My Life Under the Covers
By Mary Scholz
“As Long As You Love Me” by The Backstreet Boys
(written by Max Martin)
…The Song that Taught a Girl to Stand Up for Herself…and that she was More Than Good Enough…
You knew this was coming…
Anyone who knows me well or has had a conversation with me about my musical influences through life knows that I was and will always be a die-hard Backstreet Boys fan.
And I’ll tell you exactly why.
I was first introduced to the Backstreet Boys at the age of 12. My friend Jillian was a fan. We had just finished the 7th grade. The songs were catchy. The boys were cute. And I got to go to my first concert since James Taylor when I was much younger. I made a sign that read “Brian I hope your heart Quits Playin Games” and thought I was the most clever girl in the world. (Brian Littrell had a heart murmur due to a hole that he had…in his heart…their first big single was “Quit Playin Games With My Heart…”)
We sang along and knew all of the dance moves and had an amazing time.
That’s the surface level reason.
Not only were their songs well crafted (thank you Max Martin), their harmonies tight and their shows incredible entertainment, they showed up in my life just when I needed them most. And they have continued to do so over the years.
As a kid I definitely went through bouts of depression. No one knew about it – I was very, very good at hiding it. There were many reasons for this – I felt largely out of place. Artsy in a school and neighborhood of athletes. Italian/German mix in a school with hard core Irish Pride. Glasses. Braces. Frizzy hair. I got picked on for having long hair when it was cool to have a short ‘do. I got made fun of for having crushes on the nicer, less popular boys in the class. I stood up for those boys when they got picked on but still was largely unrecognized by them. I felt guilty for having anything but gratitude and happiness towards life as I had been blessed with a loving family and a really nice, safe childhood. Being aware of this made me even more sad.
Despite the blessings, I had some rather dark moments.
I have always been aware that for whatever reason, I have been given the ability to experience intense joy and intense sorrow – usually coupled together, which I always found confusing. And I knew that there were so many more kids who had such difficult lives and struggles, so I felt…guilty. And invisible.
So where do the Backstreet Boys fit in? Well, if you’ve ever listened to any of their music, you’ll notice that most of their songs are geared towards placing them in the role of the guy on the outside, who sees a girl in pain and swears he’ll love her more than whoever is making her sad. A genius marketing tool as far as this adult music business individual is concerned. The 12-year-old-girl listened and believed.
She knew that those boys weren’t singing those songs to her…but she also knew it meant that somewhere, someday, someone would feel that way about her.
And somehow that was enough.
They also taught me to stand up for myself.
When I was in grade school, everyone listened to rap. I had no problem with it, but I just wasn’t digging Biggie Smalls the same way as I wanted to sing at the top of my lungs to BSB. So when we were assigned to cover our notebook with photos of things that inspired us, I included them. Kids laughed.
“The Backstreet Boys?!”
“Weren’t they here over the summer in concert? What did you go to their show too?”
I didn’t laugh it off or deny it as I might have before.
“They were – of course I did. We sat in the second row and it was AWESOME.”
Then, a popular girl, and I assume closet BSB fan…wide eyed…
“You sat in the SECOND ROW…?”
“Like I said. Totally awesome.”
I remember feeling so empowered by not backing down from who I was to appease people who thought they had a right to decide how I should feel about things.
Never mind that we sat in the second row of a section not exactly in front of the stage…
I made my point. My name is Mary. I have my own opinion and I don’t give a crap if you have a problem with that. Kids actually started treating me differently after that.
Theirs was the first cd I bought when I bought my first cd player. In keeping with tradition, every time I have gotten an iPod or any kind of music player…theirs is the first music I load on or listen to on it. It’s a lucky charm of some sort of mine.
They continued to release albums coinciding with difficult times in my life – deaths in my family, bad breakups, strained relationships…and they’ve always reminded me to be myself and keep looking forward.
So I will never deny them as a musical influence or their impact on my life. As a singer/songwriter it’s “cooler” to claim all of the amazing folk music influences that I do truly love…but I’ll always be completely honest about what a big deal this boy band was and is for me.
I’ve seen them in concert every summer that they’ve toured (minus this recent tour with NKOTB due to my travel schedule) and I will continue to buy their albums and be grateful for the fact that they saved a very sad 12 year old girl.
I picked “As Long As You Love Me” simply because it is my favorite.
And Max Martin, who wrote this song…well he’s the man behind the boys. Genius song writing – his (very shortened) list of hits speaks for itself.
Songs co-written by Max Martin:
As Long As You Love Me
Quit Playin Games With My Heart
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
I Want it That Way
Larger Than Life
Shape of My Heart
Show Me Love
Tearin Up My Heart
I Want You Back
It’s Gonna Be Me
Baby One More Time
You Drive Me Crazy
Oops!…I Did it Again
It’s My Life
Love Is All We Need
Since U Been Gone
Behind These Hazel Eyes
Feels Like Tonight
I Kissed A Girl
Hot n Cold
Last Friday Night
The One That Got Away
You get the idea….