The Backstreet Boys on Their Warts-and-All Documentary and How They Made Peace With the Term ‘Boy Band’

January 30, 2015 2:45 PM

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The Backstreet Boys on Their Warts-and-All Documentary and How They Made Peace With the Term ‘Boy Band’

As it is in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, the main character (or perhaps villain) in the new documentary about the Backstreet Boys is time. It looms large in the first scene of Backstreet Boys: Show ’Em What You’re Made Of, when we follow the five former teen heartthrobs on a chilly autumn hike. Well, we follow four of them, at least: “It’s gonna take me a minute,” sighs AJ McLean, having fallen behind the pack, “This is really shitty for my knees.” We get a similar glimpse of Brian Littrell’s mortality a few scenes later, when we see him working with a therapist who’s trying to help him overcome vocal tension dysphonia in hopes that he’ll be able to hit those high notes on the Boys’ 20th-anniversary tour. But nothing is quite as jarring as the moment the Boys visit Nick Carter’s old dance studio and ask a class of teenage girls if any of them know the “Backstreet’s Back” dance — a question that, 15 years ago, was a tried-and-true entrance exam for middle-school popularity. These girls stare at them blankly. “They weren’t born yet,” says Howie D.

The Backstreet Boys have been together for 22 years, which is basically five centuries in boy-band time. Teen idols burn notoriously fast and bright, and the film figures the Boys’ glory days as the fleeting window between 1999 (when their blockbuster album Millennium was released) and 2002 (right b...

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