Running Up That Hill – Day 19

“I don’t know why I held it all inside
You must’ve thought I never even tried”

-Colin Raye ‘Little Rock’

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat while we waited for the meeting to begin. The chairs in the big boardroom at Jive weren’t as nice as you’d think they’d be. I mean sure, they looked nice, but the cushions were hard, and I always ended up with a sore ass by the time the meeting was over.

I must have been nervous, because my mind didn’t usually drift off like that.

Glancing over at Howie and Brian, I could tell they were nervous too. Howie was writing something down in the notebook he’d brought, and Brian was absentmindedly tapping a pen on the table. It probably would have annoyed me if today wasn’t the day we were going to decide the fate of our careers.

Some of our managers from The Firm were there as well, but they didn’t look half as nervous as the three of us did. To them, it was just a job. It wasn’t their entire life’s work at stake.

Did I mention I didn’t get much sleep the night before? That could be another reason for my grim outlook. That, and we were sitting in the Jive boardroom! Nothing good ever came out of a meeting in the Jive boardroom.

Eventually the suits started to file in. They were happy, chatting with each other, looking important. I had always sort of wondered what it would be like to have a job like that. To go all day from meeting to meeting, drinking lattes and wearing a suit and tie to work every day. Being able to leave the office at 5 and forget about my troubles until the next morning at 9.

The meetings and suits didn’t entirely sound appealing, but the evenings and weekends sure did. That would be nice.

“Good afternoon, everyone,” said Bob Powell, one of the marketing directors at Jive. It wasn’t unusual for him to head the meetings; he usually did as he was one of the people in charge of our account specifically. “And welcome to Kevin, Howie and Brian,” he continued, gesturing in our direction.

I nodded a little, but didn’t smile. I also took notice of the seat next to Brian. It remained empty – all the business people were a little further down the big table from us. It probably wasn’t intentional, but it still bothered me. The seat shouldn’t have been empty. it should have been taken by that blonde kid who lived in Tampa.

I still felt angry with him, but it was quickly being replaced with worry, and a little envy. Nick had always been a ‘do what I want’ kind of guy, especially when it came to authority. I’m not saying I have any sort of authority over him, but I did see myself as a big brother and even a father figure at times. I only wanted what was best for him, and though I wasn’t sure sitting in a stuffy boardroom was what he needed to help him go through whatever crisis he was having, I did think it would help the morale of the group. Even if our unified front plan hadn’t worked out, it would have been nice to have all of us there.

But Nick was never one for meetings. Sometimes, he was the very definition of a spoiled rock star. It was strange, because in the past couple of years he’d actually become more professional. He was never late to rehearsals, meetings or anything like that. He took performances seriously, even quick a capella ones for our fans.

The sudden regression in his behaviour was disconcerting for me. It was worse now than when he was a teenager. Back then he would just stay up late playing video games and sleep in the next morning. Occasionally he and AJ would sneak beer into the hotel room, thinking that the rest of us had no clue.

Of course, we did know about it. Howie and I just figured it wasn’t that big of a deal. Harmless teenage fun. After all, we’d both done the same type of thing when we were their age. What bad could come of it?

Yeah, still kicking myself for that one.

Bob started talking again, and I was brought back from my thoughts. I wished I’d been able to focus on what was being said. In my mind I had already clocked out of this meeting and was on to worrying about the more important one on Sunday.


“So, since we have Kevin, Brian and Howie with us today, let’s start with what they’re here to discuss.”

I listened intently as Bob started to talk. This was it, he was going to tell us about the plan for the greatest hits. It wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it was going to be. Probably because I’d been in the first meeting they’d mentioned it in.

“As I’m sure you all are aware of, we’ve decided to distribute a greatest hits compilation, probably sometime this fall. We’ve looked over the numbers and what we’re going to do is have a different track list for each country based on what were hits there. We’re also going to include a new song to promote the album, and there will be a video to go along with that. Further to this, we’ve decided to release a DVD containing all your music videos.”

It was nice to know just how much say we had in our careers. It probably wouldn’t have even mattered at this point even if we’d all written songs for the next album. It sounded like they had the entire thing planned out already.

“We haven’t entirely ironed out all the details on the single to release, but you probably won’t need to record anything new,” he continued. “There are still quite a few songs that were recorded for the last album that we can choose from.”

Again, nice to know how much say we had. “What about when we put an album out of new material?” I asked, and Brian and Kevin turned to look at me. “I mean, won’t it be a little strange to put out a greatest hits album and then put out another new CD afterwards?”

“A lot of artists have put out greatest hits compilations and continued to make new music afterwards. We see this as something to tide your fans over while they wait for something new.”

Translation, they were missing the money we’d brought in with releasing Millennium and Black and Blue so close together.

“It could be the first of a few greatest hits records,” Bob said looking at the three of us. “You never know what the future holds in this business, and the fact is you do have quite a few hit singles under your belt. This will be something that even a casual fan can pick up, even if they don’t own all of the other records.”

The business talk was usually interesting to me, but during that meeting I was just getting annoyed. I didn’t even see the point to this meeting other than Jive informing us of something they’d already decided. Which, in all honesty was usually how our meetings with them went. I probably should have been more prepared for this.

“Why don’t we name the album to reflect that?” I asked.

“Well, we were just going to go with ‘Backstreet Boys: Greatest Hits’ as an album name,” Bob said looking down at his notes. “We didn’t really see the need for anything more.”

I nodded. “Sure, but it’s just the greatest hits up to this point, right?”

“Yes,” Bob said stiffly, probably not liking the fact that I was trying to change their plans. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they probably had the album printed already!

“So why don’t we name it like, collection one, or something?”

“How about ‘Chapter One’?” Kevin suggested.

Chapter One, I liked that. It had a nice ring to it. Brian nodded. We all turned to look at Bob.

“I’m not sure, I mean, it does leave things open. But it also wouldn’t look great if there wasn’t a Chapter Two to follow it.”

“Why wouldn’t there be a Chapter Two?” I asked.

“You can’t guarantee you’ll have hits in the future, you all know how quickly this industry changes. I’m not saying I don’t want you to have success, but you can’t expect it.”

Kevin sighed, and I could tell he was also getting annoyed. I couldn’t blame him. “It’s chapter one of our careers. Of course we can’t know what’s going to happen in the future. But this isn’t going to be our last album, and we are still going to make new music. If we are going to agree to this, we don’t want our fans to have any indication that this is it for us. We want them to know that this is just the beginning of many albums from us.”

Kevin was right, and I don’t think I could have said it better myself. Our fans were constantly worried we were going to break up, there were always rumours circulation about that. Especially since the tour had been put on hold. The last thing they needed was another reason to think we might be finished.

Bob was quiet for a few minutes while he thought about what Kevin said. “All right,” he said finally. “We’ll name the album Chapter One.”

I couldn’t help but grin, even if it was a small victory.


I felt sick to my stomach.

I was pretty sure that I’d spent most of the night in my bathroom. In fact, I knew I did because that’s where I woke up that morning. I didn’t remember much of what I’d done the night before. All I knew was that I was pissed off at Kevin, and I’d gone out with Chris.

I looked at the clock on the wall. Fuck, I sucked.

I knew I was supposed to be at the Jive meeting. I’d been so angry at Kevin that I thought I’d really stick it to him and not show up. Instead of sticking it to him, I just felt like shit. What kind of a bandmate does that? Leaving everyone else to deal with the evil record company.

I’m not even exaggerating, Jive really is evil.

But anyway, I knew that Kevin was probably even more pissed off at me. Brian probably didn’t give a shit either way, and Howie probably thought I was going to show up until the last second.

But I didn’t, and I probably let all of them down. Even if there was nothing we could do to change Jive’s minds, I probably should have been there. At least then we could all go out after and complain about how stupid Jive was, and how they didn’t care about our opinions, and how it didn’t matter to them whether it was us or another group who sold millions of records.

I pretended not to care, but I did. I’d given up my entire childhood for the damn group and what was happening? A fucking greatest hits album that was going to be the end of my career. At twenty-one years old, my career was fucking over.

I wasn’t about to let it happen. Even if our group died out, there was no way I’d leave the business. I’d put out my own CD’s, I’d tour the world alone if I had to. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with Kevin and his parental bullshit. I’d be the one in charge of my own meetings, and my own greatest hits albums. I’d be my own manager and have my own record company!

Yeah, that’d be sweet.

It would also probably never happen. We were stuck with Jive for another four albums. I’d never get to go out and do my own thing because I was stuck as a Backstreet Boy forever. I wanted touring and being out on the road to be fun again. Lately it just sucked. I didn’t even know what it was going to be like when we finally picked up and went on the road again. Everything was probably going to be different. AJ was going to be back from rehab, and I probably wouldn’t even know who he was anymore. All I could picture when I thought of AJ was him sitting in a white room, looking scared and different.

I didn’t think I could face going to visit him in Arizona. I knew that made me a shitty friend. A shitty brother, even. I just couldn’t do it. I wanted things with AJ to just go back to normal. Normal even before he became an alcoholic. Before he did fucking cocaine. I knew it wasn’t going to go back to that, though. I wasn’t stupid.

My mind went weird places while I was laying on my bathroom floor, trying not to throw up.


Just like we always did after those types of meetings, we went out as a group for dinner to complain about the record company.

And just like we always did, we had no problem drinking a few beers while we did it. I figured that was going to change once AJ was back with us, but for now it didn’t matter.

“Our plan wouldn’t have even mattered,” Howie said as he looked down into his half empty bottle of beer. He was drinking some imported brand, as usual. Kevin and I just stuck with Coors Light. “They already had the whole thing planned out.”

“You’re surprised by this?” Kevin raised his eyebrow.

“Not really.”

The three of us just sat there in defeat. Jive was always screwing us over, but somehow this felt worse than usual. Maybe it was because they did it while we were only four fifths of a whole.

Well actually, three fifths of a whole apparently. I wish I could say I couldn’t believe that Nick hadn’t shown up, but I could. From what Kevin had told me, he was acting more and more like a brat every day. I didn’t even feel like I wanted to help him anymore. What could I do? If Kevin couldn’t help him, there was no way I could.

It was too bad, really. I used to call him my best friend. Now I hardly knew who he was.

“Maybe it’s a good thing,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “I mean, maybe we can take a little break after this instead of jumping right back into the studio.”

“I thought the idea was that we’d put out another album soon after the greatest hits so our fans don’t think we disappeared.” Howie didn’t look overly amused by my idea, but Kevin didn’t say anything.

I figured it was because Kevin sort of understood. We’d both got married nearly a year before, and hadn’t had very much time to spend with our wives. The time off would be good. We’d been going and going since we’d started out as a group. Maybe if we just took a couple months off after the tour, it would help to recharge our batteries.

“Not a long break, just a few months after the tour, after the greatest hits promo so we can rest and have some time to ourselves.”

“Do you really think Jive would go for that?” Howie asked, still looking unconvinced.

I shook my head. “I think they’ve already planned for that.”


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