Film Review: Backstreet Boys – Show Em What You’re Made Of

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It seems cheesy and unnecessary for a boy band to create a documentary to preserve its success or to chronicle the creation of an album. Yet, Show Em What You’re Made Of is so much more than that. While it may have originally been slated as a documentary of the making of the Backstreet Boys’ latest album, In a World Like This, and the band’s 20th anniversary tour, it expanded into a look at the trials, tribulations, successes and struggles that these five men have had to deal with in the past 20 years.

Nick Carter came up with the idea to have just the five members of the Backstreet Boys go to London for six weeks to write and record a new album that is truly theirs. No label, no pressure, no families. Just them. Chronicling those six weeks was the initial focus for this documentary. It is during their time in London that we get to see the band talking to fans, cooking breakfast, writing songs and playing guitar. These men are obviously a family who have had their ups and downs and love each other all the same but the film dives so deep into their back story.

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This movie is not a look at the bubble gum pop world that we expect; it’s gritty and harsh and tackles the hardships and addictions that these men faced behind the scenes of smiling magazine photos and TRL appearances as well as gives us a glimpse at the creation of a powerful new album that truly represents who the Backstreet Boys are.

Two decades ago the Backstreet Boys journey began and there was so much of it that we as fans (or haters) didn’t get to see. This documentary takes us there. Show Em What You’re Made Of brings us back to the beginning of the journey, the creation of the band, the awkward high school tours, the early covers. It’s a fun peek at the ridiculous dances, clothes, hair and powerful vocals that we have come to expect from the Backstreet Boys. Look for an appearance by early ‘NSYNC too.

This movie goes beyond the happy times and appearances as well. Show Em What You’re Made Of really shows us what made the Backstreet Boys who they are today. We get to see what is and was going on behind the scenes as each Backstreet Boy member shows us what struggles they’ve had to face either before or during their tenure with the band. Howie Dorough shows us his greatest struggle within the band, his drop from lead vocals to being a glorified backup singer. AJ McLean revisits his addiction and what finally pushed him into rehab. Nick and Kevin Richards take us to where they grew up and what life was like before the band. Brian Littrel painstakingly tells us about his past and present medical issues and he breaks down as he opens up about his current struggles that are affecting his ability to sing. That struggle comes to a head as the men are discussing song selection for the most recent album. As curses are being thrown at each other, the audience faces the harsh reality that the Backstreet Boys aren’t just musicians and pop idols. They are indeed people and this documentary shows us the group’s very human flaws and pain.

Yes, there is a dark side to the Backstreet Boys but the secrets that the band has been holding in for 20 years are finally released and it is cathartic for both the band and the audience to see them let go of the pain as the band turns the page to create something that is inspiring and personal.

It’s startling how many hit songs the Backstreet Boys have released over 20 years. With everything the Boys have gone through, it’s mindboggling to see that the band can still put on a smile and a show for fans across the globe. Their new music is just as melodic as ever and after watching this documentary, many old fans will be driven to see the band on tour again.

There is so much that we, as consumers of music do not get to see or understand but the Backstreet Boys give us a glimpse behind the curtain and it is real and powerful. Even if you aren’t a diehard fan, it’s worth watching just to understand how being a successful musician isn’t all smiles and platinum records. Plus, who doesn’t love 90s nostalgia?

Backstreet Boys – Show Em What You’re Made Of is currently airing on VH1.


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Lisa Pikaard is a senior writer of Pop-Break who can be read weekly as part of Pop-Break’s Singles Party. She can also frequently be found reviewing and interviewing hard rock bands but her photo is secretly (or not so secretly now) on the Backstreet Boy’s Never Gone album booklet. Country, pop, rock, the genre doesn’t matter; she loves it all. Lisa also likes to dabble in book reviews and somehow convinced Monmouth University to award her a Master’s in English for writing a thesis called ‘Harry Potter and the Rhetoric of Terrorism.’ While her dream is to interview musicians on a daily basis, she is currently works as Group Sales Account Manager at Brooklyn Nets. Music, football and literature are her passions. Follow her on Twitter: @nygiantsnjgrl
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