Are boybands Back For Good?

The Wanted

The nineties and early noughties saw some of the most successful boybands ever: Take That, N*SYNC and Backstreet Boys all stormed the charts with their pop melodies, but soon the market died out and RnB based acts were central to popular music for the next ten years.

Recently, there’s been a slow yet sure resurgence of ‘proper’ pop music – headed mostly by female artists like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

However, it seems that over the past two years male groups are enjoying a surge in popularity not unlike the last wave of boybands in the last two decades. But that is where the similarities end.

Long gone are the choreographed, wholesome boys of the last decade; the new generation, according to The Wanted’s Jay McGuiness, “don’t dance”. On top of that, these guys aren’t the type to take home to your parents – One Direction’s Harry Styles was caught telling 2010’s X-Factor winner, Matt Cardle, “think of all the p*ssy you’re going to get!” and McGuiness bragged to tabloids about how many girls he’d slept over the duration off The Wanted’s US tour.

Tom Parker, also of The Wanted, is known for his bad language on social networking site Twitter and 1D’s Zayn Malik has been in the press recently for allegdly sleeping with a former stripper while dating Perrie Edwards of X-Factor girlband Little Mix.

Although the image and attitudes of the groups may have changed, fanbases are still as dedicated and, in some cases, as crazy as ever.

Mirroring the ‘fan-wars’ of the 90s between ‘NSYNC and Backstreet Boys fans, social media sees the ‘TW Fan-mily’ and ‘Directioners’ go head to head on a daily basis, arguing over which of the bands is better musically, who’s better looking and even which bands’ video blogs are funnier.


One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful
Whichever groups you think is the best, there’s no denying that both bands are the front-runners in the new age of boybands. Both The Wanted and One Direction have enjoyed masses of success in the UK and are currently ‘cracking’ America.

The Wanted’s debut US single ‘Glad You Came’ became the first number one single by a boyband in America since Hanson’s ‘mmmbop’ in 1997, and ‘Up All Night’, One Direction’s first album, debuted at #1 in the Billboard album charts after selling over 175,000 copies in its first week of release – a feat not even British icons like The Beatles or Led Zeppelin could achieve – proving that it’s not just this side of the Atlantic that are enjoying the boyband revival.

On their Australian and American tours, temporary One Direction stores were being set up in shopping malls to meet the demand of teenage girls looking for merchandise, because at their shows the queues are too long and demand outstretches supply by hundreds.

One Direction’s merch is extensive to say the least – along with the usual t-shirts, bags and posters, 1D offer wrapping paper, iPhone cases, stationary and even doll-versions of the band.

Backstreet Boys circa 2000

Following the success of these new British boybands, a number of up-and-coming acts have been formed in the USA including teenage quartet Mindless Behavior and Nickelodeon TV stars Big Time Rush.

2010 also saw the formation of super-group NKOTBSB, an amalgamation of huge 80s/90s groups New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys. In 2012, NKOTBSB enjoyed a sold-out tour of the US and a European tour that left many dates left without any tickets to sell.

While NKOTBSB are definitely conforming more to the 1990s concept of a boyband with, according to Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block, a “sh*tload of dancing” on their tour, they have also been mindful of the success of their younger counterparts. The matching outfits are long gone, as is the clean-cut image that for most of the two bands careers defined them (until Nick Carter’s battle with alcohol and drug addiction, but by then BSB was flying under the radar).

In a number of interviews since the formation of the self-defined super-group, the band have been swearing profusely and talking of the hook-ups the unmarried members of the band have been having.

Of course, younger bands have also taken inspiration from their predecessors. One Direction’s debut single ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ is the perfect boyband song – aimed at young girls, the lyrics tell an insecure girl that she’s the most beautiful the singer has ever seen. What teenage girl wouldn’t want Harry Styles telling them that “the way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed”?

The Wanted, however, are far more risqué with their lyrics. The double-entendre of ‘Glad You Came’ isn’t hard to miss and subjects such as one night stands and getting drunk are found in a number of songs spanning the band’s two albums. It seems The Wanted is keen to break the mould and pioneer a new genre of ‘grown-up’ boybands.

Considering all of this, it’s certain that boybands are on the rise again – whether you prefer the old-school clean-cut image of Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC or the new generation of boys with a wild-streak, there’s something for all fans of catchy pop music out there.

Rebekah Ruddock

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