By James Pavel

Backstreet’s back and will be for eternity.

The Backstreet Boys will forever represent one of the final, unifying pop-culture experiences for tweens and teens. Paradoxically, they also signify one of the greatest divides between boys and girls, and most notably, personified in totality, the late 1990s.

The Backstreet Boys will play the Scotia Bank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta this Friday and will arrive on stage to a sound that they’ve flourished in for almost two decades. Herds of screaming women will lip-synch, enunciate and yell the lyrics of virtually every track that BSB will perform and for the vast majority, it will be a memorable night. The audience will be notably older than a crowd in say, 1999. This was the pinnacle of BSB pandemonium, and the year when the majority of Friday’s fan base was between the ages of eight and 18 years old. To these girls, who are now fully-grown adults, BSB represent one of the most excitable aspects of their youth and will now attend Friday’s performance because the velocity of nostalgia they feel when the boys perform “Quit Playing Games with my Heart,” will be almost tangible.

If “Backstreet’s Back” is played in any bar/club aimed at 20-somethings, one of the strongest retorts of the evening will result. BSB hits are programmed into this demographic by verbatim, boys included. This is because the primary source of music for this generation was not via YouTube or satellite radio, but was through MuchMusic or MTV. Canadians tuned into the weekly Much countdown or video flow and even if they didn’t necessarily wish to watch the latest Backstreet clip, they at least caught glimpses of it while they awaited the new Korn video. Girls, or today’s women, were of course busy recording these videos, practicing the dance moves and savouring every last camera close-up of Brian Littrell. Boys and girls of the late 90s were the last generation that all shared a similar musical experience because it was the last period where the cultural avenues to accessible music were still limited.

Yet as much as this narrow cultural perspective joined boys and girls, the Backstreet Boys also represent one of the most obvious divides between the x and y chromosomes. Yes, boys likely knew the chorus and potentially even a verse or three, but the mass majority swore to the heavens that they detested everything about the five dudes from Orlando. You listened to either alternative rock (Our Lady Peace, Blink 182,) rap music (Snoop Dogg, Nas, Dr. Dre,) or rap/metal (Korn, Limp Bizkit.) These groups and artists provided the music that juvenile delinquents and closet rebels chanted and memorized while the girls they were still too scared to talk to were busy rehearsing “As Long as You Love me,” with fold-up chairs. Today, a modern-pop act like Justin Bieber caters to both sexes. Young lads openly mimic his attire and clothing, while girls maintain the traditional behaviour of drooling and screaming uncontrollably. In the 90s, a boy wouldn’t have been caught dead admitting he based his wardrobe off of Nick Carter’s.

Finally, BSB represent this latter half of this intriguing decade because their music was, overall, harmless and up-beat. Nobody ever shot up a school after listening to the “Millennium” album. The greatest fear in 1999 was that all of the world’s computers would crash the minute year 2000 arrived. It’s an almost laughable concern when juxtaposed with 2014’s laundry list of potential disasters. An unpredictable North Korea, natural disasters that begin with “Super storm” and depleting bodies of water are omnipresent issues that would make an adult from the past’s head explode. The 90’s was an era where everyone assumed it was merely recycling trends and ideals from years prior. Of course this created a look and format and has become unmistakably 90s. Spiked hairstyles, all-white ensembles, XL attire, Tommy Hilfiger, etc., were all trends that BSB embraced. One look at A.J. McLean and you remember where you were partying when it was 1999.

BSB have many qualities that insist they are washed-up has-beens from a far gone yesterday. But they seem to have a notable, sustained impact on the current generation of adults, even if it’s only for sentimental value purposes. For literally thousands of today’s women, BSB represent one of the apexes of being a girl. And although for today’s young men, the sentiment is completely different, there is no denying that BSB still had an effect on their introductory pop-cultural experiences.