Backstreet's back and so are the Spice Girls: Why '90s acts are making a comeback

If you thought it was the End of the Road for your '90s playlists, feel free to Jump Around: Bands from that decade are making a comeback in a big way.

Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, NKOTB and Hanson among groups going on tour in 2019

Backstreet Boys are among the acts that got their start in the 1990s and are hitting the road again for major tours in 2019. (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

If you thought it was the End of the Road for your '90s playlists, feel free to Jump Around: Bands from that era are making a comeback in a big way.

Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, New Kids on the Block and Hanson are just some of the groups hitting the road for tours in 2019.

"I think every 20 years there's a resurgence of reflecting on where you've been," said Taylor Hanson, 35, of the brothers trio Hanson. "That feels like probably what it is right now."

While Hanson has continued to make music since breaking into the industry with the 1997 earworm MMMBop, other bands have taken a much longer hiatus. 

Backstreet Boys, the popular boy band known for catchy tunes such as I Want It That Way and Everybody (Backstreet's Back), has returned to the top of the pop charts after nearly a decade with the song Don't Go Breaking My Heart.

The group enjoyed a successful Las Vegas residency for two years and their latest single, Chances, was co-written by Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes. 

I would go anywhere for them.- Maggie Marks, a New Kids On The Block fan- Maggie Marks, a New Kids On The Block fan

"They're definitely bridging the gap between the older generation and then the new ones coming in," said Billboard magazine associate editor Bianca Gracie, whose beat focuses on 1990s and early 2000s pop culture.

What's driving the latest '90s nostalgia?

3 years ago
Duration 3:00
They may be grown up with kids of their own now, but '90s pop stars seem to be back on top. The Backstreet Boys have released new tracks, and are set to go on a big international tour. Not to be outdone, the Spice Girls are back together as well, and will also be hitting the road this year for a huge stadium circuit. So what's driving this '90s resurgence?

"They definitely matured with the times, but they still have that classic synth-pop element to them, which the fans, they really love."

Edmontonian Maggie Marks is among those devoted fans. She's a working mother of two with a busy schedule, but that hasn't stopped her from catching a previous Backstreet Boys reunion in 2011 or making plans to travel for her all-time favourite band, New Kids on the Block, later this year. The Step by Step singers are re-releasing their breakout album Hangin' Tough to celebrate 30 years since the album's original release and will kick off the aptly named Mixtape Tour in May.

Maggie Marks of Edmonton is a New Kids on the Block fan. She says when people form a bond with a particular band at a young age, it can last for decades. (Maggie Marks)

"Every second year, I wait for them to announce whether they're touring," said Marks, 41, who has travelled to Vancouver and Toronto to see the group in the past. Since the band won't be playing in Vancouver, Marks says she'll likely make a trip to the U.S. to catch a concert this time around.

"I would go anywhere for them."

The five band members, who range in age from 45 to 50 years old, are scheduled to tour alongside two other singers sure to spark nostalgia: Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. Both solo artists broke into the music scene in 1987 with the hits I Think We're Alone Now and Only In My Dreams, respectively.

Also along for NKOTB's tour will be quintessential '90s hip-hop artists Naughty By Nature and Salt-N-Pepa.

The Spice Girls are also contributing to the '90s revival, recently announcing a reunion tour, though it will be without Victoria Beckham, a.k.a Posh Spice. Nonetheless, the group known for smash hits like Wannabe and Say You'll Be There broke records for ticket sales in the U.K. and was forced to add additional tour dates.

"I think '90s music, especially '90s pop, it takes us back to a moment in time where we were more stress-free," said Billboard's Bianca Gracie.

"It has such a carefree, feel-good vibe that I feel right now is kind of missing. I feel pop music right now is a little bit more ... melancholic and sad, and I feel like listeners, like myself, we go back to the '90s to have that blissful feeling again."

Melanie Brown, left, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie Chisholm will reunite in 2019 for a Spice Girls reunion tour. (Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

Bell Biv DeVoe, En Vogue, Color Me Badd, Twisted singer Keith Sweat, Aqua of Barbie Girl fame and Canadian duo Prozzak, known for songs such as Sucks To Be You, are among other '90s acts that have embarked on tours recently.

Prozzak's James Bryan McCollum says the music industry has latched onto blasts from the past as a sure bet for ticket sales.

"Within the industry, people are definitely looking for ways to make money," he said. "And so, at this point, I'm just like, I will show up if people want to see a show."

Prozzak's James Bryan McCollum says tours by acts from the '90s are big money-makers for the music industry. (Eli Glasner/CBC)

But the renaissance isn't just lucrative for bands of the era. Contemporary artists — many of them barely old enough to remember the decade — are cashing in on the '90s and early 2000s nostalgia factor as well.

Bruno Mars paid homage to the '90s in the music video for his hit song Finesse. Halsey references Justin Timberlake's Cry Me A River in her breakup song Without Me. And Charli XCX and Troye Sivan recently released 1999, a nod to the past with references in the music video to artists such as Eminem and Britney Spears and films The Matrix and Titanic.

Meanwhile, Zac Hanson, 33, summed up what a lot of children from the '90s might be thinking.

"Man, watching all those people," he said with a laugh, referring to bands such as the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. "They're getting old and they're dancing. Wow!"

From left to right: Zac, Taylor and Isaac Hanson, who have been making music together for years, will embark on another tour in 2019. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Marks, for one, can't wait to see those dance moves on stage.

"Really good fans probably have blinders on anyway," she jokes. "Yes, you notice they've aged but you love them so much that you don't really see it.

"When you've formed a bond with a band at that [young] age, it's something you never let go of."

And these bands are counting on that.

With files from CBC's Eli Glasner and Alice Hopton


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