Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting the gang back together. I just saw this video of the Backstreet Boys performing at San Francisco Pride. This was a genius decision on the part of the organisers, because for me they've always been the queerest of the '90s boy bands. Maybe I'm just juvenile and can't get past the pun on their name. That pun. Also, they're singing 'I Want It That Way'. You know. That way.

But what really struck me about the video was the way that they started doing the dance moves – those incredibly stylised dance moves – but in a casual way.

It totally befits a group of thirtysomething men who, as wholesome, malleable clay in the pop music industry, had to rehearse those moves and execute them perfectly again and again on stages and in videos. It's muscle memory. But they're not wearing their absurd matching outfits now, and the industry has loosed its grip on them. The choreography isn't done with the manic enthusiasm of youth. There's a laid-back ease to it.

These routines are part of their shared history, like stories a group of old mates share and repeat at the pub, or the way a group of former school friends pool their half-forgotten memories of the old school songs, just for the pleasure of experiencing the moment again, together.

It got me thinking about our kinaesthetic shared memories: the movements we know so well and that by repeating, we can use to summon the pleasures of the past without the pain and discipline that went into acquiring that body knowledge.

I keep returning to these ideas. Sometimes I worry that I am too nostalgic. It seems perverse for someone like me, relatively young with little to mourn, to dwell so much on the past. Whereas Tony Judt, whose motor functions are being terminally claimed by ALS, is perfectly entitled to spend 1500 words musing on the foods of his childhood.

After watching this I had BSB in my head all evening. It wasn't that bad, you know.
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