There comes a time in which music fans must cast off childish playlists and become self-aware listeners. A great deal of yellowed poster tape is peeled away from walls, and with it goes glossy photos of the boy/girl bands of adolescent years. Songs once played with sincerity are reduced to guilty pleasures that make us grin sheepishly when they appear on an unscreened iPod shuffle.
Though these artists are now viewed as cheesy instead of dreamy, don’t kid yourself. They affected you in a far more profound ways than you’d care to admit. More importantly, many served as the soundtrack to a life that was yet to be sullied by anything remotely complicated. At 24 years old, I am ready to revisit the harmonizing skeletons in my own closet, and I’m taking you with me! Get ready for my Three Moments of Pop!
Spring 1998 – Fifth grade talent show, high school auditorium. I am behind the thick backstage curtain, sweating through my lace blouse with satin cuffs, courtesy of the American Girl catalogue. It has been one rough night. Prior to leaving the house, I fought with my mom over not wearing a training bra. I don’t need a bra! That is what my built-in tank top is for! You can’t see squat! Never mind. Get in the zone. My neighbor and I hear our cue. She and I are scheduled to perform a synchronized routine to N*Sync’s “I Want You Back.” Three whole days spent practicing in her living room has led up to our debut. I take my position face-down on the stage’s mat. The spotlight flickers on. The song begins. “You’re all I ever wanted.” I start to rise off the floor. “You’re all I ever needed, yeah.” I elevate myself further, matching the verse. “So tell me what to do now.” I tip my head. I can see the audience, blobs filling a sea of chairs. I bring my arms over my head. “Cause Iiiiiii – I want you back!” My hands fan out and form a dramatic arch. All traces of my former nervousness are gone. I jump to my feet and a voice inside reassures me: “Addie, this is your time to SHINE!”
September 10, 1999 – Stokes State Forrest field trip, Dining Hall Lodge. Tonight is a special night. Instead of identifying leaves and crafting twig leg splints, we are having a Hoedown! The DJ for the evening is a seventy year old camp staffer whom the teachers paid extra to stay late and run the spin table. I have had two cups of ginger ale and am feeling bold. I approach the DJ and make a request:
“Could you play ‘Mambo Number Five?’”
The woman leans forward.
I try again. “Mambo Number Five?”
“Mambo. Number. Five.”
“Oh, I see.”
She grabs the mike with a screech.
“We have a request for ‘The Chicken Dance.’”
Everyone stops their merry-making and turns to stare at me. The Chicken Dance has already been played. I, along with them, know that it is a major faux pas to do the Chicken Dance more than once. Have a laugh, act like a bird, and move on for pete’s sake!
I start to sputter.
“That’s not what I said! I–”
However, it is too late. My explanation is drowned out by my classmates’ loud boos. I have been burned.
The DJ turns to me and shrugs.
“Looks like nobody else wants me to play that tune.”
1999 – The playground. My crush has stolen my lollipop from my prize box, then stuck it down his pants and is now asking if I want it back. His recent antics have been exhausting, far too immature. He needs to understand that relationships are about caring for each other. I am learning about commitment from reading The Backstreet Boys’ biography. The chapter on Brian Littrell is blowing me away. He had a heart defect! The shape of his heart is officially abnormal! I wish I had a boyfriend that was vulnerable and sickly. I could help heal him! I allow myself to imagine sponging off Lolli-Pant’s feverish brow with a moist washcloth while he looks up at me with bright eyes and whispers, “Your love has saved me.” The fantasy is interrupted by yells of protest. My crush has wrestled a friend into the crook of his arm and is prepping him for a noogie. The lollipop lies abandoned in the mud. I have no plans of joining it.
We’re back. Did you enjoy the trip? I am not sure if I am prepared to let go completely. Fortunately, pop moments always come with a rewind button. I know because I double-checked my Casio.Tags: *NSYNC, 90's music, Backstreet Boys, Brian Littrell, Casio, Mambo Number Five