There’s a myth about famous people who make art: somehow they emerge from whatever nether they existed in, and they emerge from nothing fully formed. That myth is manufactured because people aren’t really interested in non-famous non-amazing people or things.
That myth is amplified because for an artist to say that they were at one point less than they are now is to imply that there’s a possibility that they could return to that nether nothing again. That’s something every artist is afraid of.
It’s what motivates us to make bad, or hurried decisions because, “Hey, I’m famous now. What if another cat video comes out and it’s more famous that me and I can’t get famous again? I have to put something, anything, out right now so people remember I exist.”
That mentality is detrimental to the creation of good art. It’s seen in almost every aspect of art. I read a lot of sci-fi and the first book of a writer is usually their best. The reason for this is because publishers don’t find promising authors and nurture them into greatness.
These days an author toils in anonymity, typing late into the night, after their day job ends, pouring blood and brains and tears into the page, writing and rewriting until that book is perfect!
It might take as long as 10 or twenty years to write that one perfect book that’s good enough to get a publisher’s attention. When the publisher does notice, they’ll buy the perfect book. And, they’ll sign the author for a multi-book deal. Then, the author has 6 months to produce another perfect book, when the first one took 10 years. Naturally, the sequel isn’t as good.
The sequel is almost never as good. Movies prove this point much more clearly than books ever will.
But I digress.
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This isn’t a review of books, but of a documentary. It’s a documentary about Backstreet Boys.
Backstreet Boys weren’t my favorite band. I, like all my friends at the time, made jokes about Backstreet Boys. We thought they were gay and to us at the time that was a bad thing. We thought men dancing in synchronization with each other (I worked hard not to use the term in-sync) clearly weren’t real men.
What we didn’t know was that those “fake men” were getting more sex than we ever would. They were getting more money than we probably ever would. They were known and loved and famous, more than any of us probably ever would be.
And if that were all “Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of” was about, I wouldn’t be writing this. That wouldn’t be noteworthy because that’s just the life of a famous rock/whatever star.
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I’m writing this because “Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of” is about how hard the band worked to get famous. It’s about how hard the life of being famous is. And it’s about how hard they have to work to maintain even a small portion of that fame.
I’m writing this because Backstreet Boys didn’t emerge from the nether perfected. They were kids who worked for years getting better at dancing and singing. They worked for years touring high schools for free, learning what they were, what works, what doesn’t, and how to collaborate with each other.
Along the way, after they were hugely famous, they learned what it meant to be in a business, to get cheated and to have to fight for yourself against someone who is equipped to defeat and destroy you.
And I respect the members of Backstreet Boys for that. They work hard, harder than most. That’s why they’re famous.
I’ve been in 3 or 4 bands. It’s very hard to assemble a band, getting the right musicians who are good enough. It’s hard to make the social connections to start getting gigs in the right place, pouring money into a dream that has a low likelihood of success. Bands are hard to maintain because, as it grows, people start getting opinions and want control.
Everyone reacts differently to fame. Famous people often have insane amounts of sex. And it’s only a few steps from kissing a beautiful fangirl to snorting coke off her bare stomach.
Having wealth is hard because no one trains you what to do with it when it comes. Everything the world has to offer becomes available. All the ideals that were once held become the ideals of a poor person who doesn’t understand and who was ignorant of the needs that naturally emerge when the potential to fulfill them arises. They were the ideals of an idealist.
Drugs and sex and big houses and fast cars and personal jets and people screaming your name, all that feels really good. Those things work together as a powerful drug anesthetizing the natural fear we have that we’re alone and death is coming.
Backstreet Boys had all that. Money. Fame. Sex. Drugs. Houses. Cars. Jets. Fans beyond reckoning. Despite the odds, they’ve stayed together for 20 years. And I respect them for that too.
That’s a sign of character.
So if you have a dream, if your dream involves fame/power/money, watch “Back Street Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of” and see what it takes.