Last month, I heard a delightful rumor that New Kids on the Block are going back out on tour with the Backstreet Boys. I have yet to hear if the rumor is actually true, but I'm saving up my money for front-row seats, just in case.
I have to admit that I'm a little (OK, a lot) too old for the Backstreet Boys, and I don't know anything about them. I don't know the names of any of the guys. I have no idea which one is their Donnie (the bad one), their Jon (the quiet one), their Joe (the cute one), their Jordan (the relatively talented one), or their Danny (the unpopular one that everyone tolerates). In fact, if you intermingled all of the members of the Backstreet Boys with all of the members of 'N Sync, I would have absolutely no idea who was who. Justin Timberlake was in 'N Sync, right? I think I know who he is, although if he got lost in the Backstreet Boys/'N Sync crowd, I might not be able to pick him out. They all kind of look the same.
But I do have one connection to the Backstreet Boys. I've been carrying around a secret about them for 13 years, and now I'll admit it: That one song, "Quit Playing Games with My Heart"? I think it is really, really, really good. In fact, I think I love it.
This song came out in the summer of 1997, right after I had graduated from college and started working at my first Grownup Job. The song would always come on the radio as I was carpooling to The Grownup Job with a group of Fellow Grownups, who would always roll their eyes and complain bitterly about how much they hated the song, and the Backstreet Boys in general.
"Yeah!" I'd announce, hoping I sounded convincing. "How incredibly annoying!"
The real truth was that I secretly loved "Quit Playing Games With My Heart." It was catchy, and yet it made you ache for some poor guy whose heart was at the center of some sordid game. I couldn't get it out of my head. What could I do about it, though? This was 1997. You couldn't download embarrassing music from iTunes in the privacy of your own home. If I wanted to own "Quit Playing Games With My Heart", I was going to have to go to the mall and buy the CD (or the tape, if I wanted to listen to it in my car), where I risked running into someone I knew and/or a sarcastic sales clerk. I could always come up with a cover story ("It's a birthday present for my 13-year-old niece ... who lives ... far away ... in Canada"), but I'm not a very good liar, and I'd probably choke if confronted. "It's for my nephew! I mean my niece! I mean, I REALLY LOVE THE BACKSTREET BOYS! DON'T LOOK AT ME!"
No, it was just too risky.
So I carried on my forbidden love affair with "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" in secret. We were together only at fleeting moments, usually when I was alone in the car or getting ready for work and the song would happen to come on the radio at exactly the right time. We went on like this for most of the summer, and then the radio stations gradually stopped playing the song, probably to make way for the next Backstreet Boys song. (And for the record, "I Want It That Way" is a pretty awesome song, too. You know you secretly agree.) We drifted apart.
Then I heard the news last month about the Backstreet Boys teaming up with NKOTB, and all of my memories of "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" came rushing back. Now that we live in the Modern Age, I was able to immediately download the song from iTunes. Now, at long last, I can listen to "Quit Playing Games With My Heart" as much as I want. We're back together, and it's not a secret anymore.
I'm Karen. I'm 35 years old, and I really like songs by the Backstreet Boys.
I'll take it one step further: I'm Karen. I'm 35 years old, and I realize I have really, really, really crappy taste in music. All of my pre-set radio buttons in the car are to '80s lite rock stations. I've heard the John Tesh Radio Show. More than once.
And it's all OK. I am now fully at peace with my crappy taste in music. In fact, it could have some benefits. I don't think anyone would ever steal my iPod. I always picture the iPod thief checking out my playlist and then gently setting the iPod back down, realizing that he'd been about to steal from someone with serious mental and/or emotional issues.
"Dudes," he'd say, upon returning to the Den of iPod Thieves, "she actually downloaded Clay Aiken performing 'Mack the Knife'!"
The other iPod thieves would rush to hold him as he gently wept.