Lately, there have been a lot of posts going around the internet with a nostalgic feel to them. “You may have had the best childhood if…” type posts. And I figured, why not join in the fun? I decided I would do mine via music, which then posed quite a dilemma. I never quite fell into the “this one genre is my type of music” crowd. I listened to a little bit of everything. Whatever sounded good to me went into my collection, and I am apparently not picky even a little bit.
So Totally 90s.
So my “I’ll do a nostalgia post!” idea turned into “I’ll do a series of nostalgia posts!” A series I’m going to kick off with my picks for top ten boy band songs.
Now, before I get to the songs,I have to get into how I picked the boy bands. First and foremost, since I’m being nostalgic, I’m picking stuff that reminds me of my formative years — everything from middle school to early college (for me, that’s roughly 1995 to about 2004). This boy band collection includes New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, the Backstreet Boys, NSync, and 98 Degrees. I will note that I discovered New Kids On the Block and Boyz II Men later than they actually came out — both bands formed when I was in diapers, but in my teenybopper years I collected them in with everyone else.
Also, a sidebar: Boyz II Men is totally a boy band, guys. I did an informal twitter poll and nearly everyone that answered said, “No, they are not a boy band.” But no one had a good reason to back the assertion up. I’m going to go ahead and go with Wikipedia’s definition of a boy band, and Wikipedia goes so far as to list Boyz II Men as a headliner for their 90s section. It’s true they weren’t marketed to teenagers in the same way that BSB and NSync were, but they are still a boy band all the same if you go with “A boy band (or boyband) is loosely defined as a vocal group consisting of young male singers, usually in their teenage years or in their twenties at the time of formation.” Every last one of these groups fits that description, and that’s all I have to say about that.
Onward! This list is actually ranked, and of course, everything here is my own opinion. Full bias disclosure: I didn’t always have favorites, but when I did, their names were Kevin Richardson and Justin Timberlake. Also, it occurs to me that I tended, at least back then, to prefer what ended up being released as singles anyway — but back then, they tended to pick the best songs from each album to release as a single and you got the rest as part of the package deal when you bought it. Nowadays you can buy one song at a time off the thing so they try to round the albums out a little more to make the most money. I guess times have changed.
10: 98 Degrees, Because of You
You are my sunshine after the rain / You’re the cure against my fear and my pain / ‘Cause I’m losin’ my mind when you’re not around / It’s all because of you
I have to admit, 98 Degrees wasn’t my favorite. I was never a big fan of Nick Lachey, and you sort of have to be, really, if you’re going to love 98 Degrees. That said, this song always got me dancing in my seat. It’s just one of those sweet love songs they were all so good at back in the 90s.
Boyz? Men? Either way, very pleasant for the ears.
9. Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey, One Sweet Day
And I know you’re shining down on me from heaven / Like so many friends we’ve lost along the way / And I know eventually we’ll be together / One sweet day
Apparently, this song is Mariah Carey featuring Boyz II Men, and not the other way around. All my life I’ve just thought of this as “that time Boyz II Men let Mariah Carey come over and play,” but apparently it’s the opposite. Curses. This, of course, renders this song a stretch when it comes to including it, but you know what? There’s enough Boyz II Men here for me to count it (and seriously, I can’t help singing along every time I hear it, I have to count it).
8. New Kids on the Block, You Got It (The Right Stuff)
Oh oh oh-oh-oh / Oh oh oh-oh / Oh oh oh-oh-oh / The right stuff
Welcome to what is likely the strongest earworm on the entire list. This song came out in 1988. I was four years old, and yet I still — TO THIS DAY — do the classic “oh oh oh-oh-oh, oh oh oh-oh!” when it strikes me. Sometimes it just comes out of thin air. I might be in the kitchen making dinner, and suddenly, my brain goes, “Oh oh oh-oh-oh!” and I have no choice but to complete the phrase. That’s lasting power.
7. Backstreet Boys, Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
Am I everything you need? You better rock your body now.
This is one of those many, many boy band songs that is absolutely impossible to NOT dance along to. There’s a freaking ‘raise the roof’ whoop-whoop in the intro. Come on. How many of you guys blasted this on repeat-one on your discman until you went slightly deaf and had to stop for fear of maybe doing permanent damage?
6. Boyz II Men, I’ll Make Love to You
I’ll make love to you / Like you want me to / And I’ll hold you tight / Baby, all through the night
This song is likely the reason I’m so prone to melt when I hear a good bass voice. It’s also likely the most sexual song on this entire list. I don’t have too much to say about the song, just listen to it. It’s good for your ears.
5. Backstreet Boys, The Call
Listen baby, I’m sorry / Just wanna tell you don’t worry / I will be late, don’t stay up and wait for me
This counts as the only BSB song on the entire list that I still have not managed to break all the harmonies from. There’s some vocal noodling at the end that I’ve almost worked out, but it’s just so well blended that I can’t yank it all apart. Which makes it the Everest of my boy bands list, really. Also, of all the BSB songs, I’m pretty sure this one has stood the test of time (for me) as far as “still able to repeat-one it without getting sick of it” is concerned. I have done entire commutes to just this song as recently as a month ago.
Those empty shoes represent the absence of Kevin, also known as “the period of time in which the BSB was DEAD TO ME.”
4. Backstreet Boys, I Want it That Way
You are my fire / The one desire / Believe when I say / I want it that way
Tell me why-ee!? Of course this song is here. Of course it is. Fun story: on the way to my bachelorette party, I was in the car with my best friend, Sarah; my little sister, Jenni; and my new sister-in-law, Kim, and this came up on the shuffle on the way there. We all took our own parts… based on who our favorite Backstreet Boy was. Poor Nick got no love, but otherwise we spread our love equally for these guys. Now that’s a good setup.
3. N’Sync, Tearin’ Up My Heart
It’s tearin’ up my heart when I’m with you / And when we are apart, I feel it too / And no matter what I do, I feel the pain / With or without you
N’Sync has had a lot of good songs, but this one is pretty high up on the list because of the simple fact that every time I hear it, I have to stop everything to sing along. And you know what happens when I’m with a group of girls my age and this song comes up?
We all stop to sing along. And we all take separate parts, and we always rock the crap out of this song. This song is only not #1 because the two songs ahead of it exist.
2. Backstreet Boys, Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely
Show me the meaning of being lonely / Is this the feeling I need to walk with / Tell me why I can’t be there where you are / There’s something missing in my heart
This is my #1 very favorite BSB song. There’s a pretty good reason: Kevin has a sizeable solo section in it. I also think it’s the prettiest song they’ve ever written.
1. N’Sync, It’s Gonna Be Me
Baby when you finally / Get to love somebody / Guess what? / It’s gonna be me.
This is, hands down, the greatest boy band song of all time. It’s funny, I have long believed that in the longstanding “N’Sync or BSB?” argument, the overall better group is the BSB, but N’Sync had a better collection of individually nameable songs. And this is the best example of them all. I’ll be 85 and arthritic with failing hip joints and bad memory, and still I’ll want to dance when this one comes on.
Now, there are tons of songs that didn’t make this list that I had a hard, hard time cutting — Cover Girl, Bye Bye Bye, Step by Step, As Long as You Love Me, Larger than Life, Yearbook, Quit Playin’ Games (With My Heart), and about a million more — but I had to pick ten. So there you have it. My top ten boy band songs.
Next time? Girl groups (boy howdy, that’s gonna be a tough one).