Word broke earlier this week that O-Town – the One Direction of the aughts, except less cute and not nearly as famous – is plotting a reunion. (Okay, an almost-reunion; frontman Ashley Parker Angel, the group’s answer to Harry Styles/Clone High guest star extraordinaire, is apparently out of the band. So much for “all or nothing at all.”)
This is great news, primarily for one reason: It gives us all a chance to reexamine “Liquid Dreams,” which has to be the grossest thing to come out of the late ’90s/early ’00s boy band boom. (Besides Chris Kirkpatrick’s hair.)
As you may or may not recall, “Liquid Dreams” is, on its surface, a list song in which the boys of O-Town imagine a sexy Frankenstein’s Monster cobbled together from the parts – both literal and figurative – of several different O-Town-era celebrities. (“I dream about a girl who’s a mix of Destiny’s Child/Just a little touch of Madonna’s wild style/With Janet Jackson’s smile/Throw in a body like Jennifer’s…” Which Jennifer? Who cares! Everyone knows that Jennifers always have smokin’ bodies, like in that Diablo Cody movie, Juno.)
But why are the boys imagining this girl? Well, it’s because they need a “morpherotic” star for their “liquid dreams.” You know. The kind you learn about in your 7th grade health class.
I’ll pause here so you can recover the monocle that just popped off your right eyeball.
Of course, O-Town wasn’t the only boy band peddling surprisingly PG-13-rated songs. The bubblegum beats and angelic harmonies of millennial pop often came hand in hand (“hand in pants”?) with sexually explicit lyrics. Need more examples? Your wish is my command, my dominatrix supermodel beauty queens. (Note: I’m focusing only on the sort of bands who would have had Tiger Beat pullout posters during this time period, meaning classy smutmasters like Boyz II Men are unfortunately out of the running.)
7. “I Want It That Way” (The Backstreet Boys)
The eternal question: Which way?! It’s gotta be something filthy, right?
6. “It Happens Every Time” (Dream Street)
We could assume that the “it” in question is, like, stomach butterflies or clammy hands or something along those innocent lines. But given that the song’s being sung by a bunch of pubescent boys, somehow I think the real “it” is something… else.
5. “Faded” (Soul Decision)
Including this song might be sort of cheating, because the band released both a super-dirty version (“When I get you all alone/I’m gonna take off all your clothes”) and a slightly less dirty version (“When I get you all alone/I’m gonna move in nice and close”). Since both are still about getting drunk and grinding up on some girl before inviting her over for sexual intercourse, I’m not sure if the whole dual-release strategy really worked.
4. “Digital Get Down” (‘N Sync)
This is a jam about the joys of pre-Skype-era cybersex: “I love the things you do for me so late at night/So turn me on, yeah/It’s like I’m right there next to you, yeah.” So cutting-edge, those ‘N Sync boys!
3. “Get Down” (B4-4)
Are you familiar with the work of Ohad Einbinder and Ryan and Dan Kowarsky, the terrifying orange Muppets who inexplicably became three of Canada’s biggest pop stars in the early ’00s? (Because “three” comes “before four” – get it?) No? Either way, you should watch this insane music video for several reasons – but mostly to marvel at its enlightened call for sexual parity. (“If you get down on me, I’ll get down on you.” What gentlemen!)
2. “Too Close” (Next)
Do these dudes count as a boy band? Whatever; this is probably the only pop song in history sung from the perspective of a frustrated penis. So for the purposes of this list, I’m gonna say yes.
1. “I’ll Be Your Everything” (Youngstown)
“You can call me when you want me/If you need a friend you got me”: Nice! “We can do it automatic/I can freak you with my gadget”: Slightly less nice! (Fun fact: The song, which was written for the soundtrack of Disney’s Inspector Gadget movie, was so filthy that Youngstown had to record another, Mouse-approved version. Sample lyric change: ”We can do it automatic/I’ll just call out ‘Go Go Gadget.’” Okay, actually, that’s hilarious.)