Beyond the heady boy band craze
It would be interesting to see if local fans of boy bands A1 and Blue, including diehards of 98 Degrees’ Jeff Timmons, would turn out in full force when the three acts perform on February 25 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
We hope the artists could overcome the drawback of performing without a live band, although Timmons has wisely tapped popular Pinoy musician Jay Durias to back him up and be his musical director.
Meantime, the Inquirer talked via e-mail with six of the performers:
What was the craziest thing you did at the height of your popularity as a performer and recording artist?
A1’s Mark Read (MR): This is a tough question. We’ve been traveling all over the world from the UK to the Philippines, Australia to America, and pretty much everywhere in between, and all within the space of four to five years. So at times it seemed like we were caught in a whirlwind, an amazing roller-coaster ride. But some of the things that stand out for me were performing for 110,000 people at London’s Hyde Park two years in a row, and taking private jets and helicopters from one part of the country to another to make it on stage in time for another gig. Traveling to all 47 prefectures of Japan was pretty crazy, too. It had never been done before and was exhausting, but awesome.
Jeff Timmons (JT): Depends on how you define crazy. Let’s put it this way [so I don’t get] myself in trouble: It certainly wasn’t boring.
Blue’s Simon Webbe (SW): I have always fancied myself as a hip-hop star. One day, I spent too much money on some bling. Then I lost [it] and the boys all made fun of me.
Blue’s Duncan James (DJ): Meeting Stevie Wonder was a crazy moment. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming while we were shooting the video for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
Blue’s Lee Ryan (LR): I used to climb on the stage scaffolding during concerts.
Recall your happiest moments in the early years and what made them special.
MR: The first time we performed before a live audience; the first time we heard our single on the radio; the first time we performed what would be our first UK No. 1, “Take On Me,” in Glasgow. It was our most energetic dance routine and we worked really hard. The audience went crazy, so the hard work paid off.
JT: It was wonderful collaborating with legends like Stevie Wonder and Mariah Carey when we were almost at the top of our game. But it was equally fun during the hustle to get there.
SW: Having our first No. 1 record was the most amazing feeling; I still can’t put it into words.
DJ: Traveling with my three best friends and achieving success in other countries apart from our own.
LR: Winning our first Brit award was a seriously happy moment.
Blue’s Antony Costa (AC): Winning our first Brit award in 2002 as best newcomer. The label threw a big party.
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned in the business?
MR: Keeping my feet on the ground, appreciating everything, knowing that we’ve had an amazing career.
JT: Keep things real. Know who your real friends are, stay humble, and don’t believe the hype.
SW: The hardest thing is how to maintain your success.
DJ: You should never take anything for granted. Enjoy the experience and don’t take yourself too seriously. Nothing lasts forever.
AC: When the hard work pays off, it’s the greatest achievement. I would encourage anyone wanting to break into the industry to never to give up on their dreams.
What is the worst crisis you’ve had to deal with in your career, and how did you overcome it?
JT: The entertainment business, particularly music, is always treacherous. The toughest part was the boy band backlash at the tail end of the 98 Degrees run. I couldn’t get executives to listen to my music. I had to roll with the times, so I spent my time honing my craft in the studio, writing and producing for other artists.
SW: We were caught in a monsoon in Mumbai and all the locals must have known it was coming, but we had no idea. Luckily, we caught the last plane out, and then I heard about the awful floods in the Philippines.
There was also this gig last year and, for the first time in the 10 years of Blue, the backing music did not come on and we were singing in a well-known club. But we kept our cool and sang a capella.
DJ: When Lee had his go-kart accident and we were forced to cancel our Asian tour.
LR: I once got nodules in my throat and was unable to sing for six weeks which, for me, was like torture.
Who are your musical influences and what did you admire about them?
MR: The Beatles, Chicago, Supertramp, ELO, Elvis Presley, Elton John. Their music is timeless and will keep entertaining new generations. That’s my biggest ambition—to write and perform a song that will be heard for years and years to come.
JT: Michael Jackson, because he was an amazing entertainer. Prince, because he is a musical genius. Boyz II Men, because they are a harmonic blessing to the ears. I also love classic rock bands — The Eagles, Boston, Journey, Foreigner, etc. They sure could mesh vocally, and deliver an incredibly soulful message.
SW: For hip-hop it’s Methodman from the Wu Tang Clan. I love his voice and his poetic skills. Bill Withers is an inspiration; he gave me visual images with his words.
DJ: Elton John. He had Top 10 hits from before I was born that are still popular to this day.
LR: Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Elton John, Brian McKnight, The Supremes, Lionel Ritchie and Marvin Gaye.
AC: George Michael. And of course, Sir Elton John and Stevie Wonder—both of whom we have collaborated with.
Is there anything more significant about this concert?
MR: It’s more special and important to us this time, because not only are we performing our first concert in a decade, but we’re also proud and honored to be ambassadors for the Young Life Village Project on Olango Island (in Cebu). We’re helping raise funds for the children who will be living in that village.
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