The Backstreet Boys are the best selling boy band of all time.
You thought that boy bands were dead and gone
But just like cancer and AIDS we're still going strong
Ten million tween girls and old perverts can't be wrong!
A very specific kind of five-man vocal group
. Typically, you're in a Boy Band
if you began recording while still in your teens; if you and your bandmates are all extremely pretty
; if few, if any of you, play instruments; if your boss is a large and often intimidating man; if you can't get any respect
from the Serious Music Critics; if you have a hard time crossing over to an adult audience
; and especially
if the girls can't get enough of you. Can generate a Periphery Hatedom
when a boy band is popular enough.
You definitely were in a Boy Band if, years and years after the fact, your fandom looks back on your early albums as an embarrassing phase
, Guilty Pleasure
, So Bad, It's Good
, or (if it's old enough) Camp
. Songs from said groups often qualify as Silly Love Songs
and as earworms
, many of them trying to convey warm and fuzzy feelings (that sometimes goes too far
Some of the tropes and musical stylings typical to Boy Bands started with The Monkees
and several other groups of the era. Technically
they could be considered boybands as well, but when most people hear "Boy Band" they tend to think of the late-80's - late-90's bands listed below. For fans of 60s pop groups such as the Jackson 5
and The Beatles
, mentioning that said groups presaged boy band marketing in terms of having a spinoff TV show, talking with teen magazines, having popular lunchboxes/T-shirts/stationary/etc
, and the like sometimes triggers a Berserk Button
reaction. The term "boyband" is generally reserved for groups which are assembled by a record company or other entity, whereas most bands form organically (although there are exceptions, in both directions).
At least one wag
has suggested that the real original Boy Band
was Alvin and the Chipmunks
, both for the popularity among pre-teens and the squeaky music sound of both the real and cartoon bands.
Most Boy Bands follow a particular Five-Man Band
archetype, established by New Edition and New Kids on the Block
, that differs from the traditional one used on this wiki. Whether or not they can actually sing matters little— that's what Auto-Tune
is for— and don't get us started on whether or not they can actually play instruments. It is as follows:
One Direction; currently the most popular boy band in the world.
- The Heartthrob / Sweet One: The unofficial Face of the Band, and the one who was put there to draw the Squee of millions of adoring teenage girls (at least, the most Squee). Most likely a former model. Is most likely to appear shirtless on the posters and in photo shoots. He is also the one most likely to have a successful solo career once the group disbands. If the band gets a movie, count on him to be the protagonist.
- The Bad Boy / Rebel: The one with a rougher edge to him. He's the one wearing the black shirt and jeans or leather jacket in those videos where they're not all wearing matching clothes. If he's really edgy, he may also have a tattoo. Put in to cater to those girls who want bad boys.
- The Cute One: A second heartthrob. Less sexually threatening than the Sweet One, and often meant as a foil to the Bad Boy.
- The Older Brother: A cool, reassuring figure that the girls can relate to.
- The Shy One: Nerdier than the rest of the band. He's cast because Nerds Are Sexy. May come off as wondering what the hell he's doing in the band in the first place.
In the examples below, you'll notice very few black R&B groups are included such as Jodeci or Blackstreetnote
, despite having similar appeal. This is because they generally don't fit the mold of a boy band: they're more likely to form among themselves, less likely to follow the Five Man Band archetype as explained above, and are more likely to have rougher edges (Parental Advisory stickers are not unheard of), making them slightly
more appealing to males.
Although they are not very famous outside Asia, Japan has been creating boy bands since The Seventies
. The most notable boy band factory is Johnny's Jimusho
, which currently manages about fifteen
boy bands. Today Johnny's bands dominate the charts, with SMAP and Arashi
topping pretty much constantly. Dramas that famous boyband members star in pretty much always do well, and you will see members of popular boybands on TV variety shows quite a lot. The boyband machine is so well-oiled in Japan that many of the tropes applied in the West don't function - boybands have large adult followings (usually middle-aged women) and men seem to be able to handle it, if not love it - you WILL sing A-RA-SHI many times in karaoke in mixed company, just because everybody knows it
Lately, Korea has been getting on the action too with bands like DBSK
, 2PM, SHINee
, B 2 ST
, U-KISS, Super Junior
, etc. This goes hand in and with the general k-pop explosion of the late 00s
and the past few years
. They're significantly more popular in the Western world than the Japanese boy bands, but are still nobodies relative to the Anglophone groups.
The boy band scenes are noticeably different in the US and the UK:
- In Britain, the boy band scene is much larger and it's relatively easy to get a hit. Regardless of how popular the biggest boy band at a given time was, most groups had no problem hitting the charts. Likewise, the most popular groups were able to remain successful well into their adulthood.
- In America, boy bands are not as ubiquitous and have a much shorter lifespan, usually falling into oblivion once their fans grow older. More notably, the most popular boy bands usually monopolized the market and their competition struggled very badly in their shadows. This was especially prevalent in the 2010s, when the "phenomenon" group turned out to be a British export whereas all the American groups were misfires.
Boy bands are a major source of Real Person Fic
(a subgenre called bandslash), where you basically have one of two types: Female OC woos band member, or the band members woo each other. In Japan the majority of RPF Doujinshi
Most boy bands tend to last around five years before members are released from their contracts (or they simply expire) because something else has come along. Depending on the success of their subsequent individual projects, many re-form
15-30 years after their heyday to cash in on their now-nostalgic original fandom - this phase can last decades. Expect at least one Replacement Goldfish
for a member who's become a successful solo artist/died young/has a non-entertainment career they don't want to walk away from for the time necessary to record an album and go on tour.
The Girl Group
is the Distaff Counterpart
. Oddly enough, girl groups notably preceded boy bands by years, examples being the wildly successful 60s artists The Crystals
(of "He's a Rebel" and "Then He Kissed Me") and The Shangri-Las
(of "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)").
Some Boy Bands of Note (in rough chronological order)
- The Monkees: The Ur Example. Better than they had to be, but still the result of a calculated marketing effort aimed squarely at Beatles fans' younger siblings. They do get credit for rebelling against their puppetmasters and achieving a degree of creative autonomy typically not seen in the boy bands of today. Unlike many later boy bands, the Monkees actually often did their own songwriting (with tunes such as "Mary, Mary", "For Pete's Sake", and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere") and have received generally positive critical reviews for many of their works.
- New Edition: Remembered mostly nowadays for being Bobby Brown's old band, but they established the typical R&B-lite musical style used by boy bands ever since. They were all teenagers, all cute and wholesome (despite being from gritty Roxbury, MA), and had the all-important Large Intimidating Boss.
- Menudo: Best known nowadays to non-Latin people as "Ricky Martin's Old Band" (it was much more popular in Latin America and it was the Trope Maker / Trope Codifier there). Notable because they combined this with a rotating cast; when you turned sixteennote , grew facial hair, or underwent a voice change, you were fired. It's also noticeable for continuing as two separate groups: MDO, a direct successor that was created in 1997 and split-up in 2008, and El Reencuentro which involves some of the original founding members along with some ex-members of the band touring the world singing their old material which began in 1998 and continues to this day.
- New Kids on the Block: Enormously successful in the late 80s and early 90s, they're the group most people will think of when asked "Who was the first boy band?" They became bigger than New Edition by appealing to a wider audience, while New Edition mostly attracted the African-American demographic.
- It should be noted that New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys got along real well together for years and, due to that goodwill, eventually even combined into the supergroup NKOTBSB.
- Hikaru Genji was the biggest boyband managed by Johnny's from the mid eighties to mid nineties, and still have a bit of a retro fandom inside Japan.
- Take That: Not the trope, but Robbie Williams' old band. Massive in the UK for most of the nineties, they split in 1996 but have since reformed as a "man band" with a demographic of "their existing fans, now older". They are the most successful British boy band of all time, although they will likely relinquish that title very soon.
- East 17 were marketed as "The Rolling Stones to Take That's The Beatles", with a tougher sound influenced by hip-hop. However, they were outlasted by Take That and are best known today for their biggest hit (and first ballad) "Stay Another Day".
- Boyz II Men: Took NKOTB's place in the early-to-mid 90's, but had a more traditional R&B sound, and were more of an adult band than a teen act. Directly influenced many of the bands listed below.
- Color Me Badd: Similar to the aforementioned Take That/East 17 example, this group was more or less the "edgier" alternative to Boyz II Men. While they were less successful, they performed a similar-sounding New Jack Swing style and incorporating some rapped interludes.
- The Backstreet Boys: Notable for being the first of the 90's Boy Bands to throw off previously mentioned large, intimidating boss.
- *NSYNC: Originally derided for riding the coattails of the Backstreet Boys, they nonetheless proved themselves immensely popular. Their albums No Strings Attached and Celebrity hold the 1-2 spots for highest first week album sales in the US. Where Justin Timberlake got his start, if you don't count The Mickey Mouse Club. Ironically, his solo career has been more popular and critically loved than anything BSB or *NSYNC ever did.
- They were also famous for their self-deprecating sense of humor and self-awareness regarding their public image. They embraced parodies, be it of themselves or boy bands and teen idols in general. As noted multiple times below, they even inspired and participated in some parodies and Lance even invented a parody of his own.
- Boyzone: Irish boy band who took over from Take That after their split and were hugely successful in the UK. Stephen Gately of the group was the first member of a really successful boy band to come out as gay, but sadly died at 33.
- Westlife: Irish group founded by the same manager as Boyzone, Louis Walsh. Also co-managed by Simon Cowell. Took over from Boyzone as top UK boy band as they started to decline. Credited by non-fans with helping to end the 1990s UK boy band boom by being so sentimental and lacking in musical or lyrical edge or sexuality that they seemed to be designed more for the over-sixty demographic than the under-sixteen.
- 5ive: Another late 90s boy band, but British. Known for being slightly edgier than a standard boy band with funk, rap and rock influences in their music. They were considered the most successful British boy band in the United States until 2012.
- 98 Degrees: Notable for having four members rather than the more typical five, for being Nick Lachey's old band, and for being discovered by their label instead of assembled by it. They originally had a pure R&B sound before Executive Meddling re-purposed them as a boy band.
- SMAP is the Japanese boyband that pretty much owns Japan. There was a time when Kimura Takuya, the lead singer, was said to be wanted by every woman in Japan. Just don't call them over the hill now.
- Plus One was Christian music's answer to the trend. Due to the perceived need for "wholesome alternatives" to the then-insanely popular Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, the group had amassed a large number of fans before their debut album was even released. They had the expected five-man configuration for two albums, then two members departed and the remaining three attempted to re-brand themselves as more of a pop/rock band who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments, which only lasted for one more album before they disbanded.
- Blue: early 2000s British boy band with stronger than usual R&B influences and a multi-racial line-up. Particularly notorious for member Lee Ryan's initial reaction to a journalist when asked about 9/11 ("Who gives a fuck about New York when elephants are being killed?").
- This was tried a few times even in Country Music:
- South 65 made it to two albums but never had a hit. Lance Leslie later joined the Red Dirt band Rio Grand, but soon left it.
- Marshall Dyllon broke up after one album, although Jessie Littleton later recorded two solo pop albums as Gran Bel Fisher.
- Rascal Flatts was more successful in the "country boy band" motif: their debut album had them singing light, breezy up-tempos that were obviously influenced by the boy band sound. From the second album onward, two of the members began playing instruments (lead singer Gary LeVox doesn't play anything) and abandoning their boy band influences for more mainstream country-pop.
- Busted were a British trio from the early 2000s that tried to fit in with the pop-punk fad of the time by playing (or "playing") instruments on stage and having the odd noisy guitar riff, but were still essentially a boy band. Their leading member Charlie Simpson later formed an actual hardcore punk band, Fightstar, and doesn't like being asked about Busted.
- McFly (named after the character from Back to the Future), an early 2000 band, largely fitted the mold. They were considered a "brother"-group to Busted that also played instruments on stage and were inspired by pop rock/power pop music. That the band members played their own instruments, did their own songwriting, and mentioned having contemporary rock n roll influences has brought many fans to strongly insist that they're not quite a 'boy band' (many fans just don't care either way).
- LFO - A Power Trio, though they weren't even half as popular as 98 Degrees. However, they did get the all-important Joey McIntyre Elder Boy Band Statesman Seal of Approval; he had them as openers for some of his solo shows. (LFO supposedly stands for "Lyte Funky Ones".) They are mostly well-known today because their biggest hit "Summer Girls" has some of the most random lyrics in music history.
- BBMak was a British Power Trio that broke a few of the Boy Band rules: Besides the aforementioned three members every single one was a classically trained musician, none of them danced, and besides playing all of their own music (and writing a good deal themselves) they often incorporated unlikely instruments such as Bagpipes, Recorders/Tin Whistles and even a Hurdy Gurdy.
- Dream Street was a very short-lived band that consisted of five ex-Broadway child stars who were young even by Boy Band standards (11-14 years old). For about a year they were hyped up on Nickelodeon as the "next big thing" in television infomercials that promoted their debut album Dream Street and their only hit "It Happens Everytime". Near the end of the completion of their second album (which was made to promote a Dream Street movie and consisted mostly of remixed songs from the first album) the boys parents took the band's managers to court, and the resulting trial ended with a judge breaking up the band for good. Dream Street's lead singer Jesse McCartney ended up becoming a teen idol in the mid-2000s, while the others either went back to Broadway or joined different, non-Boy Band bands.
- O-Town might be seen as the beginning of the end of the U.S. Boy Band craze. While they did have two hit songs to their name, they were put together on the reality show Making The Band, which shined a light on all the criticism of Boy Bands, especially the cry of being "generic." It was hard to argue that they were formulaic since you literally saw the group being put together by a group of record executives. (Hell, one of the members was an old friend of Lance from *NSYNC who had tried out on a whim and made the cut.)
- Dong Bang Shin Ki is a Korean boyband that was vastly popular in Asia. They're especially popular in Japan, and have recorded four albums in Japanese. They even did one of the openings for One Piece! Recently they split up over money and contract issues, though three of the members that split off from their parent company are still going strong.
- The World Apart◊.
- The 3 T◊ (Michael Jackson's nephews)
- Arashi is what Johhny's Entertainment came up with when they realized SMAP would one day grow old, and are generally positioned at number 2 on the charts after SMAP. They are everywhere in Japan and cannot be avoided.
- The Jonas Brothers: Notable for possibly having two TV shows soon (one's a reality show, another is a Disney Channel show). Notable also for making the fans of the above-listed Boy Bands feel very old. (Name a Jonas Brother. We'll wait.)
- Leave it to The Onion to take this one on.
- While it's pretty clear why some people would classify them as a boy band, they don't really fit the above criteria considering they are brothers (not formed by a label) and play several instruments, plus they are more like a boy-band-ish version of a typical pop rock band anyway.
- Celtic Thunder is essentially Public Television's answer to the Boy Band — too bad they're about a decade too late. Basically, they took five incredibly attractive Irish guys who could sing and range in age from about 15 to 40 in order to attract as many women as possible. Though not as well-known or well-merchandised as some of the examples above, they have a big international following.
- Rockapella was a college a capella group that was signed on to a PBS game show in order to cash in on the popularity of boy bands. The show was called Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?.
- Big Time Rush: Known as a current day version of the Monkees and Sony Music and Nickelodeon's answer to the Jonas Brothers (and later, to Allstar Weekend). They are often credited for reviving the boy band for The New Tens and for making One Direction possible, for better and for worse.
- SHINee is a Korean band that debuted in 2008, sliding into the R&B/pop genre. They've started something of a fashion trend with their style of tight pants, boots, and colourful jackets.
- Super Junior, from Korea, is known for having a grand total of fifteen members (it depends on whether you ask the purists or those who are willing to accept the Chinese sub-members). Since debuting in 2005, they have broken records and pioneered a unit system for K-pop groups, in which members of the band were put together in smaller sub-groups catering to different fanbases.
- Mindless Behavior is a boy band. Fairly different from most on the list, in that they are all black, sing R&B / Hip Hop, and there's only 4 of them. They started out opening for acts like Janet Jackson before releasing "Mrs. Right" in 2011.
- One Direction, the current sensation nowadays. One of many boy bands to have come out of England, they are the most globally successful, and the only one to have ever become popular in the United States. In fact, they're considered the most globally successful boy band of all time! They were 5 separate boys auditioning for The X Factor until Simon Cowell put them together in a band. Though they finished third, they became the show's most successful act by far, actually becoming a bigger brand name than "The X-Factor". They now have a very successful album that, when it debuted in the States, went straight to #1 (they were the first British band to ever have their first album debut at number 1 in the US; and later the first band of any nationality to have their first three albums accomplish the feat) and massive amounts of fangirls on both sides of The Pond. Their greatest accomplishment, however, was dethroning Justin Bieber as the hottest teen sensation on the planet. While they trail the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC in record sales, they're possibly bigger than they were in every other area.
Todd in the Shadows:
See? They're talking about you!
You have "things"! That's what they love about you: your "things." But a close second is your attributes
- British-Irish group The Wanted have been around for the few years; after initial success in their native UK, they're starting to enjoy Stateside success as well, thanks in part to their hit "Glad You Came" and new management in the form of Scooter Braun. Despite (or perhaps because of) marketing to a generally older audience, they were completely outperformed by One Direction, and their international popularity quickly plummeted.
- JLS, from England; like One Direction, they rose to popularity after their season of The X Factor. Much like 98 Degrees, though, they formed independently and initially auditioned for X Factor together. They never made any impact in the United States (or in Europe).
- Triple 8, described as "Britain's answer to *NSYNC" though they formed in 2003 when the Boy Band craze was fading away. They had two successful singles "Knockout" and "Give Me A Reason" before abruptly parting ways with the label and leaving their album unreleased. Member, Iain James, however, would become a major British songwriter who would write fantastic UK number 1 songs "Read All About It" by Professor Green featuring Emeli Sande and "Wings" by heroic Girl Group Little Mix, and... erm, Azerbijani Eurovision winner Running Scared by Ell and Nikki? Yes he wrote all those!
- D☆DATE, a Japanese Boy Band formed from members of the D-Boys acting troupe, is quite possibly the only place where you can find a Kamen Rider and an Ultraman singing with a Super Sentai villain. (And a couple of other guys.)
Boy Band Parodies
I didn't ask to be famous, but I'm not sad
You see, I've got everything that I always wished I'd had
I thank my manager and I thank the screaming girls
I thank my hairdresser for giving me such beautiful curls
And then, this:
Now I'm a New Kid on the Block
Well I'm twenty-three and they won't let me grow up
I went down to register for the draft
Well I got up to the counter, and the lady there just laughed
The end of the song is downright disturbing.
I'm a New Kid On The Block
And I may not be Johann Sebastian Bach
There's no need to be afraid of us
But it just might be your daughter on our bus