I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I’m not allowed to complain about the youth these days. As a 19-year-old, I remember being one of those kids who made questionable style choices and used vocabulary that few adults really understood. And if need be, I still have the ability to transform back into that young kid who can scream pretty much any acronym or word and make it seem "cool" or "hip" (this is the only explanation I can really think of in regards to the #YOLO movement).

But as the first year of my college experience draws to a close, I have grown to realize that the distance between me and the really impressionable teenage youth is truly distancing. It is a realization I face with a sense of sadness: I fear for the day that eating an entire box of Girl Scout Cookies in one sitting is frowned upon. Maybe it already is. But regardless, I am enjoying my sense of youth for as long as I possibly can, and looking on what bright sides I can find as a very broke college freshman.

Listening to pop music now makes me yearn for the grittier, realer, darker era of boy bands. The bands that dug into the REAL issues.With my advancement into college life, I finally feel that I’m allowed to comment on the pop culture currently prevalent in pre-teens’ lives. It’s not necessarily because I hate all the things that they think are cool. No, it’s to give them guidance, to have them understand their roots. I sure wish I had some sort of mentor like that when I was a kid. It probably would’ve stopped me from buying two Baha Men albums, even though everyone knows "Who Let the Dogs Out" was their only remotely good song. That is a decision that I have to live with for the rest of my life, but something that I hope the pre-teens of America (my 12-year-old brother included) do not have to live with. And while this issue definitely spans pop culture, today I’m only going to focus on the one aspect I feel needs saving: boy bands.

Kids are completely desensitized by their pop starts nowadays. The biggest offender, without a doubt, is Justin Bieber (for the sake of simplicity, we’ll consider him a one-man "band"). Now, let me reitereate: this is not one of those "Justin Bieber is such a girl" type sentiments. The quality of airplane food has been discussed less often than Justin Bieber’s gender. I personally think that while I do not enjoy his music, he certainly does have undeniable talent.

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That being said, his lyrics are far too cream puff for a society like ours. This generation of boy bands and popular music is far, far too soft. Listening to pop music now makes me yearn for the grittier, realer, darker era—the golden age of such formulaic talent as Dream Street, O-Town, No Authority, and 98 Degrees among others. Those types of bands dug into the REAL issues; they were the prophets of my childhood. If it weren’t for "It Happens Everytime" by Dream Street, I would have gone into puberty completely blind and ignorant. Say what you will about their fashion sense (I’m pretty certain the pants they’re wearing in their music video were on loan from MC Hammer, or NASA) but Dream Street said what needed to be said. They weren’t afraid to be real, and that’s what led to their gritty reputation…as far as boy bands go at least.

Dream Street boy band
It may as well have been the street you grew up on, provided you’re white middle-class.

Dream Street might not have had the talent Justin Bieber has, but dammit if their lyrics didn’t hit hard and hit home. As nice as Justin Bieber might sound, I personally think it’s difficult for any kid in his demographic to truly relate to his songs. Sure, he wrote songs about love, which is always a hit with the pre-teen demographic. I personally had probably four or five CD’s entirely dedicated to angst-ridden power ballads spanning various genres when I first tried to enter the dating world. But when you’re dating Selena Gomez, your credibility in terms of needing "Somebody to Love" takes a pretty sizable hit. Not all teenagers can relate to dating Selena Gomez.

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But when it comes to "It Happens Everytime" by Dream Street, every teenager can understand what they’re talking about. They were the true underground boy bands; they weren’t afraid to say what is needed to be said. With their hit single "We Fit Together" O-Town was able to teach me how and what innuendo is. I didn’t just listen to boy bands, they TAUGHT me things. The boy bands of old taught me life lessons. They weren’t just a bunch of gelled up high vocal registered guys wearing ridiculous pants, they were prophets. And I fear the next generation will not be able to learn from the boy bands currently pumping cookie dough into their ears every day.

So I implore the younger generation to understand that boy bands weren’t always about selling you fragrances and nail polish—at one point it was about the music. And wearing really baggy pants. Although, you should probably just gloss over that.

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