A Tribute to O-Town: The Greatest/Most Underrated Boy Band of My Youth

If you were a girl in the late 90s/early 00s (i.e., of my generation), you generally belonged to one of two tribes. You were either a Backstreet Boys fan or an N*SYNC fan.

While I appreciated both boy bands, I belonged to a minority that believed that O-Town was the greatest boy band of all. As with BSB and N*SYNC, O-Town was manufactured by the evil genius (emphasis on evil), Lou Pearlman. They were especially manufactured because they were assembled on an early day reality TV show called Making the Band. (Who remembers Ikaika?)

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I had this iconic image as a poster.

O-Town did not have the longevity of either Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC – they only had two albums, the second (and more superior) of which was highly, highly underrated. Most kids who partook in the 90s pop scene only remember “Liquid Dreams”, which was O-Town’s first – and most awful – hit. If you were a fan, you might remember the marginally better “All for Love” and considerably better “All or Nothing”. But only the most die hard appreciate the killer bops tucked away on the second album – Over Easy, anyone?

I can’t remember consciously choosing to devote my piercing screams to O-Town rather than the more popular alternatives – but I do remember a killer year where I got to see O-Town not once, not twice, but three times in the flesh.

The first was the best. They were performing at the mall – not the local mall (come on, they weren’t that lame), but the big mall the next town over (Square One, for my fellow GTA folk). I attended this show with my friend from school and her two sisters. This show is notable for one major reason: it’s the show I jumped from being an Ashley devotee to a Dan devotee.

Let me explain. Ashley Angel (left) was the heartthrob of the group – and not even Lou Pearlman could concoct a heartthrobier name, am I right? I would estimate that 60% of O-Town fans were Ashley fans, as I initially considered myself. Another 30% were into Jacob Underwood (a.k.a., the bad boy – I never got his appeal), and the remaining 10% leaned towards one of the other three members (Trevor, Dan, and Erik). An aside – I would argue that the hierarchy of members was much less pronounced than it was for BSB and N*SYNC (let’s face it – is anyone really a Howie diehard? Does ANYONE like Chris the most?).

So there I was, standing in a crowd of screaming girls, ready to see Ashley Angel in real life (oh. my. god.) I remember they were very, very late – but that just meant that it was even more awesome when they finally did emerge from the elevator and took the stage.

As girls wept (not an exaggeration) over Ashley, I experienced a moment of clarity: Dan is WAY CUTER than Ashley. And in that moment, I became a bona fide Dan fan. I think Dan also sang way more than Ashley did – in hindsight, I’m not sure why he didn’t get more love because I still think he is (was) cuter than Ashley.

(Actually… neither is that cute anymore.)

There was a strategic element to my Dan obsession. I figured the odds were better of actually dating him, since I was competing against fewer fellow fans. There was another perk, as I discovered at my next O-Town encounter (this one was an actual O-Town concert at the Molson Amphitheater): while Ashley and Jacob merchandise sold out very quickly, I rarely had to worry about them running out of “I ❤ Dan” headbands. (For the record, I did not buy one, but I seriously contemplated it.)

The O-Town concert was amazing, of course, but the best part was that the hosting radio station (KISS 92 – duh) announced at the concert that O-Town was the secret headliner performing at the Wham Bam Thank You Jam at Canada’s Wonderland on July 21. How do I remember this? Because I still have the promo card. As in, I have it right in front of me right now. Somehow, this thing has followed me across the country and through the years. I keep it on my bulletin board – as a reminder of what, I’m not exactly sure.

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Dan is in the baseball tee

Although O-Town’s set at WBTYJ was considerably shorter than it was at their own concert (they had to share the stage with such acts as LFO, Sugar Jones, ID, Ricky J, and Usher [one of these things is not like the other]), it was actually more intimate because the band members spent some time with the KISS 92 DJs before the concert. I got to watch them interact from kind-of-sort-of close, and when they had to leave, I snapped an epic picture of Dan, my man. In the photo, Dan – donning a blue bandana on his head, naturally – is waving (I like to think at me) as he’s turning a corner. It’s very blurry and he’s not actually looking in my general direction – but that didn’t stop me from taping the picture to the inside of my locker for many years. (Probably too many years.)

I would love to read a former O-Town member’s memoir (even if it is as shoddily written as Lance Bass’s autobiography – seriously the most atrociously written book I’ve ever laid my eyes on), because I need an explanation for what the heck happened between albums number one and two. By the time the second album came out, they had completely lost momentum. The only single I remember from this era is the only-okay “We Fit Together” – and it wasn’t even on the original second album; it was added as a “bonus track” later on.

I know this because I bought the second CD the day it came out, and it didn’t have We Fit Together on it. However, I purchased the album for many friends’ birthdays and the new versions I bought did have We Fit Together. I’d like to point at that I gave this album as gifts NOT because my friends loved O-Town – I gave it because I loved O-Town. I’m not sure how that makes sense, but I guess I thought I was spreading the gift of amazing boy band music.

As amazing as O2 is (that’s the name of the second album), it’s also a total mess. It’s basically two distinct sounds: half are a slightly edgier pop style with a wee bit of rock influence (From the Damage, Over Easy) while the other half is very hip hop wannabe (The Joint, Favorite Girl). I know nothing about music production, but I would describe it as having absolutely no direction. Perhaps that is why it was their last album.

So whatever happened to O-Town? Ashley made a go of it – I remember he briefly had an MTV reality show and I know my friend Jessica (fellow O-Town die hard) saw him in Hairspray on Broadway. I imagine they’ve probably attended a few of those NKOTB cruise things, or maybe they opened for a BSB reunion tour.

It must be weird going from full-on celebrity with throngs of screaming girls and international tours to a virtual nobody.

Don’t worry, Dan & the gang – you’ll always be a somebody to me.


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Modern day O-Town

Update: Apparently, O-Town has resurrected, minus Ashley Angel (there goes the majority of your fan base, fellas). If you happen to live in Wisconsin, you can see them on tour next month…

 

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