Beneath The Dead Eyes: Two Writers Correspond Via Letters About Boy Bands

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Welcome to Dear Audra/Dear Hunter, where Audra Schroeder and Hunter Hauk correspond through a series of dramatic letters about pop culture that flummoxes us, like we're Marlene Dietrich and Noël Coward.

Dear Audra,

I don't know if I can handle it again. I've been seeing headlines to the effect of "Boy Bands Are Back, Y'all!" It troubles me. Not only because I keep getting older while the boy bands keep getting younger. There's more to it.

When I was 10, I was dragged to a New Kids on the Block concert at Reunion Arena. One of my li'l friends had an unhealthy obsession with Donnie. She wrote rap songs about him and made me hold a tape recorder as she performed them. When we arrived at the concert, she became instantly irritated that I wouldn't leave our Jesus seats and help her try to figure out a way to miraculously bum-rush the stage.

I thought I had escaped this hormonal mania when I made it to college and began working at a record store, but it happened again. That historic Tuesday when the Backstreet Boys sold half a million albums? I was working the morning shift. I witnessed the mad rush of schoolgirls. I looked into their braced-out faces and recognized the dead eyes of boy-band desperation. They wanted it THAT way, and they screamed those shrill screams all the way from the door to the endcap to the cash register.

I was a bit more removed from the madness when the third boy-band cycle of my lifetime came around. In the midst of the sudden hype surrounding Disney stars the Jonas Brothers, I watched in amazement as grown-ass music bloggers tried to insert "Jonas" tags into every post. The boy bands weren't only making per-pubescent females crazy ... their mania had created Web-hit whores out of more than a few contemporaries.

So, again, I'm a little scared of what the popularity of the UK invaders One Direction could bring to our society. That said, I like to face my fears head on. I've just pulled up Spotify, and hit "Play" on One Direction's album, Up All Night.


Sounds like crippity-crap, but I understand why the little girls love it. The song I'm listening to now is a carbon copy of "I Want It That Way." Audra, you were once a little girl. Maybe you can explain the feelings that happen beneath the dead eyes.


Dear Hunter,

I think "Beneath The Dead Eyes" would be a perfect name for my boy band memoir! I admit, I did make my mom buy me a New Kids on the Block birthday cake for my 11th birthday, and covered my walls with Teen Beat pull-out posters. Look, "(You Got It) The Right Stuff" is a good song, I can still say that in my '30s. There's an element of soul there, a throwback to the Jackson 5. What I'm trying to remember is why we were all so obsessed.

Before that, it was the Monkees, who are the best boy band of all time. Mike Nesmith was my favorite, because he was the nerdy one. These days, boy bands don't have the nerdy one. Or, really, the "bad boy." I watched a One Direction video, and they all look just slightly different from one another, like they were cloned in a lab. A Boy Band Lab. Also, they declined an invite to the White House. Rude! Do you think a "girl band" would be as popular as a boy band these days? Oh Hunter, all these thoughts are weighing heavily on my mind. Please respond when you can.


Dear Mrs. Nesmith,

What!? One Direction turned down a chance to perform for America's premier teen-act critics, Sasha and Malia Obama? For shame! I like the Brit pack even less now. In fact, I'd rather see the Romney sons form a boy band than listen to One Direction's "music" ever again.

"You Got It (The Right Stuff)" is a good song. And the rhythmic whistle in "Hangin' Tough" earned a soft spot that remains in me ol' heart. Same goes for a few tunes by Backstreet rivals N'Sync.

I think I'm so impatient with this new wave because it's difficult to recognize any evolution in boy bands. If anything, they're moving backward. As far as I can tell, One Direction and the Wanted don't even dance. Boy bands should at least dance. Otherwise, they're 100 percent useless.

I've already hinted at how rote the One Direction recordings are. And that Wanted song, "Chasing the Sun," could have been sung by any solo mediocre vocalist; it didn't need five. Enrique Iglesias could have farted it and it'd sound better.

I think it's time for a seismic shift in the listening patterns of pre-teens. There needs to be more forcing-of-actual-good-music where parents are involved. Letting kids think for themselves at this age? Obviously dangerous.

And, about girl bands: Aren't they usually referred to as "girl groups"? Welcome to fucked-up double standard land! None of these people play instruments, yet the boys get to be "bands." Psh.

Love, Mr. Danity Kane

Citizen Kane,

It does my heart good to know you feel the same way, and I do hope the Romney boys take advantage of their brief moment in the spotlight and become the first Mormon boy band. Man band? I mean, one of them is named Tagg.

I think the boy band fad has been watered down to the point of caricature. The Bay City Rollers? That couldn't happen today. And it shouldn't, I suppose. I mean, listening to bad music is part of growing up, but there has been a sort of "sealing off" in terms of boy bands. The Biebs and JoBros and all have that same doll-eyed stare and perfectly sheared mannequin hair. And there's little diversity: Whither Menudo? New Edition? Where's the anarcho-punk boy band? The Tejano boy band?

And I agree that these non-dancing boy bands are pathetic. It's all about multi-tasking; put on the wireless mic and work it. This isn't karaoke at your grandma's 85th birthday party. And did you hear about the "health scare" One Direction had recently? A koala allegedly peed on one of them, and he thought he may have contracted chlamydia. I say, contract koala chlamydia and ride that wave! Young girls love that stuff.

If you could put together the ideal boy band, what would it look like?

Best, Rosebud


My ideal boy band: Holograms of 1999 Justin Timberlake, 1988 Donnie Wahlberg, 1989 Johnny Gill, 1984 Ricky Martin and 1996 Sporty Spice. All the real people are still alive to record vocals, and their holograms can be made to dance perfectly. Bonus: Holograms need not worry about contracting koala chlamydia.

Do me a favor, will ya? Listen to Kiss-FM exclusively for a few days, then e-mail me next week with some of your thoughts on non-boy-based modern pop.

See what I did there? I gave you an assignment. Just your average freelancer, flipping the script.


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