You could make the case that the dream of the ‘90s is still alive for Patrick Sullivan, but not in a “Portlandia” way. It’s more that he just likes ‘90s stuff. The 27-year-old Brooklyn-based graphic designer still bumps “C’est la Vie” by B*Witched and believes that Britney Spears is “carrying the torch” of the era (we agree).
While researching “That’s So ‘90s Pop!” the adult “fill-in activity book” that he wrote and illustrated—essentially a coloring book, plus obscure facts, quizzes and wacky games, like a Kris Kross Kris crossword and Eminem fill-in-the-blank haiku—Sullivan took a deep dive into Reddit and online message boards, including one exclusively dedicated to Mandy Moore’s early career as a national anthem singer in Orlando, Florida.
What results is a both tongue-in-cheek and sincere ode to the pop stars of the era, which the Long Island native refers to as “a kind of funhouse mirror of Seventeen Magazine quizzes.” It even comes with a Carson Daly cut-out mask, “so you can host your own countdown. (Nail polish not included.)”
While millennials may have reached peak ‘90s nostalgia, Sullivan’s homage (thankfully) bypasses the kind of cloying sentimentality we usually associate with BuzzFeed posts and those events that just don’t need to exist — lookin’ at you,‘90s Fest — and instead plays up what’s fun or oddball from the time. On one page, you’ll learn that Nelson Mandela once referred to The Spice Girls as his heroes; on the next, you’ll look for the meaning of irony in an Alanis Morissette word search.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t get throwback with us over the phone, when we discussed important ’90s topics like how Brian from “The Backstreet Boys” is underrated, and why one-hit wonder Irish girl group B*Witched is his cult favorite.
Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. Your book is called a “fill-in activity book.” How does that make it different?
As an artist myself I wanted to take the drawing really seriously, but also to have all this funny information as well and a little bit more to do. I wanted it to be, if you were going to get it as a gift for someone, it [would] be a big package that had a lot to offer. When I was a kid, we would go to the beach and bring magazines about these people and take the quizzes, and I would draw on the pictures. I wanted it to have that vibe.
Who’s your favorite ‘90s pop star?
There are the ones that shine bright and sort of live and die in the moment, and some that carry on forever. Britney’s still carrying the torch, and we all sort of owe her the debt of carrying it with her. I think B*Witched is my favorite group that’s sort of forgettable but completely memorable at the same time. They just have that one song “C’est la Vie” — it’s funny to have a French title for your internationally famous Irish band — [and] it was on the Disney channel original film “Smart House.” I used to play it all the time and it still might be my number one party song.
Who didn’t make the cut in this book?
Ahh, there’s only 62 pages, so there’s only so much you can do! The one I was the saddest about — I just ran out of time — I was going to do aMonica and Brandypage where they were squaring off Mortal Kombat style to “The Boy is Mine.”
Favorite ‘90s movie?
“Clueless” is big. “Cruel Intentions,” “Heathers,” and weirdly, “Silence of the Lambs.” And “Contact” — big movie for me. The best.
How about your favorite ‘90s boy band member?
Ooh, JC Chasez [from *NSYNC], but that’s currently, just because I feel like we’d get along. But when I was growing up, I remember feeling very alone in my love for Brian [Littrell] from the Backstreet Boys. No one cared [about him] and I thought he was way cuter than Justin Timberlake. I thought he looked a little like Barney Rubble, but in a good way.
OK, last question: Do you think Britney’s going to make a comeback?
I think this last album was amazing, and I think she’s trying her best, and I think we should all be there for her.