Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of

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A.J. McLean, Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson
Directed by Stephen Kijak
Rating: B

It’s almost as good as a dream come true. The Backstreet Boys recently released a documentary, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, giving fans a comprehensive look at how the Backstreet Boys were made and the struggles they’ve faced. It’s not supposed to be a drama but a celebration of what these five men have accomplished in 20 years.

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The Boys pile up in a van to drive around Central Florida, giving viewers a look where they grew up before becoming famous.

A.J. was the first official Backstreet Boy, he claims, after meeting with their producer Lou Pearlman. The time was ripe for a new boy band, and Pearlman was eager to pick them out. Soon he had five young kids, ranging from the ages of 13 (Nick Carter) to 21-years-old (Kevin Richardson). He got them a studio to practice their moves and the boys loved hanging out at his house. They referred to him as a second father. He arranged for them to tour around the states, performing for high schoolers. On a video clip of their first school visit, the Backstreet Boys were not welcomed. They were booed and called wannabes of New Kids on the Block and other popular boy bands of the time. With a cool head, Brian got the rest of the guys to sing a Capella and blew the kids away. Soon their high school tours became successful.

Success and fame is a lot for young teenagers to take in. Soon the Backstreet Boys were in Europe, making their first CD with Jive Records. They easily became huge in Europe and were pushed to make more CDS leading to their albums Millennium and Black & Blue which got them attention in the States. Pearlman began creating a new boy band, N’Sync, after noting the huge success of the Backstreet Boys and therefore creating their competition. Later on, their relationship with Pearlman suffered when he got caught in a large scandal of stealing the boy’s money. The documentary expands on this and how Pearlman claimed to be 1/6 member of the band, leaving each Backstreet with little money and no law suit that could fix that.

Seeing all the hard work these guys had put into making CDs and trying to keep their fans happy, is heartbreaking to hear that it all fell apart. On their European tours, they were pushed into planes to perform hours after a concert. The documentary hardly showed whether they had a chance to have any fun besides when they were on stage. Their life had become shows and planes, touring and making CDs to do that all over again because they were in demand. They didn’t have a chance to live a real life during their teenage years because they were so famous.

What was briefly touched on in the documentary was the burdens some of the band members carried. Kevin lost a father to cancer, A.J. had to go to rehab for drugs, Nick had to go to rehab for alcoholism, and Brian has been struggling to sing. They are no longer the young, elastic boys who could pop and lock on stage. Practicing dance moves for hours a day leaves aches on the body. They’ve strained their vocal cords and as Brian is finding out the hard way, can’t sing like he used to. Yet, despite the aging and gaps between tours, there is still a cry for more Backstreet Boys.

In London, the boys got together in a studio and began crafting their latest CD “In a World like This”. They can let other members voices shine (like Howie’s) and create a new sound that is more grown-up than their songs like “Larger Than Life” or the energetic “Everybody (Backstreets Back)”. As the documentary starts coming to a close, we get a last look at their 20th anniversary tour. No one would be able to tell the difference of what the years between albums Black & Blue and In a World like This has cost them. The concert is sold out, the lights are bright and the music loud. The boys are in the zone, doing what they are meant to do.

Backstreet Boys With Jesse McCartney In Concert - Concord, CA
The Backstreet Boys for their 20th anniversary tour starting in 2013.

As someone who got to see them on their tour in 2013, it was an experience I can never forget. They had a good mix of songs between the old and new. I could never tell Brian had a problem with his voice. It was so nice to see how many people were at the show and that I wasn’t the only BSB fan still obsessed with their music.

The most exciting news at the end of the documentary was announced that the Backstreet Boys plan to produce a 9th studio album in 2015.

Overall, the documentary was just what the fans needed to see on catching up with their favorite boyband. It’s hard to fit 20 years of work into a 1 hour 40 minute documentary as I’m sure there is probably a lot of more footage we haven’t seen. In the end, I wish they had included some footage of their BSB cruises that have been going on since at least 2012. Most of the boys, if not all, are married by now and it would have been nice to get a little more personal with them. In the end, I believe it’s about celebrating the band and Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of certainly does that.

Photo credit:
(picture one, boys in the van) http://www.newsweek.com/backstreets-boys-men-303180
(picture two, boys in concert) http://www.billboard.com/articles/review/6458353/movie-review-backstreet-boys-doc-show-em-what-youre-made-of

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