The Talented Mr. Timberlake.
My birthday is in a few days and in my spare time reminiscing, I’ve come to realize a very real truth. In middle school, which I believe is the age when you start the formative process of forming your musical taste, I lived through the golden age of bubblegum pop.
To put this in perspective, I understand the 80’s had Michael Jackson, the early 90’s, well, I don’t know what they had, but the late 90’s and early 00’s had a veritable smorgasbord of manufactured pop idols directed specifically for us. I don’t think I’m underselling it when I say that Britney Spears singlehandedly brought an entire generation of boys through puberty.
She was 16 at the time, and unlike the other hordes of males chasing after her, she was age appropriate. I mean, seriously, c’mon.
Now the counter-force to the dueling bubblegum pop divas of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera was the boy band. N*SYNC, Backstreet Boys, and a distant third of 98 Degrees were all at the height of their powers. TRL (the most amazing product placement scheme of its time) would have Times Square packed and squealing for a glance of any of these acts.
Coming completely clean, I was/am a huge fan of N*SYNC (N*SYNC > Backstreet Boys, not even an argument). This was something that you did not advertise in middle school as a boy, as being called “gay”, “homo”, or “fag” was not to your benefit in navigating the minefield that is pubescent social networking. I will say that my sister owned all the CD’s, but I listened to them as much as she did. Instead, the music that you were allowed to like as a middle school boy were some combination of Blink-182, Linkin Park, and whatever censored rap song was getting the most airtime on the radio. I liked some of that stuff (I can recite Nelly’s Ride Wit Me word for word) but none of it really touched my love of bubblegum pop.