Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Passing stars

Where is your favorite teen pop act now?

August 24, 2005

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It wasn't too long ago that the Backstreet Boys truly were larger than life.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the toothy fivesome has sold more albums in this country than Bob Dylan, James Taylor and Rod Stewart (not to mention Janet Jackson, Eminem and Nirvana).

Now that Backstreet's back with a new disc and a summer tour, here's a look back at the late-'90s teen-pop boom and how its biggest groups are faring today.

Hanson

Albums sold: 7 million

Biggest hits: "MMMBop," "Where's the Love"

Why they were huge: Teen girls loved their androgynous, nonthreatening image; parents who grew up with the Jackson 5 loved their keen pop sense; and even hipsters appreciated the trio's ability to play their own instruments (not to mention the fact that the drummer looked like a little girl).

How it all went wrong: While Hanson is credited with reviving the teen-pop phenomenon, they took far too long to come up with a second album. By the time it arrived, three years after "MMMBop," most of the fans had moved on to the Backstreet Boys and 'N SYNC.

What's next: Hanson continues to make music on a much smaller scale, self-releasing albums and touring.

Spice Girls

Albums sold: 11 million

Biggest hits: "Wannabe," "Say You'll Be There," "Spice Up Your Life"

Why they were huge: With their Union Jack fashions, platform boots and high-energy pop songs, the Spice Girls stormed through Europe in 1996 and conquered the States the following year. Manager Simon Fuller brilliantly packaged the women with goofy nicknames (Baby Spice, Posh Spice and so on) and superhero-sized personalities. (Fuller went on to co-create "Pop Idol" in England and "American Idol" on these shores.)

How it all went wrong: The flimsy, ill-conceived 1997 feature film "Spice World" was the first sign of weakness in the Girl Power empire - even though its accompanying album was the ladies' finest effort. But when Ginger Spice (a k a Geri Halliwell) left the group prior to a 1998 North American tour, the end had begun. The Spice Girls' optimistically titled final album, "Forever," limped into stores in 2000.

What's next: A 10-year anniversary best-of compilation is due out next year, and a Spice Girls reunion seems imminent.

Backstreet Boys

Albums sold: 36 million

Biggest hits: "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," "I Want It That Way," "Larger Than Life"

Why they were huge: After perfecting their act in Europe (where boy bands never really went away), the Backstreet Boys hit the States in 1997 with a clutch of radio-ready hits and an endless array of smooth moves.

How it all went wrong: The younger and allegedly cuter 'N SYNC invaded the Backstreet Boys' territory, and the group's third album (2000's "Black and Blue") suffered as a result.

What's next: The Backstreet Boys' comeback album, "Never Gone," is a modest success, although today's teenagers seem much more interested in "American Idol," a show the group used to promote their single "Incomplete."

'N SYNC

Albums sold: 28 million

Biggest hits: "Tearin' Up My Heart," "Bye Bye Bye," "Pop"

Why they were huge: 'N SYNC was a singing, dancing, money-making machine with two heartthrobs up front (Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez), one with horrifying hair (Chris Kirkpatrick), one for the moms (the bearish Joey Fatone) and one who sort of looked like Ellen DeGeneres (Lance Bass).

How it all went wrong: Did it? The group's 2001 disc, "Celebrity," may have been a bit too forward-thinking for some fans, but Timberlake rode its edgier roots to solo success. An 'N SYNC reunion would likely leave the Backstreet Boys in the dust.

What's next: Tabloid reports suggest Timberlake will soon marry his movie-star girlfriend, Cameron Diaz. He has lined up a handful of big-screen roles, and as far as his group's future goes, Timberlake recently told a reporter: "There's still a chance that 'N SYNC could get back together."

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