Boy bands. Love them or hate them, you know they had some major influence on the world as we know it. Somewhere nestled deep in your heart, you got a slight thrill from seeing syncopated dance moves. You’d find yourself staring at your hair in the mirror, wondering if you could get frosted tips to look cool.
But the very best part of the boy band culture was the music videos. TRL would come on and you’d park yourself in front of the television, counting down with Carson Daly to the moment when your favorite group came on. Matching outfits, a familiar melody and all that was missing was… a haunted house?
Music videos don’t always have to make sense. Boy bands in the 90s and early 00s had a knack for crooning about lost love while in outlandish situations. The ridiculous sets from these videos were a little embarrassing, but people loved them anyway.
First up, the Backstreet Boys. They were one of the worst offenders of music video insanity. The video for “Get Down (You’re The One For Me)” found them dancing inside a disco ball. They’re surrounded by shiny television sets, each one playing back mirror images of them dancing along to the song. This is a great, funky jam but this music video has to be retired for good. Those horrible windbreakers and the awkward hair… this video is definitely NOT the one for me.
Other video highlights from the Backstreet Boys include that time they all pretended to be high-tech robots and villains on a spaceship. Because being “Larger Than Life” had to include very intense space travel and Brian Littrell on a hover board. Another fond memory of the boys was in the video for “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.”
Backstreet seems to have made a move into a glass house, with each guy getting their own room that is color coordinated to his outfit. Weird décor (the skull of a bull on the wall, anyone?) and what looks to be a rotating tunnel area—for group singing only—really brings this one home.
But by far, the best and most outlandish set piece for any Backstreet Boys video has to be the haunted house from “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” fame. That video is an impressive array of costumes and creepy makeup. But the set is what’s really a stand-out. The boys are stranded at this house after their tour bus breaks down, and what a night they’re in for. Cobwebbed bears, candelabras, and coffins, oh my! They dance around in a big, creepy ballroom and the whole video is a masterpiece from start to finish.
Backstreet Boys weren’t the only group with video panache on the block. Another group of young, attractive male singers weren’t afraid to shoot videos in unusual places either.
*NSYNC was notorious back in the day for getting creative with their songs and sets. Their first big single, “Tearin’ Up My Heart”, found the guys in an abandoned warehouse. Not only were they filming a seductive photo shoot there (complete with billowing gusts of wind), but they also had time to workout, play basketball and pose against poorly lit windows.
Another one of their better known works of art was the video for “This I Promise You.” *NSYNC members were really feeling the earth-tones in this one. They harmonized in a forest full of very tall trees, and most of their sweaters blended into the scenery. Another fantastical set they utilized was for their mega-hit, “Bye Bye Bye”. I still don’t know how they did it, but they managed to include the guys being marionettes on a large stage, a train chase, a revolving box reserved for dance breaks, and the wide, open road. This video exhausts me just writing about all the set changes. Could you imagine being the one having to scout all those locations?
I think their crowning achievement for video outlandishness, though, can be reserved for the “Pop” video. At first glance, you might not think it’s anything great. But think about it… they were on a revolving floor, having a dance party with Chris Kirkpatrick at the helm playing DJ. There were neon lights, multiple stages and a meandering space packed full of people who just came there to party. They disappeared into thin air for a moment, only to reappear in a room reserved for them changing clothes while they sang. And then, by the end, Justin got to be in his own pop-art cartoon. Amazing.
Now it’s only fair that I mention this last boy band on my list. They weren’t the most popular and their fans didn’t always seem so cutthroat compared to Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, but they still held their own. And they still had some weird music videos. 98 Degrees has one in particular that really stood out, and that’s none other than the video for “The Way You Want Me To”. To do a quick summary, this found the guys either racing in NASCAR on a big track (in a video game, no less!), street fighting school girls in a dingy-looking city, skydiving through the clouds, and escaping another abandoned building while fighting a monster robot.
You have to admit, the guys in these boy bands really got themselves into unfathomable situations. The nice thing is that now we can all look back and laugh a little. Creativity and set design went a long way for music videos. I’m curious to see what One Direction or Five Seconds of Summer comes up with to compete.