BACKSTREET’S back. All right?

It’s been tentatively announced that millennium-era boy band the Backstreet Boys, who visited Shanghai not long ago, are getting the call to come back to perform in June.

This time with their current touring mates, New Kids on the Block.

And touring mates isn’t exactly accurate either, as more than just sharing the same stage, they’ll be doing so concurrently, singing their respective greatest hits together. It’s the kind of spectacle that barely can be contained by its very own acronym, “N.K.O.T.B.S.B.”

That show, and their whole tour, represents some sort of nexus of pop music, a meeting of two separate stars that combines to form its own universe of ridiculousness.

Like my recent visit to see “The Avengers” at the cinema, there is a youthful part of me that cannot conceive it’s possible to bring together different franchises into one spectacle.

Even a few years ago, this wasn’t even on the radar anywhere except for in the dreams of the softhearted everywhere.

Other than perhaps the few noted duets between American R&B vocal groups The Temptations and The Supremes in the 1960s, it’s very uncommon for pop groups to combine forces.

And why should they?

For one, there has been few historical examples for pop groups to build from. Whether it would have been a good idea or not, ’50s pop groups The Penguins didn’t sing with The Clovers, and ’60s pop groups The Monkees didn’t sing with The Beach Boys.

The few examples have been roped together for mostly novel reasons, such as sibling boy/girl duets by Michael and Janet Jackson.

So that certainly makes NKOTBSBa novelty, but what makes it so spectacular?

There’s an obvious sense of desperation in the whole endeavor. These “Kids” and “Boys” are all past 30 years old, with the Kids soon to be hanging tough on 50. And unlike the Beach Boys or Kid Rock, two groups that took youthful names but subsequently made more mature music, NKOTBSB will be performing songs that are immediately nostalgic and tied to adolescence.

It’s not just the songs, either. Both groups represented the heights of overblown productions of their respective eras. Carefully manicured appearances, choreographed dances and polished stage-shows were the norm for each.

That leaves to a question: when New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys come together, does one add them together, or multiply them?

Perhaps since the Backstreet Boys were clearly influenced by New Kids on the Block, the 5 Kids goes to the 4th power of the Boys, bringing their show to a score of 625.

Can nine mature guys singing what is kids music put on a show with a silly, made up score of 625?

I sincerely hope so.

By Brian Offenther
May 20, 2012

Shanghai Daily