Backstreet Boys: The Shared Embarrassment of Our Childhood

Pop Culture

Backstreet Boys: The Shared Embarrassment of Our Childhood

Illustration: Shruti Yatam


grew up in the quiet, family-friendly suburb of Vile Parle in the ’90s. My first memories associated with music include watching my father intently lunge over to the radio to turn up the volume every time an old Rafi tune came on. Or my mom gushing over one of the mixtapes my dad had made her. In a world saturated by Bollywood, there was no headspace for English music. By all means, the biggest exposure to the genre before 2002 was the English rap verse from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’s “Deewana Hai Dekho”.

Like most cool ’90s kids in India, I first heard of the Backstreet Boys only around 2002, when their popularity was past its peak globally. When I first heard the powerful riffs of “Larger Than Life” in my SoBo cousin’s car, the culture shock was akin to facing season balls in the nets for the first time. This was followed by the unforgettable memory of a bunch of bare-chested hunks dancing on a basketball court to “Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart”. You see, the week that I spent at my Charni Road cousin’s place in the summer of 2002 introduced me to two life-altering phenomena: F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and the boy band, Backstreet Boys.