Screenshot: YouTube

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Backstreet Boys’ Millennium. It’s the album that rocketed the band to late-90s superstardom, and The Boys are now celebrating with rereleased music videos and Millennium Match, an app that recommends Backstreet Boys songs based on your Spotify listening history. I, however, would prefer to mark the occasion by celebrating an even more monumental and enduring cultural artifact: AJ McLean’s floor humping.

Yes, AJ is pop culturally remembered as the Backstreet Boy with the weird facial hair and ever-evolving dye job. But what I remember most is the humpage. He humped the air. He humped the floor. He humped while singing about humping.

AJ was always the one tasked with doing the sexy, bad boy signaling without being too sexy or too much of a bad boy. It was the facial hair, but also the tattoos (most notably, he had a“69" navel tattoo, which he swore was just his lucky number). It was also his nickname, Da Bone, which he had tattooed within a cross on his bicep. It was the way he’d run out onto the stage screaming, “COME OOONNN WE’RE ABOUT TO GET NAS-TAY!”

But lest any uncertainty about his boning nas-tay-ness lingered—and lest the symbolism play too subtly for his legions of horny-ass teen girl fans—there was the unambiguous vision of him having air-sex on-stage, leaving just enough room for where your body would go.

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Never mind that at this point he was a legal adult and I, like many of his fans, was only 14 years old. I imagine this is why the humping never lasted for more than a couple seconds. Just enough time to excite without becoming creepy. I rewound my VHS recording of said humpage until the image started to skip.

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I’m no Backstreet Boys historian, despite having been the webmaster of the fan site AJ Online circa ‘99, but I would venture that the stage humping first emerged when he began performing his solo “Lay Down Beside Me” in concert. The lyrics of this song include, “If you lay down/Lay down beside me/You can get all inside me/And I can get all inside you too.” When the opening bars played, whether we watched a live in-concert special or sat in the nosebleeds of a mega-stadium, we AJ fans knew it meant one freaking thing: HUMPING TIME.

Sure enough, the song would build until he snaked his body down to the stage—perhaps while lifting up his already see-through black mesh top to reveal his abs and the band of his Tommy Hilfiger boxers—whereupon he would commence a short little four-second burst of humpage.

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Now that I understand how sex works, I realize that his positioning was off. His hands didn’t go up by where your imagined head would be, but rather down by your hips, as though he was trying to make it as effortful a physical feat as humanly possible, like a stylized pushup turned crow pose (as nicely captured by this ancient Tripod fan site). Meanwhile, he would sing about how “if you lay down… you might wake up beside me, forever and ev-ahhhhhhhhhh.” You see, he was nas-tay but also love-lay, and I will never wake up beside him, but I will remember the girl boner I got from his stage humping forever and ev-ahhhhhhhhhh.