Growing up outside of Seattle in the 80s and 90s gave me a healthy respect for grunge music. My brother had Nirvana and Greenday CDs at our house, I could bob my head to a few key songs that gained regular airplay, and I could even name a few lead singers (Gavin Rossdale!). But, if I’m going to be totally and completely honest, it’s not where my heart was. My heart was usually found floating amongst groups of teenage boys and young men performing choreographed dance routines in matching clothes to four- and five-part harmonies.
In other words, boybands.
I lived and breathed boyband fandom in the mid-90s. This was a glorious time to be a teenage girl, particular one in the Pacific Northwest because their music—and their sultry music video stares that went right through the camera—penetrated my soul. Plus, the internet was a wild frontier, and I could save jpegs of Nick Carter to my heart’s content, as long as my brother didn’t need the computer for homework.
The way I see it, boyband music related more to teenage life in the Pacific Northwest than grunge music. It wasn’t even close, in fact. This probably shouldn’t come to any surprise, specifically to grunge musicians, because I seriously doubt a preppy girl with an upper middle class family in a Seattle suburb was really the vibe they were trying to capture with their songs, but still. My point is this: boyband music was an incredibly accurate soundtrack for teenage life in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s why:
I’m not sure why more of us weren’t talking about this. In between the crisp and careful poses and upbeat dance tracks were some heart-wrenching ballads and Oscar-worthy music video moments, not unlike my own life between ages 12-17.
Granted, most boys I knew back then didn’t exactly look like this in the rain, but still. It counts.
The Passionate Pleas For Attention
What are the teenage years if not a desperate years-long search for attention and validation? Perhaps some of you were more mature or more interested in, oh, I don’t know, being a productive member of society, but I was searching. Oh man, was I ever searching.
The Sunglasses Worn At Weird Times
We couldn’t let a little rain stop us from looking mysterious, now could we? I didn’t care how cloudy it was. If there were sunbreaks, I was sporting my shades. And even if there weren’t, I sometimes still did anyway because, let’s be real, clouds can be bright.
The Friendly Greetings
Perhaps you’ve heard that we’re friendly in the PNW? The polite conversations and casual greetings you’ll find here are worth a mention, especially because they so closely mirror boyband vernacular.
The Feeling Of Being Stuck Indoors
Some call it bouncing off the walls, some call it cabin fever. Whatever your preferred term for the desperation that strikes when it’s raining on a Saturday again, boybands captured it.
The Layered Clothing
I used to wear a sweatshirt to middle school for the sole purpose of taking it off and tying it around my waist, because the day was total garbage if I wasn’t wearing at least one extra shirt, if not two.
The Soulful Escapes Into The Woods
We could think better among the trees. We could nod our heads more seriously when there were pine needles under our feet. And, we could stare into the eyes of whoever we were with in a turtleneck and be taken (kinda) seriously if we’re out in the fresh air.
Of course, some grunge artists might be considered the authority on this market. However, boyband members gave them a run for their money, to which I can clearly relate to.
The Regional Slang And Vocabulary Words That Makes Sense…To Us
To be fair, I didn’t realize the extent of this one until I moved out of the area in my mid-twenties. Sure, our city names can be hard to pronounce (and spell), but finally getting the hang of Puyallup and Tualatin, and knowing how to pronounce geoduck gives you entrance into the secret club of PNW residency.
If “I Want It That Way” Isn’t A Metaphor For Ordering Coffee, I Don’t Know What Is
We’re also prone to wearing spotless white outfits with four of our friends to do it. Trust me.