PHM – Backstreet Boys, a Look Back

PHM – Backstreet Boys, a Look Back

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Recently people in Hanoi and HCM City, both Vietnamese and expats, have been going crazy about the coming shows of Backstreet Boys in Vietnam this March. The info is spreading all over newspapers, magazines and the internet, from the local e-news like Vietnamnet and VnExpress to the expat websites like The Word or New Hanoian. Our Hanoi Grapevine is also quite active in the matter offering full info about ticket price and detail instructions for booking. But behind all this “craziness”, what are people really saying about the show and in fact what influence does this famous boy band have? Let’s take a look!

First of all, I have to disclose one fact: I am NOT a fan of the Backstreet Boys. I have never been, even during the time they stood on the “top of the world”. Of course, I will not deny the truth that during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Backstreet Boys was the most successful band in the international pop music scene. They have sold over 130 million records worldwide and are no doubt the best selling boy band of all time. And the youngest member of the band, Nick Carter, with his sweet appearance used to get so many young girls broken-hearted(!).

The Backstreet Boys fever actually happened when I was in secondary school. It was the time when Backstreet Boys’ music was all over MTV, music shops, coffee shops. Everyone in my class (myself included) memorized many of their songs such as “As Long As You Love Me”, “I Want It That Way” or “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” (the result of those being broadcast too much).

In fact, during the 1990’s and early 2000’s the music industry was dominated by boy bands with cute looking guys possessing sweet voices and soft dance moves. After the achievements of the very first pioneers like New Kids On The Block or Take That, many others started to follow and created a period of “boy band boom”! Boyzone, Westlife, N’Sync, 98 Degrees, Five, A1 were among the popular names but Backstreet Boys succeeded in having the biggest impact on the contemporary pop music. Their music influenced not only Western but also Asian music industry with the establishment of many boy bands in K-Pop (Korea), J-Pop (Japan) or V-Pop (Vietnam). In fact, the influence of “boy band boom” is still quite clear in current Asian pop while it has already faded away some time ago in Western music. Now it is Hip Hop, R&B or Modern Rock being showcased, not Backstreet Boys or Westlife any more.

After the regression of the “boy band boom”, members of the bands decided to change their look and changed their type of music to go along with the new trend, and some even separated to begin their solo career. And the most successful model no doubt was Justin Timberlake. He became much more well-known and successful after leaving N’Sync with his new Hip Hop style. Backstreet Boys certainly also changed their appearance. No more “boys” with the sweet teen pop as in “As long as you love me”! They really adopted more rock into their music and turn themselves into “men” with a very street look, however, they could never match the success of the past.

The last time I heard of Backstreet Boys was some 5 or 6 years ago in “Incomplete”. After that the name seemed to disappear till suddenly there was the sensational news: “Backstreet Boys are coming to Vietnam in March”! In Hanoi Grapevine, we have received a lot of different feedback about this event. Many people are extremely excited about the shows because they used to be desperate fans of the band in their teenage years and now definitely try to hunt for the first tickets. Some people are unimpressed: “If they had come 10 years ago I might have been interested but now, no thanks”. Furthermore, some people think in a very different way “I’m not a fan but I want to attend such a big event since it doesn’t happen that much in Vietnam”.

For me, I go with the last opinion. Normally famous stars don’t seem to take interest in touring to Vietnam at the peak of their career. Actually, I have never been to any huge gig of world famous bands or singers in Vietnam and I don’t even remember if there has been one. Maybe in HMC City, but not Hanoi?! So if I come to the show, probably it’s more out of curiosity than passion, however, this is a big chance for Vietnamese music lovers to really experience the atmosphere of an internationally-known show.

Pham Hoang Mien has been with Hanoi Grapevine for sometime, mainly involved in social media and occasional translation. As an enthusiastic music lover, now she wants to challenge herself in a new role – being a columnist writing about music and musicians for the site.


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