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Weekend: Boom! – Are We Poised For the Return of The Boy Band?

by Breakstone on March 23, 2012

The Weekend: Boom! segment is an opportunity to share a variety of thoughts and musings, and to provide some pumped up music (as compared to kicks) for the weekend.

As I’ve been taking in the hottest dance music from around the world, I have become attuned to a very real, very quickly-emerging trend. And I have to ask myself this very question: are we seeing the return of the boy band?

It seems like every generation of teenagers for the last 40 years has been able to enjoy some iteration of a boy band. Now, after a little more than a decade hiatus since the last peak in boy band craziness, it looks like we’re poised for this generation’s boy band surge.

It all started in Ogden, Utah in the late fifties when four good ol’ Mormon chaps began a barbershop quartet.  Coincidentally they were all brothers.  And even more surprising, they were all named Osmond.  A decade or so would come and go before the first ever popular boy band took off.  With the addition of younger brother Donny, the Osmonds, featured here singing one of their top-charting tracks, with their clean-cut image, took the country by storm.  Particularly notable is the constant din of screaming throughout the performance.

From Utah we travel to Gary, Indiana where the Jackson 5 burst on to the scene, and the 70s, like a hurricane.   With Michael leading the charge as quite literally, a boy, as the frontman to his four older brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon, the Jackson 5 hit Motown with 300 horsepower of sheer entertainment.  Much like the Osmonds, the Jackson 5’s youngest member was also the lead vocalist, and the one to reach solo fame post-boy band years.  Here’s Michael and the Jackson’s on the Ed Sullivan show.

The 80s saw the epicenter of the boy band world move from Gary, Indiana to Boston, Massachusetts where producer Maurice Starr discovered, on his talent show, the six-member boy band, New Edition. The Boston natives had a number of R&B/pop hits including “Candy Girl,” “Cool it Now,” “If It Isn’t Love,” and this gem of a video, “Popcorn Love.” Although at nowhere near the same level of Michael, New Edition spawned its own stars, most notably Bobby Brown, and the R&B group, Bell Biv Devoe. Who could forget BBD’s 1990 “Poison“? I might have participated in a dance to this track in a talent show. I’m not saying I did. I’m just saying I might have.

Maurice Starr’s second hit band-formation project was the still-touring (how?) New Kids on the Block.  For those of you old enough to remember the height of New Kids, you will surely remember the shrieks of every 13 year-old girl on the planet any time a New Kids track came on the radio.  This might have been the most popular shirt worn by girls to school back then.  Or this one.  Or this one.   

New Kids was a rage, a phenomenon.  Everything, especially in Boston, from whence the New Kids came, seemed to revolve around the New Kids.  “Hanging Tough” was the anthem for the entire tween and teenage world.  And then if you thought your head couldn’t explode anymore, New Kids brought it with “You Got It (the Right Stuff).”  As if to keep every throat surgeon in the world in business, the New Kids decided it was advisable to produce another monster jam that popped ear drums from here to Tokyo.  Enter “Step by Step” circa 1990.  Although still with a dedicated following to this day, New Kids started to fade from being at the forefront of the music world soon into the nineties. 

Mercifully, we were spared the boy band craze for a number of years.  It is very frustrating as a teenage boy trying to talk to a girl when all she is doing is screaming and pining for Joey or Jordan or Donnie.  All was well and good until one Louis Jay Perlman decided to inject himself into the public consciousness.  With hit bands like Backstreet Boys, ‘N Snyc, O Town, and some other cheesy band names, Perlman effectively moved the boy band world headquarters to Orlando.  Goodbye, Beantown; hello Mousetown.

Sidenote: Perlman is now in jail. Why am I not surprised?

Much has been written about the rise and rivalry of Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync.  There was this EW article designed to simulate a debate between two boy band partisans. AskMen wrote a stylized battle article between the two.  Even NBA basketball player Evan Turner chimed in on the debate.  I don’t have much to add, other than to say that the rise and height of these two bands occurred while I was in high school and mostly, while I was college, a place that is enough of a bubble to escape the boy band rapture.  It would be interesting to know which band Hot Six fans preferred?  ‘N Sync with “Bye, Bye, Bye,” “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” or this hilariously 90s video of “I Want You Back“? Or Backstreet’s “I Want it That Way,” “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” or their decidedly more upbeat, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”? Leave your preference in the comments section below.

All was quiet on the Western front for almost another decade.  Until now.  Boy bands seem to be mounting a comeback, and interestingly, the bend of the tracks are decidedly more EDM.  But, you’re not going to find the new wave of bands in Orlando.  No sir.  Hop on that Virgin Atlantic flight and trek across the pond where the UK is bubbling with boy bandemonium.  The Associated Press recently wrote about how UK bands such as One Direction, The Wanted, and Big Time Rush are beginning to creep into the mainstream consciousness.  American media is starting to catch on.  The Wanted were recently interviewed on Chelsea Lately.  Their track “Glad You Came” is getting airplay.  And my 13 year-old sister is going to their concert.  Houston, we have a problem. 

It looks like they’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.  And there’s no point in fighting it as this point.  Every generation deserves their at-first-blush-cool, at-next-glance-maddening boy band craze.  All teenage boys should have to struggle to compete for the attention of their female counterparts amid the hysteria of five guys much older, much wealthier, and much cooler.  It’s a right of passage at this point.  Enjoy your new generation of boys bands.  I’m glad I’ve already paid my dues.

Glad You Came – The Wanted

For those in search of more than boy band dance/pop, check out this jam by J. Cole. I dig this track mucho. Hope you can jam to it this weekend.

Can’t Get Enough – J. Cole

As always, let us know what you’re listening to!


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