When I was in high school in the late 90s, I was a huge boy band fan. But, I kept this love of boy bands to myself.
Whenever the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 98 Degrees, LFO, or O-Town came on the radio, I felt my little gay heart bursting from my chest. I kept it cool on the outside though. Nevertheless, the music touched my soul in a way that no music ever had before then.
I was team Backstreet Boys all the way (Nick Carter was just the cutest). I envied the girls who put up posters in their bedrooms of the boy bands they liked.
The Backstreet Boys song “I Want it That Way” was (and still is) one of my favorite songs. “I Want it That Way” spoke to my desire to love my way, to love another man. With the lyrics, “You are my fire / the one desire” my heart was aflame. I imagined saying that to a crush. The lyrics, “But we are two worlds apart / Can’t reach to your heart” spoke to being in the closet. All I could do was quietly pine after a crush – there was no way for me to reach out to them. “Tell me why / Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache” spoke to the heartache I felt at the time.
But there were other songs by the Backstreet Boys that just made me feel good. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Larger than Life,” made me feel like everything was going to be OK. Those songs made me forget any troubles and worries going on in my life. I could step into the Backstreet Boys world and have fun.
When I would later come out in the mid to late 2000s, I would buy all of the Backstreet Boys CDs (as well as all of the other boy bands I had liked). I no longer had to listen to them by myself with the door shut.
It wouldn’t be until the mid-2010’s, while in seminary, that I would finally see the Backstreet Boys perform live in person.
Well, sort of.
After my first year of seminary I was looking through the Chicago Market Days schedule (kind of a mini Pride held in August) and one group stood out: Boy Band Review. I Googled them and learned that they covered all of the 90s and early 2000s boy band songs – all of the songs I loved as a closeted high schooler.
I knew I had to go.
The Boy Band Review did not disappoint. At their show, I was able to dance and sing and jump up and down to my heart’s content.
That scared little high schooler was finally able to fully be himself and openly love this music, surrounded by other people with a similar love.
Alex Aivars (he/him) is in his second call as pastor of Christ United in Dewitt, MI. Since this is a part-time call, he also develops websites for businesses, non-profits, and churches. In his spare time, he likes to dance, be outdoors, travel, and read.
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