My heart breaks for the sudden passing of Aaron Carter, only 34 years old who was found dead in his bathtub by his housekeeper this past weekend.
Aaron Carter was a core part of my childhood, which makes this news feel very personal to me. Some of the most vivid childhood memories I have involve listening to his music. I remember listening to his first cassette tape with my sister in the playroom; I remember listening to him with my best friend and her older sister in their bedroom; I remember hearing his music play on the radio during car rides with my mom; I remember when his second album came out and I somehow convinced my mom to buy me his CD which was twice the price of cassette tapes; I remember all of the kids in my second grade class talking about him and his music; I remember watching him on Nickelodeon and Disney channel; I remember flipping through his album artwork and admiring those photos of him swimming with the dolphins; I remember being on a family vacation and waking up before everyone else to put on my headphones and listen to his CD; I remember going to see the Jimmy Neutron movie with my best friend and hearing him on the soundtrack.
It seems kind of silly feeling so connected to someone who never knew me, and having that illusion that I knew him so well. I actually did not really have many celebrity crushes as a young girl, I wasn’t one to hang posters on the wall of famous boys like most girls my age would. But Aaron Carter was my absolute favorite!
Aaron’s music brought so much joy to the world in the early 2000s. As a child star he had so much positivity and enthusiasm bursting out of him. I’m sure that behind the scenes he was completely overworked and taken advantage of for his money, thrusted into fame before he could legally consent to it. It tragic to think of how dark his life was, yet for a moment in time he was this super bubbly, silly, always-smiling boy who everyone was in love with.
Aaron Carter was the younger brother of Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. I always preferred him over the Backstreet Boys. Much of his music was a theme of having these big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of Nick. Oddly I felt like I could relate to him in that way, not that my older siblings were huge superstars, but that as a younger sibling you look up to your older siblings like idols and you feel a lot of pressure to meet the standards that they set in your parents’ eyes. I was also the youngest of most of my cousins on both my mom and dads side, so I could really relate to that feeling of trying to keep up with the big kids and wanting to prove yourself.
He seemed to fall off the face of the earth by the mid-2000s, and I believe that’s when his struggles truly began behind the scenes, with drugs and alcoholism. I found a recent interview of him explaining that his parents told them they were getting divorced just moments before he had to put on a happy face for an MTV show. Later, around 2012 was when his younger sister died of overdose, and in the following years he made claims that she abused him, and that his backup dancers abused him, all when he was just a child. In later years he had a very messy public feud with Nick. And up to his final moments on earth, he was receiving hateful messages from strangers online telling him to k*** himself every day. Hollywood and the industry, his parents and family, and online bullies were attacking him, as well as the dark entity of addiction, and he was fighting this battle that never gave him a fair chance.
I stopped keeping up with him at that point, but throughout the years, through my teen years up to recently, I would still occasionally play his songs. I knew he’d gotten deep into drugs and alcohol, but I never imagined just how deep. I know he had so many psychological demons. Knowing what has happened, I would’ve tried to show support… he was still making music… he was still actively online… he was still checking his messages from people, and so much of it was hate and disgust. I had that ability to reach out to him online and let him know how much happiness he brought to me as a kid. If he was reading all of these hate messages, he probably would’ve seen my support message.
I actually feel guilty as a mere stranger who used to be one of his biggest fans; I can’t imagine the guilt of those who he actually knew. I blame his parents, I blame the music industry, I blame the fame and money, I blame the disgusting losers who bullied him while hiding behind their phones/computers. How did so many other child stars make it out alive? How did kids like Justin Bieber who essentially copied his career somehow land on their feet? How did he pave the way for so many young singers and end up taking the brunt of it all? How did so many of us forget his enormously positive impact on the world until it was too late?
We can’t speak for the reason of his death. Even after an autopsy is released, no one can provide the truth. You can’t say if it was an accidental overdose or an intentional suicide; you can’t say if drugs or alcohol were to blame or if they were only secondary to why he died. And nobody can say that this was his fault when he was thrown into a world that he never had a say in, born into a family of addiction, of parents who pushed him into fame and then stole the money that he earned. I pray that his spirit has found peace.