By Tanner Stransky
Updated September 09, 2010 at 03:39 PM EDT
Credit: BIll Davila/Retna Ltd

Image Credit: BIll Davila/Retna LtdIt’s easy to take shots at the members of boy bands—everything from the lyrics of their songs to their frosted tips seem rather hilarious. But right now, on the heels of the tragic news about the death of LFO lead singer Rich Cronin, put that all away for a minute. It seems appropriate to take a moment to appreciate what this young, gone-too-soon star contributed to pop culture. And even if you don’t believe it, he did contribute to the cultural nexus, especially when you put it in the context of someone like me, who came of age when Rich and his crew were spouting their radio hits.

For me, LFO takes me back to—as clichéd as it sounds—better, easier times. It’s that simple. “Summer Girls” hit during the summer (shocker!) I was a soon-to-be high school junior who was working as a cake decorator in a local bakery. My friends and I were ensconced in Abercrombie & Fitch already, so the line about Cronin liking girls (and maybe boys, I could hope?) who “wore Abercrombie & Fitch” was like a little shout out to everyone I knew. My girlfriends squealed with delight, gesturing to their A&F gear and Doc Marten boots, whenever the tune played. Rich and his pals were pros at dropping pop culture bombs into all their songs, as “Summer Girls” featured references to Alex P. Keaton, New Kids on the Block, and Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. Could you have made a teenager in 1999 swoon more? These were the things that defined our life.

To be honest, most of my friends didn’t even refer to the song as “Summer Girls”—they just called it simply “the Abercrombie & Fitch song.” In short, “Summer Girls,” to me, symbolizes a breezier, worry-free time in my life, where nothing mattered but whose pool you were going to for the afternoon. And it should be noted that whenever “Summer Girls” comes on my iPod mix, I do not hit skip. The song is still rather effervescent and fun, a tribute to what the pop world was like in the late ’90s. See what I mean by giving the video for “Summer Girls”—I mean, “the Abercrombie & Fitch song”—a try here:

I will, however, make the case that Rich and Co.’s “Girl on TV” is the superior single, despite what the charts (it only reached No. 10 in the U.S., versus No. 3 for “Summer Girls”) or your friends may tell you. It’s actually got a little story to it, with the lyric going, “I think I fell for the girl on TV.” Sweet, right? And Scooby Snacks (another pop culture bomb!) are referenced in the lyrics, too. Plus: Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was dating Rich at the time, plays into the music video:

Now tell me that song doesn’t put a little smile on your face? It’s all silly, sure, but it’s surely just silly fun, too. Which, we can thank Rich in large part for providing. To you, Rich—thanks for being a thread in the fabric of my (vulnerable, formative) teenage years. I will, for one, miss you.

Music Mixers, do you have similar sentiments about Rich Cronin now that he’s gone? Or LFO in general? And where do you fall on the “Summer Girls” versus “Girl on TV” debate—which is better?

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

The Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix

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