“terrible with raisins in it”

It seems fitting that this event—this significant cultural moment—will go down as the only noteworthy thing that happened in November of 2010 according to my blog.

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I succumbed quite willingly to the hype surrounding the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys performance at the American Music Awards last night, and it was basically exactly what I anticipated. If I had to pay by the word to post here, the only copy accompanying the YouTube video would be the word “awkward.” Nothing else really needs to be said.

As soon as I saw all nine of those guys line up on that stage, I was reminded of that Dorothy Parker quote that goes: “This wasn’t just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.” Except that this was terrible with fireworks. No amount of lighting theatrics and 90s choreography could disguise these simple truths: the NKOTB guys are OLD and nine is too many singers unless you’re a choir, in which case maybe you should find some better singers.

Despite the general inelegance of the event, there was a fleeting sense of nostalgia which is obviously why I tuned in in the first place. The demographics for this collaboration are very rigid: middle to upper middle class white women aged 20 to 30. Everyone else has the ability to look away from the wreck, but those women, they couldn’t avert their eyes as their entire tweenhood (which took place before “tween” was even a word) pranced around like the perpetually uncool “cool dad” Phil from Modern Family in a baseball cap perched unironically at a jaunty sideways angle on his head.

If you see one of these women today, be kind to her. Forgive her the furrowed brow and mouth she can’t quite seem to get to close. She has seen things she can’t talk about, and last night, she learned why they say you can’t go back. (Also, forgive her the unfortunate stripes v. plaid decision she made this morning. What initially seemed “bold and funky” has now revealed itself to be just “odd.”)


Of course the source of the most discomfort here is that these groups—boy bands, if you will, though I can’t quite bring myself to use the word “boy” anymore in this context—haven’t changed. At all. What we saw last night was the same stuff we saw in 1992 or 1998, respectively. That means that the nearly six minute performance felt a little like having that fifth grade teacher I had a crush on read my diary from when I was 11 out loud in front of Usher and Sheryl Crow and Pink and a thousand other cool people who do not need to know what I was like when I was 11.

Like I said: “awkward.”