Here We Stand – Chapter Five

The Announcement – Howie

Part of me was wondering if we were ready.

It’s been a little over a year since Kevin first came to Brian saying he wanted to come back. But were we ready? Sure we were practicing vocals, having meetings to settle things out with Kevin’s return. All of that was done now. But we hadn’t tried recording anything yet, writing music, deciding anything about the next album. That was usually where our biggest blow outs came from. And even without that, we had Brian and Kevin fighting. Thank god they worked that out. Now I was singing with Brian on many of his solos to back him up and cover up some of the shakiness. Once the tour was over he agreed to see a vocal coach. Until then, I helped him out. It was a lot harder to spot with two voices.

I guess my other concern was becoming invisible within the group again.

Not with the others. Believe it or not I was never ignored by the group. By management? Sure. The label? Definitely. But AJ, Kevin, Nick, and Brian – they always did their best to show they appreciated me. I was always the one fighting to make sure we didn’t get screwed again. It was a hard lesson to learn from Lou, but we learned it so I did a lot of reading and researching into the business to keep us safe. I made mistakes, but while Kevin protected them individually, I protected us all together. I guess it comes with being the two oldest in the group.

After Kevin left, I wasn’t up for the idea of being New Kevin. I think we needed a break from how anal and nagging he could be with our lives. We loved him, but only he could do that really. So each of us took on his duties and ignored those two. The biggest change came with the vocals. It was always Nick, Brian, and AJ in front while Kevin and I were shoved into the back. He’d never admit it, but I think that was part of why he left too. You can only take so much. I used to be frustrated with it, but at the same time I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I didn’t want to go solo, at least not then.

Without him though, they couldn’t have me back there anymore. You can’t have three leads and a backup. It just doesn’t work. So suddenly on the new songs, I was given solos. Which was good because it took some pressure off Brian, this was when his voice was just beginning to show some strain. I was given Kevin’s old solos, the two that existed on our old singles. It made no sense in a way since my voice doesn’t go that low. But I knew they were afraid of me leaving too. If not them, then management and the label were.

It was nice. I got appreciation from the fans too. Finally they know I do more than just wink!

Today was the day we were announcing it and part of me was wondering why Kevin wasn’t going to come on stage with us when we did it. I think I’m the only one who was thinking that though. He came here to London with us. We didn’t tell the fans, but it was so we could start scouting out places to stay for when we came back to do some recording in July. The idea was to hole up, just the five of us like we did in the Bahamas for Black and Blue. God, that was over ten years ago now. That’s insane.

We hadn’t found one to rent that we all agreed on yet, but we did find a studio.

Oh, and producers to work with. Ha! We’re not just has-beens people want to avoid.

Kevin flew back today. Maybe he didn’t want to be around NKOTB. I think his last surprise appearance about killed him. He made it very clear that he wasn’t getting involved with them. He’s never liked them, never will. He and Danny ran into each other once after a concert in Boston during the Never Gone tour, after Kevin talked about them, well unkindly in an interview. They almost had it out right then and there.

That, and I think he’d kill Jordan the moment he opened his mouth to sing. I’d never tell the guy, he really is nice, but he has some serious pitch issues! It’s amazing my ear drums have survived this tour. And it makes me thankful that Lou, when he formed our group, made sure to advertise for a group that only “looked” like NKOTB but sounded like Boyz II Men. I don’t know how Joey handles it.

Yeah, New Kids are probably the reason.

They were performing now. AJ looked nervous as we waited beneath the stage. He kept running a hand through his hair. He did that a lot now, actually. Maybe it’s the whole novelty of actually having hair again. Yes ladies, he finally caved and got hair plugs. All those years of claiming he didn’t care that he had the hairline shape of a penis, and he ended up getting plugs.

It looked okay, mostly.

I walked over to him, pretending to examine his hair. He jerked around, staring at me.

“What?”

“They did a good job, but I think they missed a spot.”

His hands reached up and started patting the top of his head frantically. “What do you mean they missed a spot?!”

Sometimes AJ can be such a girl.

“It’s just a little patchy that’s all.”

“Patchy!? Patchy?!” He ran over to where Brian was standing. AJ was easier to pick on than normal these days. Ever since he found Rochelle was pregnant, actually. Part of me was thrilled for him. The other part was frightened that someday there’d be a mini-AJ roaming the world.

I could hear him asking Brian manically about his hair. Me? I just kept laughing. People think I don’t really have a sense of humor. They think I’m just the quiet one. Nah. I’m just slicker about it. I had to be. You really think back in the day I wanted Kevin on me? I saw what happened to AJ and Nick so I was smart about it. I glanced over at Nick, who was checking something on his phone. I headed over to him.

Nick kept to himself a lot lately. I couldn’t blame him. It’s been like that since February. No one saw Leslie’s death coming. What I was able to glean from Kevin (the only person he seemed to talk to about it) was that Nick was planning to go to the funeral until Jane called and blamed everything on him. So he didn’t go. He told the rest of us that he’d been busy on his mini solo tour, and that he didn’t want to inadvertently bring any media to it. We all knew it was a bunch of crap, but none of us called him on it.

He did what Nick always does when life gives him trouble – he dove into music. That’s what he did when we were trying to deal with AJ when he first went to rehab back in 2001. He wrote and he wrote and found people who wrote songs he liked. That’s why it didn’t take him long to churn out a solo album. It was the only way he knew how to deal with the rest of us fighting, what he thought would be the end of the group. That’s why I was the only one besides Kevin who supported him at the time.

He did it again during his taping of House of Carters; he was supposed to release a solo album back then too. Not sure why he changed his mind. Personally I’m just glad he decided never to do a reality TV show ever again. That was not one of his brighter ideas. I got where he was coming from though, unlike Brian. Still not sure why he had himself blurred out. It’s not like people didn’t realize it was him. Hmm.

So him diving into music again, writing for the group this time, instead of just for him… well it told me Nick was having problems coping. If he had moved on and accepted it the way he was claiming to, he wouldn’t be writing every moment he has any free time. He puts on a good act though. Fans would never guess. I had the years of knowledge that come from growing up with the booger. Yes, I said he’s a booger. You try growing with the kid when he’s constantly putting food on your face any time you’re asleep!

So many thoughts about this kid ran through my brain as I placed my hand on his shoulder.

I saw the little file opened on his phone. I was right – more lyrics.

“You okay Nick?”

“Yeah.” He gave me the smile. You know what one I mean. The one that could sucker any female within a fifty mile radius. “I’m alright.”

“Are you sure?”

I think that was when he realized I was talking about more than just that very moment. I could see the pain flash across his eyes. If anyone could understand, I could. Maybe not fully, Leslie’s death was sudden. My sister’s, well, we’d seen it coming. The pain is the same though, no matter what the circumstances. The most you can do is hope for it to fade as time goes on.

Nick would’ve talked to me right then. I know it. Unfortunately, I could hear the last of Jordan’s ear-splitting pitchy screeches end. Luckily I’ve learned to make sure I tune out their song “I’ve Been Loving You” during the North American leg. We were up. I could almost see the shutters go down on his face. His fan face came on in an instant. He grinned at me and nodded as he put the phone away. Up we went to perform the song that had long ago become our trademark.

“You are…my fire…”

I still wondered how we became known for the song that doesn’t even make a lick of sense!

You know how many times we’ve debated over what this song is about? It’s ridiculous. Nick actually had the nerve to go to Max Martin one day, during our recordings for This Is Us and ask him. He didn’t have an answer. So even the writer had no clue! Then again, we did record an alternate version. One that actually made sense and had meaning. And you know what? It wasn’t as catchy. Go figure.

It’s amazing how I could have these random thoughts while performing this song. But it’s automatic. We could all perform this song in our sleep and have no problems. It’s up there with “Quit Playing Games” in that respect. At the end of the song we ended up back at the top of what the fans of both us and NKOTB dubbed as the “Penis Stage” one night on twitter. It even trended. Now I think of it that way unconsciously. There’s something ironically funny about a tour with nine guys, a ton of screaming women, and a stage shaped like that.

This was it. Now we were going to tell the world what we’d been hiding.

Brian was talking about how long both groups had been around. Why does he count the years NKOTB had been split up? It made no sense. Oh well. Now Nick’s flirting a bit with the fans and talking up the other group. They really are good guys. I just sometimes didn’t like how we got compared to them, same as Kevin.

“I think we should let them in on the secret that we have.” ‘Nick teased, like we hadn’t been planning this all along. As soon as we learned this would be streamed online and in theaters, we knew this would be the best time to tell the fans. It couldn’t be more perfect if we tried.

“What, what is that secret…” Brian continued.

“Since we love you guys so much, especially London…that, we are gonna come back. We wanna let you know that we’re gonna be back in July to record the next Backstreet Boy album, this year!”

There’s nothing better than to hear fans screaming when you announce new music.

“Wait wait what…Cause there’s two parts to that secret though, you told the first part…should I tell them the second part?”

I grinned as Nick stared Brian down. Watching those two was too much sometimes. In some ways, they were still Frick and Frack. Not all ways, but some. In that those two are complete hams way. In that, I’m never going to understand way. And of course that why haven’t these two been committed way. Crazy, the both of them.

“Don’t do it Brian.”

“Go for it!” I chimed in, better to do that than laugh.

“Do it!” I could hear AJ add.

“NO!”

The fans were eating it up. I loved my job. We all did.

“Here?”

Brian beamed as he leaned back and announced it. “And Kevin is coming back!”

The screams that followed were deafening. The four of us took it in. I could feel the excitement rushing through us. Before now, we were just playing with the idea. There we room to back out if we felt it wasn’t going to work. Now, the fans knew. Now, we’d be dealing with press calls later that night. Jenn was arranging them so that word spread.

Now, I thought to myself as I stared out into the crowd. It really begins.

Next Chapter

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