Initially, I meant to write about up-and-coming Melbourne rapper Allday. Allday’s ‘So Good’, a collaboration with local producer C1, has hit the airwaves nationally in recent weeks and is so quintessentially Australian and heartrendingly optimistic that it will certainly feature in the coming weeks. But in researching his ‘Skateboard Soiree’ EP, I came across Allday’s blog which, impressively genuine, contained a link to the video for this Backstreet Boy’s track with the caption: ‘I had to pretend I didn’t like these guys when I was young to be cool, I will pretend no more.’ The statement is pretty funny, as you consider this fledgling emcee emancipated from the shackles of denying his Backstreet love, but struck me more for the fact that it seems to express the inverse sentiment to that which pervades the OAD haus. If anything, we wholeheartedly embraced the saccharine brilliance of the Backstreet Boys throughout our youths – probably holding on a little too long to be socially acceptable – and now, as pseudo-adults, must pretend that we don’t like these guys to be cool.
As a mark of age, it doesn’t get much worse than my searching the lyrics to this track and Google spitting back a heap of results based on Justin Bieber’s latest, a single featuring a lacklustre Big Sean with an identical title. Besides a strange, apparently Fight Club-inspired video clip, what the 2012 edition of ‘As Long As You Love Me’ proves is that the young world (by way of Secretary General Bieber) is now obsessed with materialism, (‘I’ll be your platinum… your silver… your gold’) and is imminently more depressed by the state of affairs than ever before as a theme of Us vs Cruel World plays out across Bieber’s stunningly austere performance. There is no real love to this song. The relationship detailed plays second fiddle, a minor role to the more general fucked-upness of the world where kid superstars get in scraps with their girlfriend’s dads because The Man won’t let them be together. It’s horribly mawkish and mildly aggressive and if this is the love song of Generation Z, I’m happy to declare my membership as an Xer.
By contrast, the Backstreet Boys 1997 original, steered to flute-style synth, too-high-in-the-mix drums, and acoustic guitar perfection by Swedish super-producer Max Martin, is technically boring. In the place of a verse from Detroit’s finest, the Backstreet Boys only have their cutesy harmonies. Instead of dub-influenced vocal trickery, the boy band can only muster Mariah Carey-style flourishes. Rather than a dynamic that changes every 10 seconds and a chorus that remains ineffectual as a result, all the 90s heartthrobs can offer is a song that plays by the book. While ‘As Long As You Love Me’ might sound hackneyed and maudlin, I’d posit that that impression is a damning comment on where we are now. The Backstreet Boys, like Boyz II Men before them and ‘Nsync after them, only ever really went skin-deep. The lyricism, the sentiment and the production is crudely superficial but the result is simple and memorable. Part of a chain of evolution that has grown the Bieber species, 1997 might’ve been the apotheosis of sugar-glazed pop. I liked this track then and I like it now. I will pretend no more.
Backstreet Boys – As Long As You Love Me