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'N Sync
This is 'N Sync, possibly separated at birth from the Backstreet Boys

Boy bands promise eternal love
By Mary Emerita Montoro

You can't pass a music store, the radio or daytime shows without seeing one of countless singing, gorgeous überbabes pledging their promises of love and devotion, to sea of screaming female fans.

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to the harmonized vocals of a new group called C Note. These guys are the exemplification of the phrase "music with no color lines." C Note is a compilation of three Latinos and a white non-Latin singing in both English and Spanish. Talk about a reversal in crossovers.

Puerto Rican Jose Antonio "Brody" Martínez; Dominican Raul Emilio Molina, a.k.a. "Rolo" or "RaRa"; New Jersey boy Efren "D-Lo" David Perez, of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent; and token white boy Andrew "Dru" Michael Roger, are the new arrivals entering the Boy Band arena.

All four men are beautiful and sing passionately. They are, however, in fierce competition with all the other male groups trying to covet the hearts and emotions of pubescent girls, while saving the romantically jaded souls of twenty- and thirtysomethings.

Male singers have crooned for years and restored the belief of romance in many women. In the 1940s, bobbysoxers shrieked for Frank Sinatra. Elvis shook his pelvis in the 1950s, titillating the nerve endings of swooning teenage girls.

Take your pick in the 1960s. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and each of the mop-topped Beatles were worshipped. In the 1970s, Michael Jackson was the frontman for Motown's Jackson Five, and Donny Osmond was the man for the milquetoast teen dream the Osmond Brothers.

An international mixture of Boy Bands came to fruition in the 1980s. If your taste was tropical, Menudo (Spanish for small change) sang while wearing Battlestar Galactica gear with pride. If vanilla was your favorite, Bostonians Jordan, Jonathan, Joey, Donnie and Danny from New Kids on the Block were your pick.

If you preferred your men in chocolate, New Edition's Ronnie, Michael, Ricky, Ralph and Bobby (Johnny came later) fulfilled your needs. The formula remained the same. Four to five guys who can sing, dance and of course look as fine as their mama made them.

Sometimes, all a boy had to do is stand, give a wicked stare, á la Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran in the video "The Reflex", and promise forever love. If the Lord didn't bless them with GQ looks, then they had to be better singers or dancers for the adulation to continue.

Today, it seems that the race for the best boy band increases each month. Orlando-based Backstreet Boys are in competition with neighbors 'N Sync. On May 18, BSB released their third album, Millennium. They released a CD in Europe but their self-titled album was the first in the States.

All the boys do their part: blond Nick Carter, as the youngest, is the most desirable; Howie Dorough is the sensitive lover type; AJ McLean is the perennial bad boy with piercings and tattoos; Kevin Richardson plays the patriarch; and cousin Brian Littrell is the boy next door.

Each is talented in his own right. Littrell and Carter sing most of the leads while McLean's raspy voice is virile enough to cause pregnancies with a single note.

The same can be said for 'N Sync. Justin Timberlake could be Carter's twin. Dreads-wearing Chris Kirkpatrick and McLean were probably separated at birth. Wide-eyed J.C. Chasez, baritone Lance Bass and charismatic Joey Fatone Jr. round out the group.

"'N Sync rocks because they use their voices to sell their music, not their bodies," said Brandi Coulthard, a student at St. Patrick's High School in Thunder Bay, Ontario. "I haven't seen this kind of energy from one group of five guys since the New Kids On the Block."

Energy isn't enough to make everyone appreciate the Boy Band sound. Some critics pan the so-called bubble gum music. You can't get too freaky when the listener has a 9:30 bedtime. The saccharine-sweet songs are also formulaic: Sing about love, never breaking the girl's heart and most importantly give comfort that's unattainable from a flesh-and-blood boy.

Backstreet singer McLean's breathy voice in "Lay Down Beside Me" cuts to the core. Chasez and Timberlake from 'N Sync say it with "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You." They keep it as G-rated as possible but never lose the passion for the fans.

Across the ocean and unto the lush Dublin hills, are five Irish souls that make up Boyzone. Part potential boyfriend and parent, three of the members have children under four, give new meaning to sexy, doting father.

Proud daddies are Michael "Mikey" Christopher Charles Graham, Keith Peter Thomas Francis John Duffy and Roan Patrick John Keating. Fine-looking and childless are Stephan Patrick David Gately and Shane Eamonn Mark Stephen Lynch.

Whether it's the seductive accents, gyrating moves or angelic sounds, the American girls are hooked. One of those enthusiastic fans is Carmen D'Lara, a worker at Disneyland.

"Boyzone is better because we older fans can relate to them. The other groups seem to aim at the younger fans. Boyzone's music is more romantic, and they dress really nice, which makes them elegant."

"Their concerts are amazing and always seem to come from some new angle that other bands are unable to achieve" said Torrie Wall, a first-year Media, English Literature and Language student at Darlington College of Technology in England.

Not to be outdone by the Irish, the UK can boast of their success, too.

The groove was on last year when Abs, J, Rich, Sean and Scott from the group 5ive made it big with "Baby When the Lights Go Out". Their infusion of pop and hip-hop on the rap tip made them an instant hit.

"I think 5ive deserve more attention and credit for what they do", said Sarah a seventh-grader at Heritage Middle School.

There are times when a woman needs to hear more than adolescent promises wrapped in ice cream. In the early '90s, R&B group Color Me Badd answered the call. Bryan Abrams, Kevin "KT" Thornton, Sam Watters and Mark Calderon had their 1991 hit "I Wanna Sex Up You" and kept the momentum throughout their career.

They came back strong in 1996 with their "Now and Forever" CD and last year's "Awakenings." They are grown men with needs and desires that women way over 21 can appreciate and understand. Two other groups headed in the adult direction are 98 Degrees and C Note. They are delicious eye-candy, talented and members are in their early to mid-20s.

Finally, older fans don't have to feel like perverts or in competition with the younger set. In 98 Degrees, Jeff Timmons, the founder, brothers Nick and Drew Lachey and Justin Jeffre came from Ohio to LA in 1996. All could walk the Versace runway with their model looks and still melt women's hearts with their tempestuous lyrics.

"98 Degrees has the edge of being around longer cause of the sound and style of music they do," said customer service representative Becca, contacted through a Yahoo club.

Fellow fan Diana Di Giacomo, an English graduate from Fordham University agrees.

"I love 98 Degrees because they are four clean-cut guys who sing really well and make girls believe in Prince Charming. They not only look good, but their voices blend in a harmony that entertains as well as inspires fantasy. They sing of love, and unlike bands like Korn, appear likely to have showered since the REagen administration," continued Di Giacomo.

Sometimes, Boy Bands inspire in unexpected ways. Freshman Shannon from Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif., became closer with two friends after they discovered their mutual enjoyment of 98 Degrees.

"We found out that us three had an interest in the group and we've become very close friends now. We go to all of their concerts together. The thing that makes me love 98 Degrees so much is that they never gave up on their dream to become what they want to be. Right now, I have no idea what I want to be when I'm older, but when I do I plan never to give up on it."

C Note's debut CD "Different Kind of Love" still offers romantic love but echoes strongly the need for a commitment. These guys don't want to mess around and know they want to be in a relationship.

EYC, short for Express Yourself Clearly, is yet another group that offers a more adult appeal. Trey Parker, Damon Butler and David Loeffler's latest single "This Thing Called Love" stays away from the cutesy lyrics of candy-coated dreams and offers a more realistic approach to love.

"They are so high-energy and their dance moves are so great!" said Southern Oregon University senior Marissa Pittam.

Senior Marie Duran from California State University, Los Angeles, is a longtime EYC fan.

"Trey, Damon and David know what women would like to sincerely hear from their men. You can feel their sincerity in their music and voices. It's not something that can be easily faked."

The boy band phenomena will probably never go away. Women understand why. To men, it's a mystery.

My male friend Devon, for example, asked what the big deal is with all the women going crazy and posters plastered on bedroom walls.

For those who still don't get it, allow me to break it down without getting too psychological.

Singers like Chris ['N Sync], Nick [Backstreet Boys] and D-Lo [C Note] do more than perform. They resurrect the dream of the Ideal Man -- sensitive, tender and soulful. They convey the message that love, trust, fidelity and faith are not elusive.

Most importantly, every woman needs to hear that she is special and worthy of affection no matter what race, shape or size. We live in a cynical world where heartbreak and sorrow are the doomed reality. There is nothing wrong, for example, in a fan fantasizing about Drew [98 Degrees] whisking her away in her muscular arms while singing her praises. One hopes, the fan will absorb what the BB is saying and apply it to future relationships. She starts by not settling for less and believing she will find her ideal man who will accept her unconditionally.

Every girl no matter what age needs to hear that she is THE ONE. When it's coupled with the singer's acknowledgment and appreciation, it's all good.


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