By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
By Julie Seabaugh
By Julie Seabaugh
Style-wise, Moz and BSB favor similar threads: The cover of the new BSB single, "Incomplete," shows the boys swaggering in natty suits down what looks like a deserted desert street -- shades of Mozzer's pinstriped gangster-pose and impeccable coif on the cover of Quarry. Morrissey sports crowd-pleasing dress shirts live and has even been known to throw in costume changes during a concert -- just like the sartorial extravagance favored by the Backstreeters of yore.
Moreover, each artist's bread and butter are songs about love -- either the crushing valleys and OMGWOW!?! highs of romantic entanglement, or the bitterness inherent in a lack thereof. Although the Backstreeters tended to attain actual booty -- if songs like "I'll Never Break Your Heart" are any indication -- its "Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely" and "Quit Playin' Games (With My Heart)" had quite a bit in common with the frustration Moz unleashed on "I Am Hated for Loving" and "How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?"
At the height of their popularity, though, this sensitivity attracted a very similar fan base: adolescent girls looking for sexually ambiguous crush objects, gay men and anyone clinging to youthfulness through music. The two even share audience uncertainty now that commercial viability has been elusive in recent years. Morrissey is no longer the angst of choice for suburban misfits -- My Chemical Romance, we're looking at you -- but now has an extremely loyal Latino fan base along with a cadre of hardcore crustpunks and perpetually lovelorn Smiths lifers into him.
As for the Boys? Well, it's still too early to tell who will scream for them in 2005. Soccer moms bored with their husbands? Latent fans that now crush on Ben Gibbard but still secretly pine for McLean? Young teens ready to move beyond Hilary Duff albums? Only time will tell -- although as long as unrequited teen crushes and adult contemporary radio exist, the Boys will always have folks willing to listen. -- Annie Zaleski