A boy band, written in some countries boys band or boy's band, is a type of pop group featuring several young male singers. The members are generally expected to perform as dancers as well, often executing highly choreographed sequences to their own music. Although there are no distinct traits defining a boy band, one could label a band a "boy band" for following mainstream music trends, changing their appearances to adapt to new fashion trends, having elaborate dance moves, and performing elaborate shows. They can evolve out of church choral or Gospel music groups, but are often put together by talent managers or record producers who audition the groups for appearance, dancing, rapping skills, and singing ability. Boy bands often seem to be prefabricated.
Some do not play musical instruments, and the acts are essentially vocal harmony groups (though there are some exceptions, such as groups like A1). Due to this and their general commercial orientation towards a teenybopper, teens, or preteen audience, the term has negative connotations in music journalism. Boy bands are similar in concept to girl groups.
Top selling pop music boy bands
|1. Backstreet Boys
||4 - 5
||1993-present (15 Years)
|2. New Kids on the Block
|| 70 Million+
|| 1984–1994, 2008-present (11 Years)
|3. 'N Sync
|| 55 Million+
||1995 - 2002 (7 Years)
|| 40 Million+
||4 - 5
||1998-present (10 Years)
Top selling R&B music boy bands
|1. Jackson Five
||4 - 5
||1969 - 1990 (21 years)
|2. Boyz II Men
|| 85 million+
|| 3 - 5
|| 1990 - present (18 years)
|3. New Edition
|| 28 Million+
||1983 - present (25 years)
|| 25 million+
||1993 - present (15 years)
Best-selling Boy band albums
is usually credited with starting the trend, with his protégé New Kids on the Block
, though the term "boy band" did not exist until later in the 1990s. Starr's idea was to take the traditional template from the R&B genre (in this case his teenage band New Edition
) and apply it to a pop genre. This formula was in turn redefined by a number of European managers such as Nigel Martin-Smith and Louis Walsh
, until the UK pop marketplace was saturated with the genre.
TV Producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson got four members to perform catchy pop tunes while also acting in a television series. The Monkees are often considered as the original pioneers among boy bands. Formed in 1965 the group disbanded in 1970. Although the term is mostly associated with groups from the 1990s onwards, antecedents exist throughout the history of pop music. The Temptations, popular in the 1960s, and The Bee Gees, The Jackson 5, The Osmonds, and Earth, Wind and Fire, popular in the 1970s, have also been considered a form of boy band by some. Latino boy band Menudo was founded in 1977.
One of the most successful boy band managers is Lou Pearlman, who is responsible for extremely commercially successful acts such as the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. In the UK, producer Simon Cowell (noted in the U.S. for the American Idol/Pop Idol franchise) is also known for having managed boyband Westlife, which was created by Louis Walsh and promoted by a former boy band member Ronan Keating of Boyzone.
Since 2001, the dominance of traditional boy bands on pop charts began to fade to be replaced by what Gil Kaufman of MTV describes as "new boy bands" that are "more likely to resemble Good Charlotte, Hawthorne Heights, My Chemical Romance, Simple Plan or Dashboard Confessional". As of 2008, current boy bands imitate pop punk, 1960's garage rock, post punk revivalists or post hardcore/emo acts.
Current Boy Bands
, New Kids on the Block
, Backstreet Boys
, 98 Degrees
are some examples, which are still popular among teens and adults. Boy bands are beginning to peak again in the United States after a 5 year mainstream absence, such as the new R&B/Pop influenced boy bands like Menudo
, Lexington Bridge
, C Note
, Varsity Fanclub
. Boybands in Asia continue to do well in the mainstream market as popular groups such as Shinhwa
, Big Bang (group)
, Super Junior
continue to release chart-topping material in different countries of Asia.
Although most boy bands consist of R&B
influences, other music genres
, most notably power pop
, country music
and folk music
are also represented. South 65
and Marshall Dyllon
, for example, were both considered country music boy bands.
List of Boy bands
Current and Former
Boy bands tend to be heavily criticized by some in the musical press for appealing to young pubescent girls and for emphasizing marketing and packaging over quality of music. Such views are reflected in the humorous definition in the Chambers Dictionary
: "a pop group, targeting mainly the teenage market, composed of young males chosen because they look good and can dance and sometimes even sing."
In the 1990s, boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys and Lyte Funky Ones sometimes found the term "boy band" offensive and insisted on being called a "male vocal group".
Some critics compare boy band output to the "machine-generated" popular music found in George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, noting that much of their music (as well as the bands' composition) is extremely formulaic. Other critics point to boy bands (and related musical groups) as case studies in commercialism and postmodernism, with little cultural content. Such criticisms can become extremely scathing:
After scouring the country for five boys who could belt out tunes while doing the splits, (Lou Pearlman) assembled a clean-cut collection of effeminate white and Latino-looking boys, all pink cheeks and crew cuts with peroxided tips. Just like the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, there's the cute blond guy, one with curly hair, the dark one with big dimples, the guy with the funny facial hair and the less cute, but really sensitive, guy.
Pearlman herded them into a tiny apartment, forcing these guys in their late teens and early 20s to share bedrooms (hey, less opportunity for illicit sexual activity - at least with the opposite sex), and forbade them to stay out past midnight. He dressed them in coordinated red and silver "rave" outfits and spoon-fed them sugary-sweet lyrics like "Would I cross an ocean just to hold you ... Would I give up all I have to see you smile?" And then he set them loose on concert halls full of 12-year-old girls, who dutifully screamed their lungs out in a kind of mass orgasm fueled by all that scrubbed-clean testosterone.
Pop culture influence
Due to their pre-fab nature, boy bands are not only a frequent target of criticism, but also a frequent source of parody in popular culture, ranging from the television
(which created a parody
boy band with five personality types) to a week-long spoof in 1999, wherein talk show host Conan O'Brien
, inspired by Making the Band
, created his own boy band called Dudez-A-Plenti, after randomly selecting five singers, narrowed down from the population of the entire world. A series of sketches culminated in a performance of a song O'Brien apparently made up himself: "Baby, I Wish You Were My Baby".
Further examples of boy band parodies in pop culture include:
- The Norwegian movie Get Ready to be Boyzvoiced is a boyband mockumentary.
- In the South Park episode Something You Can Do with Your Finger, Cartman formed a boy band named Fingerbang.
- The 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats featured a fictional boy band named "Du Jour."
- In The Simpsons episode New Kids on the Blecch, Bart is recruited for a boy band that is secretly a vehicle for subliminal navy recruitment messages. The members of 'N Sync cameoed in the episode as themselves. Members of another Lou Pearlman-backed band, Natural, did provide most of the group's singing voices. (Marc Terenzi did Nelson while Michael 'J' Horn did Milhouse.)
- In the Justice League Unlimited universe, superhero The Question firmly believes (among his numerous conspiracy theories), that there is an ominous link between boy bands and global warming.
- On the Veggie Tales videos The Ballad of Little Joe and Moe and the Big Exit, Larry, Mr. Lunt, Jimmy, and Junior do a parody of a boy band video for the two Boyz in the Sink songs "Bellybutton" and "A Mess Down in Egypt."
- The Meaty Cheesy Boys were a fictional band created during an ad campaign for Jack in the Box restaurants.
- In the Boyz 'N Commotion episode of the Disney Channel series That's So Raven, Raven wants a boy band named the Boyz in Motion to perform in front of her friends. In another episode, Raven wants the Boyz in Motion to perform in an emergency plan video for Donna Cabonna. The Boyz in Motion are sometimes referred to as The Boyz.
- The Blink-182 music video for "All The Small Things" is a parody of boy bands and other pop stars, most prominently, the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" music video.
- The off-Broadway musical Altar Boyz is about a fictitious Christian boy band from Ohio.
- Eminem lyric from "The Real Slim Shady" states "I am sick of you little girl and boy groups, all you do is annoy me"
- In an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Ryan Stiles' hoedown stanza observes that boy bands aren't bands "unless [they] play an instrument."
- Australian film BoyTown is about a fictional boyband who had their golden age in the 1980s, and reform to sing songs about divorce and picking the kids up from school and to go on one last tour.
- New Zealand radio station The Edge created a cliché boyband, called Boyband in 2006. It consisted of Fat Boy, Gay Boy, Mummy's Boy, Bad Boy and Hot Boy. They achieved a small success in the country, with their cover of The Kinks' song "You Really Got Me" reaching number one on the New Zealand music charts for one week.
- In an episode of Kim Possible, the Oh Boyz appear.
- The Arrogant Worms made a parody song called "Boy Band" which includes lyrics such as "Cause we're singing in a boy band, the words are stupid and the music's bland".
- Totally Boyband was a reality TV show broadcast on MTV in the UK which featured several ex-boy band members attempts to reclaim success as part of a boy band super group named Upper Street.
- Howard Stern's band The Backside Boys has spoofed boy bands, (especially The Backstreet Boys) with the song parodies, "Backside's Back" and "The Gay Way".
- The 2007 novel In Stereo Where Available by Becky Anderson features a character named C.J. Anastasio, an aging former member of the fictional boy band "NYC Boyz." One scene features the character trying to seduce the protagonist by showing off his look-alike action figure and performing dance routines.
- The song "Why Did You Leave Me?" by The Potato Hermits parodies the archetypal boy band song by looking at a couple's break-up from the point of view of a male chauvinist pig. It also includes the obligatory modulation up a semitone on the final chorus, the only differences being that this one is prepared with a ii, V, I cadence; most aren't. "Why Did You Leave Me?" by the Potato Hermits
Success in the genre
Though some fans are wildly supportive of the music, the commercial success of specific boy bands does not tend to last long. As the fans (mostly teen girls) age and musical tastes evolve, they tend to outgrow such groups' appeal. If success is sustained, often one or more members of the band will leave and seek a solo career (particularly if they have some songwriting ability), often with some success, for instance: Michael Nesmith
, Jordan Knight
, Robbie Williams
, Justin Timberlake
, Jesse McCartney
, Ronan Keating
, Brian McFadden
, and Ricky Martin