1. They reigned during the Era of the Boy Band.
Along with *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, LFO, and the dozens of other Jonny-Come-Latelys who were just trying to get a little bit of that frosted-tip fame, the Backstreet Boys sat atop a musical dynasty. They were the kings of an era, a symbol of all that is good, pure, and well-choreographed in this world. From their success, a million imitators were spawned, and a love was ignited in millions of teenage girls which has clearly lasted well into their 20s, shame-free.
2. They had that bad boy thing going.
You think that Zayn is a bad boy just because he occasionally smokes cigarettes in public and wears leather jackets? Please, A.J. McLean circa 2001 would have rolled him up in a carpet sample and smoked him, starting with his insane Cruella De Vil hair streak. A.J. was a real bad boy, and had the style/slightly metal-y voice to prove it. We couldn’t identify it at the time, but Mr. McLean was dealing in what can only be referred to as pure swag.
3. They were responsible for Aaron Carter.
You try to distance yourself from it now (and I don’t blame you), but there is no escaping the fact that, at one point, we all knew all the words to “Aaron’s Party,” and we loved that song more than most people love their own children. (“I hope they weren’t expensive! — They got them in France!”) And although he has since faded into obscurity, long after his even-more-hilarious-in-retrospect love triangle with Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan, we’ll always have the BSB to thank for his presence in our lives.
4. They had serious #feelings.
They were incomplete without you. They had to show you the shapes of their heart. They regretted that call they made — you know, the one where they lied about cheating. The Boys were no stranger to intense, complicated games of love, and they had the lyrical stylings (and desert-piano-playing) to tell us how they felt. They didn’t have time to worry about whether or not their girlfriend knew she was beautiful, they were too busy trying to put together the broken pieces of their souls.
5. Howie got hot.
It looks like we all bet on the wrong horse with that one.
6. They didn’t come from a singing competition.
While it’s true that they were concocted in some Victorian laboratory by a sweaty, greedy, Monopoly Man-esque Lou Perlman, there is just something so much more organic about their conception. They aren’t just another product of the singing reality show, a ragtag group of slightly less effeminate Clay Aikens. They came from all backwater recesses of central Florida, unified to form something that had to claw its way to the top — something that wasn’t given huge exposure from the get-go.
7. They succeeded despite not being British.
I don’t care what anyone says, a huge amount of 1D’s success stems from the fact that they have adorable little British accents. So much of their fan base also loves every steaming pile of mediocre that comes on the BBC — and finds Benedict Cumberbatch attractive, despite all pressing evidence to the contrary, such as his face — so we can only conclude their Britness has something to do with it.
8. Kevin was a mute.
Despite never opening his mouth once during their extensive tenure as a band — except to sing, of course — Kevin remained a stronghold in our hearts. We loved the strong, silent type, and he provided that in spades. He opened the door for all non-talking pop stars who came after him, such as Leona Lewis, or Noam Chomsky.
9. AJ’s facial hair.
I don’t care what paltry soul patches the 1D boys have been trying to go, it will only ever be a sick, pathetic joke in comparison with the chiseled man-follicles that dotted A.J.’s face. His goatee/chin strap/pencil-thin sideburns were always the picture of manicured pop-stardom. And when combined with his offstage antics and penchant for jaunty fedoras, it solidified him as the king of well-choreographed bad boydom. That facial hair was more powerful than any of us will ever hope to be.
10. The BSB were men, whereas 1D are merely boys.
While I admit that I do enjoy the errant 1D song — and can see that Zayn Malik is amongst the better looking humans to walk this earth since Hercules defeated his obstacles and joined his father Rip Torn on Olympus — they will always remain the little-league boys to the BSB’s seasoned pro men. The Boys (as ironic as their name may be) had it all down to a science, and were a well-oiled machine of pop stardom from the get-go. One Direction has a ways to go before they can claim the title of grown-up pop stars, and I wish them well on their journey, for it is one fraught with danger and cocaine addiction.