Sometimes you have life experiences that are difficult to describe. Not a great start for someone tasked with summing up one of the most intense, rewarding, and completely bizarre situations I have ever found myself in. This is my best possible recap of the Backstreet Boys Cruise and I hope to do it justice using these clumsy things we call words.
I had no expectations. I’ve been very lucky to have met the Backstreet Boys multiple times over the last 10 years and while I’m admittedly addicted to the rush of a close encounter, I wasn’t in an ‘if I don’t get a selfie with so-and-so I will simply die’ state of mind. I just wanted to go back to Europe. I love to travel and had not been there in over a decade (probably because I spent all that money meeting the Backstreet Boys!). I’d never been to Spain or France, either, and this seemed like a great excuse to treat myself. Europe AND a Backstreet Boys concert? That was all I needed. And both aspects of the trip were everything I could have ever wanted.
But this isn’t a blog post about Jaclyn’s bucket list goals. This is about the Boys! And as your humble blog servant, I feel it is my responsibility to give you the goods (read: THE GOSSIP).
Let’s do this chronologically and begin with the first Deck Party. Before you all yell at me, I don’t remember the precise names of the parties or themes because I’m not quite that precious. In my mind, this was called the kick off/market research Deck Party. The Boys showed up in rather dapper Captain outfits. I was on the side of the stage with just a handful of fans at first until three girls showed up to lean on my body. Well, just one of them did the leaning while another poked at my back. I can only assume she was trying to find a weak spot. Little did she know I carb loaded before this trip so really it was rather pleasant. Think Pillsbury Dough Boy. I giggled just like he does!
I was behind another woman who had at least 4-6 inches of personal space behind her at any given juncture so I thought it would be fair to ask this person, leaning her entire body against me, to back up just a bit. Her response was that my hair was in her face, which I explained would be easily remedied if she weren’t pressing her breasts into my back with such gusto. Providing reason and logic proved a fruitless effort and I had no choice but to immediately declare these individuals my mortal enemies for the entirety of the cruise. They were incredibly pushy, and continued to shove, nudge, and be generally aggressive towards those in front of them. Nick and Kevin both came to our areas very quickly and somehow, mortal enemies ended up in the very front for selfies while those of us that were acting like normal human beings were barely glanced at. The Boys retreated as no one on the security team bothered to tell people to stop pushing forward. It was at this moment, as I watched the horizon move behind the Boys while the ship sailed away, that I realized with horror that I volunteered for this.
Kevin took the opportunity to start asking the crowd some market research questions that I found pretty interesting. What I gathered from the responses were the following: 1) the ship was made up of a majority of fans from the United States, 2) the ship was made up of a majority of first time cruisers, 3) there were less European-based cruisers than I expected. I mention this only because I saw some speculation that the European fans in general were so hungry for this that they went a bit overboard with the rudeness to get to the Boys. That wasn’t my experience with what took place over the following days.
Truth be told, I’m a pacifist. Sharp tongue? Sure. But the last time I threw down was all the way back in high school. I haven’t thrown a punch or body block since and started to wonder if I should have included kick boxing into my cruise-prep plans. Or at the very least, I wondered if brass knuckles would have been a better investment than Dramamine. Even carefully tucked away rolls of quarters go a long way…. but I digress. I went on this trip with my aunt and my mother and not my normal crew of ladies with whom I attend most Backstreet Boys related events with. My mother and my aunt weren’t gonna help me from getting my ass kicked so I realized meditating between events was probably my best bet. Thank goodness I had enough foresight to bring along a few books to read!
The first day overall was the exact mix of highs and lows you should probably be prepared for on a BSB cruise. The market research party to kick things off was a lot more intense than I expected, but the trivia/game was to follow that night. I enjoy watching the Boys in general, but this kind of event doesn’t really appeal to me. It’s fun watching them interact but I like situations where you can actually learn about the Boys. Boy-centric events, if you will. This was sort of a shrug for me, mostly buoyed by the ‘this is my first night on a Backstreet Boys cruise’ feeling in my stomach. Or maybe that was the choppy waters – this ship moved A LOT (I’ve been on multiple non-BSB cruises before and this was definitely the most movement I’ve experience on a boat).
There was a ton of back and forth about where the night’s deck party would be held and most fans stood out in the rain getting poured on before it was announced the party would start in 5 minutes at a different location. ‘Rain’ might not really be indicative of the reality of the situation: these women were standing in a got damn thunder storm, complete with high winds and lightening. A good number of seasoned fans had already set up shop in front of the indoor stage in the atrium, which meant everyone outside was forced to the back or upper floors. No one was pleased. Me? I was drunk. I decided standing in the rain was bullshit and I was better off at a quiet bar I had found after dinner. I threw back a few glasses of tequila and saw a swarm of fans moving indoors. My first instinct was to find the Boys and then, upon looking down and realizing the floor by the indoor stage was swamped, I realized I would be better off with another glass of tequila. I enjoyed it very much and it paid off big dividends…
I met a gentlemen at the bar (we were both jonesing for cigarettes) who tipped me off that the Boys would end up on deck 13. I thanked him and headed up using an elevator that only took me to deck 11. I stepped off the elevator and walked, almost literally, into Aj McLean. I asked him to sign my favorite Backstreet Boys t-shirt and at first he had some trouble with the marker I had brought. I told him it was okay if it didn’t come out well and he said ‘at least we have witnesses!’ referring to the girls that began to surround him. As it turned out, Aj and his bodyguards ended up setting up shop on deck 11. His team formed an orderly line and by the time I went to my room that night around 4am, he was finishing up with fans. To put that into context, my last drink at the bar probably took place around 11:30pm. Aj and Kevin were definitely the two most interactive Boys, but Aj and his team deserve special recognition. They did this line every. single. night. He stayed out until 4-5am doing nothing but taking selfies every. single. night. As far as I’m concerned, this is what all of the Boys need to figure out because it’s pretty obvious the only thing most of the fans care about at this point are that momentary one on one interaction of getting a selfie. Let’s circle back to that point later and talk other BSB members.
After taking up less than a minute of Aj’s time and feeling pretty good about having 1/5 of my autograph goals completed, I made my way to deck 13. At first, I was blocked from going up the stairs from deck 11. There were members of security letting people up in what looked like drips and drabs. Not having it, I found an elevator that went to deck 13. We were, again, being blocked from entering what would turn out to be a club, but there were fewer fans here than down below. Another friend from the bar was working that security area and he let me through. I parked myself at the entrance since clubs aren’t really my deal. I would have needed at least 3-4 more glasses of tequila to dance (poorly) and I was on a mission. After all, the sooner I got this shirt signed the easier it would be to relax and enjoy the rest of the cruise. As girls began filing in, there were rumblings that the security team below had been letting girls in based on appearance. I have been blessed with many things but as looks has not been one of them I was glad I took a different route. When I thought about the hordes of girls waiting below for the green light that might never come, I suddenly felt very connected with the lower class people on the Titanic. Also: men are fucking awful.
Mike appeared at the front of the club and began scanning the situation so I knew a Boy must be close. Sure enough, Nick Carter emerged in full Tampa Bay Bucs gear. Despite the extra protection, he looked terrified as he was escorted into the club. The situation had a bit of a sacrificial lamb feel to it. More pushing came from behind me but I was able to body block most people/bitches. I saw Nick taking a selfie with none other than my mortal enemy and realized that pacifism wouldn’t get me anywhere on this trip. I threw out my arms holding the t-shirt and black marker and luckily Nick obliged (maybe because my arms were blocking his way…maybe). Nick continued moving into the club and the swarm of fans followed like bees tracking their queen.
The momentary release was beneficial. It was at this moment that a younger fan showed off what I mistook for the Dark Mark on her left arm. Nick signed her arm. She was simply thrilled and let all of us know she wanted the other four boys to sign her arm so she could tattoo it there permanently. A few older fans were all side-eyeing each other wondering who might come to collect this over excited young thing and talk her out of this tattoo. Within the hour, tattoo girl was having a conversation with Jen and getting VIP passes so she could complete her body marking mission. It was this that prompted two girls from the U.K. (hi Sarah and Laura!) to ask, not without reason, “do you need to be bloody insane to get any attention around here?”
I didn’t know it at the time but that would be a running theme of the cruise.
Nick managed to escape the club the way he came in, which reignited the pushing and shoving. It was wild but not all bad as at one point Nick became pinned up against me as he slid along the wall towards the door. Sometimes it pays to be a wallflower.
Not long after I saw a familiar face – Leigh Dorough. She headed into the club with two friends and once again there was jostling in the crowd. I told Leigh I was from New Jersey and that this trip was testing my ability to not kick the shit out of people. She laughed and said something to the effect of ‘I know what you mean’ as the crowd carried her away.
There was a new buzz in the crowd. We knew another Boy would soon arrive. Within 15 minutes Howie was coming into the club. Before he could reach the entrance he was surrounded. A guy that wasn’t a part of the Boys’ security was trying to calm people down. I showed him I was not a threat and explained I didn’t even want a selfie, but an autograph. This must have thrown him off because he turned back to look at me and I made a joke about how getting an ‘H’ on my t-shirt would be enough. Apparently this guy passed this message along to Howie who took my shirt and put an ‘H’ on it and began taking selfies. I had to pause to figure out if I imagined it. Luckily I had a chance to ask him to sign it properly and he was kind enough to do so. It vaguely reminded me of a situation where Roger Maris was asked to put an ‘X’ on a baseball and…well, let’s keep this moving..(Google that tidbit!).
Night 1 was over and while I had not seen Brian or Kevin at all, I considered getting 3/5 Boys to sign my most frame-able t-shirt a success. As a bonus I saw Aj’s line was still going strong as I made my way back to my room. I had purchased the Backstreet Boys shape cds a while ago and decided to bring them on my trip to try and get souvenirs for my friends. I asked Aj’s bodyguard Robbie if he could have Aj sign it quickly between fan photos and he helped me out. Robbie and and Leo were The BEST.
Day 2 was the concert and I was so amped-up the weather in Cannes couldn’t bring me down (humid as all fuck). When I was getting back to the ship in the mid afternoon, Kevin, Howie, and Nick were leaving to spend some time in France. I thought it was cute they were taking the excursion together. We weren’t allowed to take pictures with them at that time, but I couldn’t control my excitement for what I knew would be the highlight of the cruise.
The Boys were typically late by about 20-30 minutes (to their own concert.. which took place on their cruise.. but let’s not focus too much on the irony of it as Backstreet Time lives in a world without boundaries).
The lights went down and from the rear of the theater a commotion began – the Boys had arrived. The two guitarists sharing a stage with them began to play a riff that sounded vaguely familiar but it couldn’t be….. OH WAIT IT WAS TOTALLY LET’S HAVE A PARTY!! I missed Nick’s child voice but it was a wonderful intro and had me cautiously optimistic that we’d hear more throwbacks throughout the hour+ set list.
I wasn’t remotely disappointed. This was possibly one of my favorite Backstreet Boys shows of all time. It certainly ranks with seeing them on the Up Close and Personal tour as well as the awesome acoustic shows they did during the promotion for This Is Us.
Here is the full set list:
- Let’s Have a Party
- Just to Be Close
- Darlin’ (Brian Solo)
- Don’t Wanna Lose You Now
- Safest Place to Hide
- I Got You (Nick Solo)
- Get Another Boyfriend
- Back to Your Heart (Kevin Solo)
- Spanish Eyes (Howie Solo)
- Just Want You to Know
- Lay Down Beside Me (Aj Solo)
So let’s start with the good: SOLO PERFORMANCES!! Solo performances while the group stays on stage is a Backstreet Boys first, if I’m not mistaken. Solo performances of BACKSTREET BOYS SONGS is also a first – so let me commend the Boys for the creativity. It worked perfectly with the set list and getting to hear the rest of the Boys sing I Got You was stellar. Also… ALSO… thank you so much for ‘allowing’ Kevin and Howie to absolutely kill it with their solos.
Brian sounded pretty good on Darlin’ and earned a standing ovation from a crowd that was determined to show their support. He definitely benefited from the acoustic setting, despite moments where he was obviously frustrated with missing a note or being unable to harness his vocals.
Aj shared one of the best stories of the night after Lay Down Beside Me. Fatima Robinson encouraged him to thrust and hump the stage during the 1998 tour. On opening night, as he prepared to get down and bang his crotch against the floor, he locked eyes with a mother and her six year old daughter. “You gotta commit,” he explained, and went through with the choreography. He also mentioned he recorded this song when he was 15 years old which admittedly creeped me the fuck out.
Howie sounded especially smooth on Spanish Eyes and was sure to rib the guys over not getting a lot of solo material to work with. He thanked them for letting him sing their leads and all it made me want to do was smack the other fellas – HOWIE NEED NOT ASK TO SING YOUR PARTS!! In my wildest dreams, Howie just starts cock blocking the Boys and singing their verses all the time now. “Oh this is airing live on FOX? Lemme just slide in here and… “AM I ORIGINAL, YEAHHHH, AM I THE ONLY ONE, YEAHHHHHHHH!!” He killed it.
Nick sounded great on I Got You and mentioned that it probably should have been a Backstreet Boys song. I did notice that while his voice sounded the strongest of the five that he – in the acoustic setting – was holding something back vocally. There were parts where I was hoping or expecting that he would belt out notes where he pulled back considerably instead. It didn’t take away from the performance at all. He earned bonus points after explaining that Max Martin wrote I Got You about his daughter and how he relates to the song differently after his son’s birth. He ended up slightly choked up by the end of the song and it was ‘awwwwwww’ worthy.
Kevin cried through nearly the entire show on and off which was hysterical and not remotely unexpected. We’ve heard him sing Back to Your Heart solo on a previous cruise but having the Boys behind him improved the delivery. I’m still hoping someone remembers the hidden verse on that song and decides it needs to reappear in their performances of it.
Another highlight? The uptempo songs that were done in such different arrangements. Get Another Boyfriend has never been a favorite song of mine but the delivery was superb. Same goes for Just Want You to Know and Let’s Have a Party. They also added a really nice riff to Everybody that freshened up the track considerably.
I’ve never been a fan of Just to Be Close and was hoping they’d change it up since it was performed on the last cruise but the crowd dug it (bring back If I Don’t Have You!!). The harmonies on this song did sound sharper than I had expected compared to some of the other possibly more difficult arrangements. But the real gem was the inclusion of Don’t Wanna Lose You Now. Kevin cried through most of it and I was right there with him! Don’t Wanna Lose You Now, Get Another Boyfriend, Darlin’, and Spanish Eyes were the most unexpected tracks by far. Well worth the price of admission just to hear such rare throw backs, favorite songs of mine or not!
If I were to be nit picky, which I am, I’d also mention that I did find it strange to include Drowning and Incomplete on this particular set list. They were the only ‘more recent’ tracks performed and considering both were singles I felt that they could have better used those two slots for material from their more recent releases that don’t get much love. (Some of my submitted suggestions were Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon, I Still, and Like A Child.)
Outside of that, the only downside is that in order to watch these performances you need to do so on Youtube because the fellas are perpetually assholes about giving fans things we actually want. You know, the stuff that’s *music* related… I’ve noticed the sound quality on most of the videos is what you’d expect and it sucks that more fans aren’t able to appreciate the show. It was ripe for recording and releasing on a DVD or maybe as a perk of buying a deluxe version of their next album.
Night 2 was another deck party that was mostly a shit show. Kevin was by far the most available that particular night and took a TON of selfies. I was able to get him to sign my shirt and snap some pics of him in his Darth Vader gear. Brian stayed out until 2:00am which, from what I understand, was a pretty big deal. In general, though, the Boys didn’t travel out beyond the stage that often.
Day 3 was Italy and I had a blast in Pisa with Tracy, a fan-friend that I connected with on the ship. We enjoyed gelato and admiring the architectural masterpiece that is the leaning tower of Pisa. We got a nice little work out in due to all of the walking (which we naturally had to balance out with a trip to McDonalds) and had time to rest up for the evening’s events.
Mixing it up with Howie and the Dead 7 screening/Q&A were definitely a low lights for me. Both events were…. well, they were shitty. Howie stood on stage mostly doing absolutely nothing while two of the ship’s crew mixed drinks. I wish I were kidding about that description but sadly I am not. I left after 25-30 minutes (he played beer pong after that so all in all a solid decision on my part). There was very little fan interaction overall and no interesting stories or comments by Howie worth sharing.
Nick’s Q&A started off promising until we realized there was only time for 5 questions. He took a 6th one after answering a question about how cold it was in Montana, but it was hardly a meaningful Q&A. The most interesting parts of it were when he explained that his parents didn’t teach him how to read and that he has trouble reading Lord of the Rings because of it. But fear not, Lauren told him it’s hard for him to read because it’s written in ‘old English’ (the book was published in the 1950’s). I almost peed my pants from laughing so hard at both the revelation that his parents didn’t teach him to value literature and his wife’s attempts to comfort him. I love the Boys to death but if anyone would have benefited from a public education it has to be Nick.
The second most interesting aspect of the Q&A was when he was talking about a potential follow up project to Dead 7. He was conceptualizing a movie about one of the Boys – Howie – getting kidnapped by a fan and the rest of the guys not really caring. (After Howie’s ‘event’ I was privately agreeing with the fictional Nick on this particular point.) Someone shouted to ask if he read fan fiction and he responded that he didn’t. The same girl shouted in response, ‘you should!’ because as many of us know this story *does* exist somewhere in the corners of the internet. The overall concept was that a fan would kidnap Howie and make him her sexual play thing. Nick classified it as a dark comedy but I’m not sure he has the skills to pull something like this off, especially after seeing Dead 7…
The theater, which was 70-80% full when the Q&A started, was nearly empty less than 40 minutes into Dead 7. As a fan of really terrible zombie movies, even I had to leave, unable to subject myself to such a poorly constructed film. Jeff Timmons and Chris Kirkpatrick must have been battling over who could be the worst actor, the aesthetic of the movie was actually very cool but completely undermined by the ‘chapters’ which told you EXACTLY what was going to happen in each section, and Howie’s character floating in and out of an accent made me think Nick couldn’t decide just how much of a stereotype he wanted included. The film was also obsessed with telling you who each character was over and over. It was ineffective. The highlight for me was surprisingly Aj – who somehow managed to add a little charisma to a completely silly villain role. At the very least he was able to stay in character which was an achievement in this cast of terrible.
Night 3 was another deck party that took place indoors. I positioned myself near the VIP section which paid off big dividends as I secured Brian’s signature on my shirt – five for five!! I also got him to sign a shaped cd for my friend. He was pretty shocked to see it and showed it to Leighanne. Ebay is a really beautiful thing.
The Boys appeared again on the dreaded Deck 13 but at this point they had become wiser and spent most of their time in the VIP section that was closed off to fans. There were really 2 VIP sections: one with some fans who must have earned VIP wristbands from security/management/staff and one with just BSB approved folks like their security, family, etc. To be honest, I was not thrilled with them ducking away like this. The entire point of the cruise is you know you’re stuck on a ship with fans. It wasn’t a one-off situation either: Nick was at the casino surrounded by less than 20 girls but his security wouldn’t allow them to get pictures when he was done (no one bothered him at all as he played craps). The Boys didn’t stop for pictures with fans that were at a quiet bar (there were again less than 10 people in the area). I think the combination of this plus the two full days at ports resulted in fan access to the Boys being restricted. It encouraged more pushing and shoving and ridiculous bullshit as the trip wore on and fans hadn’t gotten close to the Boys. Aj was once again forming a line which ran until 5:30am. He took care of and spoke to every single fan on that line for over four hours. In my eyes, he made the other Boys look bad with how accessible he made himself.
The full day at sea was always going to be kinda tricky because now everyone was trapped! The three events were Brian cooking, a mystery Aj event, and Kevin doing duets with fans. Brian’s was the most underwhelming mostly because while it was interesting to hear from fans, the microphones were not loud enough and the stuff they shared was mostly very personal. I’m sure it meant a lot to them and to Brian, but that didn’t translate to the audience at all. There weren’t even interesting conversations going on between Leighanne and Brian, other than it being noted that Leighanne does most of the cooking. Thankfully, Aj and Kevin’s events were stellar.
Aj performed clips from his new solo album. He let the fans know he had submitted the title track, Naked, for the lead track in the 50 Shades of Grey movie. That certainly explained the theme for that night which was a bit controversial on the ship. I can respect Jen’s game, however – BSB fans are the same target demo, right? The music on the tracks were absolute fire. You could tell immediately the production on the music will be something really worth noticing. It had a lot of funky beats/bass and was mostly very upbeat. The lyrics were explicit but not nearly as cheeseball as anything we’ve heard from Nick’s last release. It might not be my favorite music as a whole but I loved that his personality was so clearly woven into the tracks. Plus it was the first event that involved… music. WOW WHAT A CONCEPT ON A CRUISE FOR A MUSIC GROUP!!!
The final solo event was my personal favorite and I swear it isn’t only because Kevin is my favorite Backstreet Boy. Kevin sang with fans. Kevin was tasked with picking 5 fans to sing with. Kevin picked 8 because he couldn’t decide. Kevin is the best. Kevin gave us more music on a cruise with a music group that really didn’t have a lot of it highlighted.
First of all, both Aj and Brian commented about how stressed out Kevin was about the performances and that was so endearing. Here is a guy that is on a ship with thousands of fans who just watched Brian make scrambled eggs and he’s worried about how he’s going to sound. Kevin explained that they didn’t get much practice time and I was preparing for several sub par performances from amateurs. I was blown the fuck away. BLOWN AWAY.
All of the fans were incredibly talented. They weren’t just talented – they were performers. They had pizzazz. They had personality! It was a breath of fresh air, especially for those of us not feeling particularly warm and fuzzy towards other fans after 4 days of snipping at each other. Kevin and the performers sounded great and did a variety of songs making sure there was something for everyone. He nearly broke down in tears singing A Whole New World, and I was in all of my feelings.l Again: MUSIC AS A PART OF YOUR EVENT?! It seemed like such a given and yet the other three Boys missed *so* hard. Kevin and Aj’s performances were a major factor in my overall happiness with the trip in general. I felt like Nick and Howie’s events looked even more half-hearted after watching these two.
Unfortunately, after this event, the Boys moved to do a Q&A where Jen (or someone) pre-selected the most inane questions possible. One of the questions was who has the biggest penis. I can’t speak for the entire audience but the girls around me looked at each other with embarrassment that this was even a subject to be broached. Boys… Boys… YOUR MANAGEMENT PICKED THESE QUESTIONS. Yes, Anonymous asked them (also eff whoever submitted this and wasn’t brave enough to attach their name to it) a dumb question – you didn’t have to forward it along to the Boys! It’s a question, like most of the others (‘what career move do you regret the most?’, ‘what song do you like performing the most?’) that give way to non-answers and cliches.
I will say that Brian stepped up and gave the fans some kernels of information that were genuinely honest and I fully appreciated that he did so.
Two of the 6-7 questions were about the Boys’ wives which… yeah I don’t care, sorry. But when asked how they keep things spicy, Brian readily admitted they send each other dirty pictures. He even joked that sometimes if they were unexpected he’d have to hide them. I thought that was honest and adorable. Kevin revealed he doesn’t trust computers so he won’t send naked pictures to his wife or visa versa, but phone sex was a thing back in the day (the Boys joked Kevin sends carrier pigeons now). Nick chimed in to explain that he and Lauren watch porn together to keep things hot and the Boys asked how they timed it to play at the same time. The Boys meant how do you make sure you start the porn at the same time, but Nick mistook this for time zone differences and I honestly feel like he is the Child Left Behind.
The Boys were also asked what type of arguments result in them sleeping on the couch. Once again, Brian was probably the most honest and explained that (I’m paraphrasing) he sometimes finds himself talking about how ‘I do this,’ ‘I do that,’ and ‘I, I, I….’ and how you realize at the end of the day the people around you do a lot. He explained that resulted in some fights and I respected the slight opening of the window into that part of himself. Howie told a great story about how he and Leigh messed up James’ sleep habits by always having him on tour and he’s used to sleeping in their room. Sometimes Leigh needs a break and sleeps in the guest room. As a result, James’ did a school project about his mom and explained that her favorite thing to do was sleep in the guest room!!! It was terribly funny. Aj shared a story about accidentally calling Rochelle the wrong name which was also funny in an I’m-so-glad-you-didn’t-end-up-smothered-in-your-sleep kinda way. Nick revealed he’s been close to sleeping on the couch but just apologizes to Lauren when he does something wrong. No mention of how sincere those apologies are in that explanation. Kevin said he couldn’t think of any instance where he had to sleep on the couch. After his duet event I had no choice but to accept this as fact.
None of the questions were particularly focused on music and for a group working on a new album that was disappointing. Brian came through in the clutch for a third time by answering a generic question (“what is your favorite song to perform?”) and turning into a suggestion on how the Boys should approach future shows. He said he believes they should have a fixed set list with a few songs that they change up every night. He said he had friends that saw Prince on his final tour and that they had completely different experiences because of the change in material. Brian correctly posited that it would not only be more fulfilling for fans but the group as well if they varied their set lists more often. As a fan that sees them multiple times on every tour, I’m going to fully endorse this idea. In fact, I already have! The other Boys seemed on board as well, with Aj pointing out this might mean they would need a live band again. Brian shut that down by saying you could just ‘press a different button’ so my guess is the Boys haven’t had a live band on tour to keep the budget in check. I’d prefer the guys bring back a live band but if I had to decide between the two (irrationally, since it isn’t an either/or) I’d pick to get more varied set lists.
The final deck party again took place indoors and it was the 50 Shades of Grey theme. I have a few things to say about this and I’m going to try my best to keep it coherent.
I understand this wasn’t everyone’s favorite theme for a lot of reasons. Personally, I find the book/movie problematic. I’m a fan of women owning their sexuality and don’t believe that the framing of the story does much to improve upon the narrative that women can only enjoy sex through their relationship with men, particularly the controlling and manipulative one that is depicted in the text.
Ignoring the source material that inspired this event, I noticed a lot of judge-y women. My take on women expressing their sexuality is simple: dress how you want and in a way that makes you feel good and honestly fuck everyone else. If you think women of certain shapes and sizes should not dress a certain way because it makes you uncomfortable, please take a seat. If you believe that the way another woman dresses is indicative of the amount of self respect they have, please take several seats far away from me – in this context when you use the word respect you’re merely telling me you don’t respect women that like their bodies and show it. The Boys picked the theme and the ship seemed 50/50 on embracing vs. rejecting it. The 50% rejecting it could have done themselves some favor in who they were projecting their dissatisfaction on.
The Boys themselves also did themselves no favors by picking an event they were clearly uncomfortable taking part in. Nick embraced the theme the most by grinding up against women, giving them lap dances, throwing out some (what I felt were) innocent kisses, etc. He seemed to be having a good time and appeared comfortable with what he assumed the fans were expecting from this theme. Compared to the other Boys, he seemed the most carefree about it. Unfortunately, Nick played into the theme a bit too much for my liking when he told the crowd he wanted to get them all drunk to take advantage of them later. No! The crowd responded with a resounding cheer. NO NO NO!! Boys, we cannot have you promoting rape culture by saying shit like this on a cruise full of women. If there were 2,000 women on that ship, it’s statistically likely that hundreds of them have been sexually assaulted or raped. This comment reminded me of another reason I left Howie’s event: at one point Howie’s bartender told the women to show him their great moves and Howie turned this into a plea for fans to show them their great boobs. He repeated this at least two or three times to a group of women that were in no way encouraging him. HILARIOUS!! Except not at all. Can we at least pretend to respect women on a cruise that’s basically designed for them, or nah? I’ll end my comments about those two tidbits right there before this turns into a broader feminist rant.
The other Boys were just NOT feeling the theme. Aj disappeared during this even for at least an hour only to return and get away from the stage as quickly as possible. I think at that point he retreated to begin his nightly picture process. Howie and Kevin stayed near the stage but at one point Kevin even commented that they ‘can only go so far’ with this event. He and Howie limited themselves to taking selfies in the front of the stage and occasionally dusting fans’ arms with some feathers. Brian, to no one’s surprise, was barely on stage. He spent less than 10 minutes there before moving to the VIP section and taking pictures with fans on the side, never to return. The fact that 4 of 5 members were not okay with partaking in the theme night was not only obvious but sort of reverberated to the fans. I heard a lot of rumblings of ‘they’re just standing around,’ ‘this is so dull,’ ‘do they think this is sexy?,’ ‘Nick is practically cheating on his wife,’ ‘WHO picked this theme?,’ ‘it seems like they aren’t even into it,’ etc.
For me personally, while I love the Boys, I don’t find them….sexy. Good looking men? Absolutely. But I’m not thinking about them when I’m getting off (in case you needed to know), sorry. The Q&A questions plus this event on the same day had me reflecting on what kind of group the Boys think the fans want. And there could be a huge portion of fans that love sexualizing the Boys and treating them like pieces of meat but that’s not the category I fall into. I’m a fan for the music. And I’m more than okay with these sort of themes in the future but I’d like more of a balance. I don’t want the Boys to think they can bank on the wiles of horny middle aged women to score points. That’s such a reductive approach to a widely diverse fan base it seems criminal.
It seems sad to have to end this blog post on the above issues, but it allows all of you reading a bit of insight into how the fans on the ship may have been feeling. I can’t say if that theme left a bad taste in fans’ mouths but know for me it felt like an anticlimactic way to end what had been a great trip. I wish they had shuffled up the themes to allow fans to end on a high note but I’m not sure anyone could have fully anticipated the way it was received (though I hear some of you loudly objecting that you absolutely could have predicted this and …well… yeah, I hear ya).
Would I go on another Backstreet Boys cruise, despite the sub par finale? Yes. Without hesitation? I’m not so sure. This was, for me, a full vacation including a lot of other experiences that didn’t involve the Boys. To do this just for them might feel different when I can spend a fraction of the cost on VIP meet and greets and the biggest draw which was the performance. I deeply wish they’d take the acoustic performance from the cruise and turn it into a small tour, something I know Rose is also on board with, but understand it might be the most appealing aspect of the cruises. If I were to do it again, I would have to do so with my small group of die hard BSB friends whom I had found myself missing dearly. If for no other reason than to watch them experience the joy of being able to pick up a conversation with anyone at any time about something we have loved so deeply for so long.
My favorite moments were by far talking to fans on elevators, at bars, on lines, etc, as we found ourselves wandering a ship carrying our favorite group. It was surreal overhearing discussions about albums, songs, performances, and harmonies happen with such passion and understanding. There were people attending that have had their lives saved by the Backstreet Boys, and while some would laugh at the notion it wouldn’t be anyone on that ship. The fans on that ship understand. The fans on that ship – even my mortal enemies – showed up not for nostalgia but for affirmation that some long forgotten feelings don’t fade. The Backstreet Boys are one of the few things that has tethered me to a time and place and a person I used to be so securely that I am able to find my footing instantly when surrounded by the excitement and fervor they create. It has the effect of greeting an old friend, the pre-teen Jaclyn, not unlike a younger sister, that I don’t get to hang out with often in the world of obligations in adulthood. Looking into the eyes of everyone on that ship, I knew I wasn’t meeting their adult counterpart but instead the carefree and self assured people you can’t help but be when you’re young…
Ah, fuck it – HELL YES I WOULD DO THIS AGAIN IN HALF A HEART BEAT!!