Lamb Beatz, Vol. 1: How Aaron Carter ruined my childhood

aaron_carter

Our childhoods are a thing that we hold near and dear to our hearts, a crystalline bubble of memories that feels entirely removed from the people we are now, a different time and life almost. Remember when we were young and impressionable? And, apparently, when I had even worse taste in boys?

When I was seven, I thought I would marry Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. I mean, I had no clue what having a husband actually meant, but I assumed that would at least equate to us two being in the same room playing Pokemon or Crazy Bones together, forever. Nick is ten years older than me, though, and that would’ve been wrong on many levels. But when you’re that young, anything is possible.

My crush naturally extended to Nick’s younger brother Aaron Carter. When he came onto the scene in 1997, I was immediately in love. His golden-haired mushroom cut (the exact same one his brother donned) and adorable smile – not to mention he was only three years older than me, who was totally more age-appropriate – sold me on the Aaron Carter brand right away, whatever that was at the time. Pint-sized Nick Carter, that’s what he was. Whereas Nick was this unattainable super star who gets greeted by screaming hoards of girls who would undoubtedly trample me in any situation, Aaron was more like the boy next door who might even play tether ball with me at recess.

Aaron’s music was embarrassingly bad, like a one-man, er, one-boy Kidz Bop, but only in retrospect. Back then, I shamelessly loved every single one of his songs, from the chipmunk-sounding “Crush On You” to his biggest hit to date, “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)”. I had no excuse for enjoying the former, but let’s admit it; we all know the words to the latter. And you still love it.

As I grew older, I slowly deserted my bubblegum pop circle for what I will deem the “trying to figure out my taste in music by listening to Sum 41 and Ja Rule” phase. Being a teenager was a tough and dark time for me. There was a lot of angst, a lot of feelings and a lot of Murder Inc. Nick and Aaron no longer belonged in my world.

My crushes on them eventually fizzled out when I began developing real-life crushes. Why dream of dating Nick and Aaron when I can actually date Jake from homeroom? The Carter boys were no longer in my heart and also no longer in the public eye as they kind of fell off the face of the pop cultural planet.

Post-Aaron’s Party, Aaron made a number of small film and TV appearances and was a star on the reality show House of Carters featuring Nick and their siblings stomping around a Hollywood home and fighting over family problems and Paris Hilton. This was the beginning of the end for my childhood; it was right then and there in 2006 when my shiny innocent childhood bubble popped.

Childhood crushes belong in our childhoods. No one needs to see them nowadays for fear of seeing what I saw in Nick and Aaron on that show. Their aged faces didn’t turn out that well – they were photogenic once, I swear! – and their bro-like attitudes were flat-out sad. THIS is what I wanted to marry when I was seven?!

I avoided news of Nick and Aaron at all costs. House of Carters already shattered the dream, I can’t take any more. Looking back at my seven-year-old life, everything was glossy and perfect, with hearts drawn all over them like an issue of Tiger Beat. But now I’m finally realizing that those hearts were not real, they were put there by the teen bop cultural overlords who wanted me to fall in love with these human beings and buy their magazines. AND I BOUGHT INTO IT.

Nick has since pulled his shit together and Backstreet Boys continue to trek along, releasing albums and touring semi-successfully. Good on him! But Aaron on the other hand… Having released no new music since 2002, Aaron recently announced a tour called The Afterparty Tour (Get it? Aaron’s Party? Yeah, this is terribly upsetting.) and when I saw his Toronto date at Lee’s Palace (WTF?), my first thought was, “I NEED TO SEE THIS.” After months of jokingly threatening to buy tickets, though, I found myself standing inside the venue on Sunday night, waiting for him to take the stage. What the fuck?

Up until the hours leading up to the show, I refused to look up any information about his show for fear of what I knew would be how his show will pan out. Will he play new material? Does he have new material? Will he ditch his greatest hits and reinvent himself? Will he look like a drug addict, like many of his recent photos? Is this even Aaron Carter or just a band called Aaron Carter? So many questions.

What ensued was sheer humiliation and terror. Winking and grabbing girls (also a thing some of us might know as “eye-fucking” – he did plenty of that), while gyrating and doing backflips onstage to impress said ladies. And trust me, other than the boy beside me who was tearing up the entire time, majority of the crowd were women, roughly around my age all screaming and reaching their arms out to touch the singer. How embarrassing.

But wait. Even though I expected myself to show up jaded from the House of Carter years and ready to stand at the back laughing at the sadness of the scene, I found myself screaming and singing along too. At one point, even I reached out my hand in order to try and reconnect with Aaron, or maybe reconnect with my childhood, the one that he ruined. In the confines of Lee’s Palace, I found my inner seven-year-old again. I was alive.

Aaron, as expected, pulled out his pipsqueak era hits, opening with “I Want Candy” and even strolling out in a Shaq jersey for “How I Beat Shaq”. But, of course, to fill time, he also covered a medley of current chart-topping hits, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (something tells me he does stay up all night to get lucky; gross). The performance itself was definitely laughable, but I was nervously giggling instead. The time-machine effect of an Aaron Carter show is very real and, who knows, maybe Aaron Carter has perfected the art of magic or witchcraft and had us all under a spell the entire time.

As the show wrapped up and my friends and I found ourselves exhausted from screaming and jumping around, we spotted a sign at the merch table that read “Meet-and-greet: $50”. Oh god. Before I could even contemplate this, I charged out of the venue realizing that if I was to give in to this sad scheme that I would have officially gone overboard. Going to an Aaron Carter show is one thing, but paying an extra $50 for a meet-and-greet? I wouldn’t be able to look my friends in the eye ever again. But a group of girls did wait around after for this opportunity to hug their childhood idol and in turn, get groped and kissed as well. I searched the internet the day after and found a number of meet-and-greet photos that involved a generous kiss on the lips from the pop star. Guess he’s just trying to give you your money’s worth, really. (Side note: he is currently dating a girl whom he actually met at a meet-and-greet. What.) And even better, another search revealed that these shows and meet-and-greets have happened everywhere including small clubs, Mexican restaurants and even a Chipotle, which doesn’t even deserve to be called a Mexican restaurant.

And surely enough, the minute I stepped out of the venue, I snapped out of it. I unexpectedly found myself on the curb and feeling very sad and cold. When the embarrassment finally hit me, I called my boyfriend and laughed hysterically for an hour. “Are you okay?” he asked, semi-amused by my state, but also a little concerned. “I don’t know!” I yelled. “I…I just don’t know. I don’t know what happened, I feel weird and wrong and I don’t understand what he did to me.” “Did he take advantage of you?” I think he did and while 23-year-old me felt vulnerable and helpless, I’m glad seven-year-old me got to come out and enjoy the night.

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Posted on by Melody Lamb in Concerts

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