the Boys had said yes to that show? Would NSYNC still exist or would Lou have given up? Would the boy band explosion still have happened? Would Lou have gotten so greedy in creating group after group after group? Or would he have realized that lightening only strikes once?
Donna Wright talks about the fact that BSB weren’t happy about this, as if they were almost whiny. At least that’s how I took it. But you literally betrayed them by creating their own competition. It’s bullshit. And hearing that Lou would go to each group and talk shit about the other, playing them against each other? Jesus. Even NSYNC understood, years later. I don’t completely buy that Johnny and Donna were completely blind to all that Lou was doing. They obviously had no issue lying to BSB and hiding NSYNC’s existence. And yes, where there’s Coke, there’s Pepsi. But there’s also being a decent human being and being loyal to the young group you created. Because remember – both groups? They were kids for the most part. Most of them teenagers. Innocent and naive. It’s why it was so easy for Lou to screw them over.
“If I were the Backstreet Boys, I would’ve hated us too.”
You know how they found out? A charity basketball game. Hell I’m pretty sure I have that game in my Media Archive somewhere. BSB versus NSYNC stands out pretty vividly in my fangirl memory of things that have happened. It’s scary what sticks in my brain. I think it was in Europe, pretty sure. Moving on though, apparently Nick, Justin, JC and Brian wanted McDonald’s after the game. Which, typical. And they started comparing notes. Which is probably why Lou did everything he could to keep him feuding. He wanted to prevent the conversation that followed.
And the lawsuits.
It reminds me how lucky we are that BSB survived this as a group and continued on.
Because this could’ve absolutely destroyed everything.
I can’t get into all the details of this documentary, because otherwise this post will go on forever. I’ll be writing this forever. But suffice to say, this is only the first thirty minutes of the movie. Thirty minutes. There’s so much more. So much. I can’t state this enough. Lance really goes there. As a fan, it’s a bit mind boggling. It makes me look back and sort of reexamine everything. Like they touched on this on the wonderful Grammy Museum interview. I found out things between this, and that…that I’ve never known in my twenty-two (I think) years as a fan. It’s crazy.
They touch on some of the darker rumors, which I don’t think is right for me to get into here.
I think you should watch, and you’ll know which ones I mean.
It’s haunting and harrowing, especially watching Aaron Carter.
“I never in a million years thought a person that I entrusted my life with; and owed my career, my life to, I mean everything at that point in my life…could do something like this.”
The documentary also touches base with Lou’s friends, people who knew him growing up. They poke through stories he’d tell about how smart a businessman he was. The amount of lies he told is astounding. Everything he’s done is a lie. What little bit that wasn’t a lie, he got greedy and scammed. The money he cheated out of NSYNC and BSB, was used to help bolster the lies for his ponzi scheme. It’s enough to make you sick. Money we contributed to back in the day, buying albums and such before they separated from Lou? It was used to help his other scams continue, it was used to cheat even more people. Because oh, he must know what he’s doing – he formed NSYNC and Backstreet Boys.
It’s a tragedy how many lives were destroyed. The fact so many never got what they lost back.
I know I’ve said this already but there’s so much to this documentary. It’s not just about the boy bands. It’s about everything. His beginnings, what came after Backstreet and NSYNC. The story with OTown, all the people he stole money from, it covers it all. Do yourself a favor and watch it. Do it for everyone this man scammed. They deserve to have their stories heard. We can’t undo what’s been done but we can recognize it. Just because the man behind it all is dead and gone, doesn’t mean we should ignore all the sins he left behind.
Watch this. You won’t regret it.
6 thoughts on “Thoughts After Watching The Boy Band Con”
This was a really rough thing to watch. Especially, as you said, Aaron Carter.
I remember in the late 90s hearing bits and pieces about the different boy bands coming out of Orlando and picturing Lou Pearlman as this guy in a safari outfit wandering the streets of Orlando with a giant butterfly net looking for hot, talented young men to put into groups and wondering if he actually gave a damn about them as people. The truth is so much worse than I imagined.
It is. I remember the lawsuits and thinking he was a bad guy. But teen me had no idea. And yes, Aaron broke my heart. I didn’t feel right to really talk about him but I wanted to sort of warn readers that his part is absolutely harrowing.
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Is it wrong that I giggled at AJ getting the last word in the credits. “…well that’s bullshit.”
No I did too lol.
I often wanted to pose the question Knowing what you know now about the business what would have you done differently? I bet they would say I would have learned more about it. Giving Pearlman so much control probably seemed natural. After all most of the Backstreet Boys were teens when the group started.