News Column

Good Old Boys

June 11, 2013




WHAT: The Package Tour: New Kids on the Block with guests 98 degrees and Boyz II Men.

IN TOWN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Izod Center, East Rutherford; Ticketmaster or $37.50 to $111.65, with fees.

WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn; Ticketmaster or $37.20 to $113.75, with fees.


"Once you pass its borders, you can never return again."

That, the old song tells us, is the hallowed law of Toyland. In theory, it should be even more true of Boyland -- that happy place, just east of Nowhere and west of Orlando, Fla., where all the boy bands come from.

You know: those 1980s and 1990s acts like New Kids on the Block, 98 degrees and Boyz II Men, all three appearing Thursday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, and Sunday at Brooklyn's Barclays Center as part of The Package Tour.

Boy bands: The name says it all. Bands whose sole purpose is the showcasing of cute adolescent boys for the edification of shrieking, sobbing, merch-buying teen girls. In a pop culture world where shelf life is supposed to be short, boy bands ought to be, by definition, even more fleeting than most. A boy star, on his 21st birthday, should -- metaphorically speaking -- be hunted down and terminated, like the over-the-hill people in "Logan's Run."

Don't count on it.

Because there's another law of pop culture -- stuff designed to be immediate, timely, temporary sometimes beats the odds by lasting.

Comic books from 1938, printed on cheap paper with the expectation that they would be thrown out with tomorrow's trash, now fetch $10,000 at Sotheby's. Rock-and-roll acts from the 1950s still tour, even though both they and their audience are grandpas and grandmas. We once saw the originator of the hit "16 Candles," by then in his 50s, sing the song at an oldies show. Needless to say, this heartfelt serenade to a 16-year-old girl now seemed less like puppy love and more like "Lolita."

Which brings us to the boy bands on The Package Tour. Step right up and meet:

Nathan Morris, Boyz II Men (formed 1988). Age when the act was formed: 17. Current age: 42.

Jordan Knight, New Kids on the Block (formed 1984). Age when the act was formed: 14. Current age: 43.

Drew Lachey (younger brother of band mate Nick), 98 degrees (formed 1996). Age when the act was formed: 20. Current age: 37. He's the baby.

As you can see, the boys are all men. The kids are neither new, nor kids.

Note too: We're not talking about someone like Justin Timberlake, who graduated from 'N Sync to an adult entertainment career. These guys may be in their 40s, but they've remained "boys" and "kids."

So how is it these aging teens still have a career? The answer: Look at their aging audience.

We are now a nation of Peter Pans, clinging to youth by saving our old comic books and collectible toys. More to the point, the impulse toward nostalgia seems to start earlier with each generation.

Nostalgia used to mean maudlin old men, getting teary-eyed about the night Benny's burned down. Now people in their 40s are nostalgic for their 30s. Nineteen-year-olds look wistfully back at those simpler days when they were 16.

If the artists in Boyz II Men, 98 degrees and New Kids are mostly in their early 40s, that means their fans are largely in their 30s. They're looking back fondly to those golden years of the Clinton administration, when life seemed so full of promise, music had a beat that you could dance to and your only care in the world was the daily feeding of your Tamagotchi pet.

Life has become so much more real since then.

No longer does the world seem quite so joyous. No longer do teen idols seem quite so young. No longer will mom be coming with you to the stadium shows. You've begun the long, grim slide into adult responsibility. You'll have to buy your own merch.

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