This article possibly contains original research. (October 2010)
|Barbershop quartet, doo wop, soul, gospel, disco, bubblegum pop, pop rock, electronic dance music, teen pop, contemporary R&B, adult contemporary, hip hop and 1960s girl groups.
|Late 1970s United Kingdom & United States, with precursors dating back to the mid-1950s.
|Vocals, electronic backing, sampler - sequencers. Others use rock band instrumentation: Electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards
|Late 1990s - early 2000s in the US, but still high to the present elsewhere
|Pop, pop rap, pop rock, pop punk, country pop, operatic pop
|Eurovision Song Contest, camp (style), Idol series, teenybopper, postmodernism, consumerism, gay culture, kitsch, pop culture, manufactured pop, tweenager, teen idol, gay icon
A boy band (or boyband) is loosely defined as a popular music act consisting of only male singers. The members are expected to dance as well as sing, usually giving highly choreographed performances. More often than not, boy band members do not play musical instruments, either in recording sessions or on stage, and only sing and dance, making the term somewhat of a misnomer. However, exceptions do exist. In many cases boy bands are brought together by a producer through an audition process, although many of them form on their own.
Some such bands can evolve out of church choral or gospel music groups, but are often created by talent managers or record producers who hold auditions. Due to this and their general commercial orientation towards an audience of preteens, teenyboppers, or teens, the term may be used with negative connotations in music journalism. Boy bands are similar in concept to girl groups.
The earliest form of boy band music took place in the late 19th century with the use of a capella Barbershop quartets. They were usually a group of males and sing in four part harmonies. The popularity of Barbershop quartets had been prominent into the earlier part of the 20th century. A revival of the male vocal group took place in the late 1940s and 1950s with the use of doo-wop music. Doo wop was a predecessor to the previous boy bands and they sung about topics such as love and other themes used in pop music. The earliest traces of boy bands were in the mid 1950s and the term boy band was not used. The Ink Spots was one of the first boy bands. The term boy band was not established until the late 1980s. Before that times they were called male vocal groups or hep harmony singing groups.
The earliest predecessors of the boy band genre were groups such as The Osmonds, The Jackson 5, and The Monkees, which helped form the template for boy bands. While The Monkees were originally a manufactured act turned real band that featured members with distinct (albeit fictional) personality types, The Jackson 5 were a family group that established many musical conventions that boy bands follow. For instance, their music featured close harmonies from soul music and catchy pop hooks influenced as much as they were Motown acts like The Supremes. All members of the band sang, which is a common convention of boy band, as opposed to having a front man and the rest on instruments. This is effectively so that no one person dominated the stage. Even so, the members conveniently fitted into the convention of having stereotypical personality types (Michael Jackson being the "cute one", to give an obvious example).
Although not a manufactured band, The Beatles set a precedent for boy bands to follow both in terms of marketing to young girls and certain aesthetic and musical conventions. The merchandising, whether it was films like A Hard Day's Night or novelty goods were possibly the first aimed at a certain demographic on a large scale for a group. This made them a proto-type for boy bands, such as The Jackson 5 and The Monkees. Musical conventions that boy bands adopted from The Beatles were less their technical proficiency as musicians and more the catchy pop hooks, melodies and harmonies combined with their marketability. Their marketability was based the idea that there was something for everyone, whether it is the music or the personality of John Lennon or Paul McCartney or their sex appeal.
The Beatles were more directly an influence on boy bands that use rock band instrumentation. The precedent for this was when 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 under the supervision of Don Kirshner, the group became dissatisfied with Kirshner's control and became independent two years later, and worked on their own up to 1970.
1970s and 1980s
Although the term "boy band" is mostly associated with groups from the 1990s onwards, other antecedents (apart from those already mentioned) exist throughout the history of pop music. The genre has been copied into languages and cultures other than the Anglo-American. There is a popular Russian boy band Ivanushki International. The Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, appealing to young Latina audiences, was founded in 1977. Menudo had a convention unique among boy bands: when a member turned 16, became too tall, or their voice changed, they were ejected and replaced. Members of Menudo were generally aged 12–14.
The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish pop band who were most popular in the mid 1970s. The British Hit Singles & Albums noted that they were "tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh", and were "the first of many acts heralded as the 'Biggest Group since The Beatles' and one of the most screamed-at teeny-bopper acts of the 1970s". For a relatively brief but fervent period (nicknamed "Rollermania"), they were worldwide teen idols. The group were one of the first bands like The Monkees before them to take the formula shown by The Beatles and apply it to a teen market. The group achieved the same amount of success but for a limited period of time. At the peak of their popularity in the UK, comparisons were being made to The Beatles. Also by this time, Bay City Roller fans had a completely distinctive style of dress, the main elements of which were ankle-length tartan trousers and tartan scarves, the group using the benefit of merchandise and promotion.
In the U.S., the Cleveland-based power pop group Raspberries was generally interpreted as a "teen act", although all the band members played their own music. Vocalist Eric Carmen later commented, "You’d have a thousand screaming girls in the front of the stage and then ten very serious rock critics in the back of the room going, ‘Uh-huh, I think we understand this.’ And unfortunately the great mass of pot-smoking 18 year-olds that bought albums and made you a substantial commodity in the great marketing world of records never took to us. It was not hip for people to like us, because their little sister liked us.
New Edition were a R&B group formed in Boston in 1978. The group reached its height of popularity during the 1980s. They were the progenitors of the boy band movement of the 1980s and 1990s in the US and led the way for groups like New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. The group recorded mostly as a quintet.
Formed in 1982, Norwegian band A-ha became the first Continental European boyband to top the US Hot 100 with their single Take on Me in 1985. Although considered a one hit wonder in that country the group went on to have considerable success worldwide and lasting success.
Bros (abbreviation of the word "brothers") were a British boy band active in the late 1980s and early 1990s, consisting of twin brothers Matt Goss and Luke Goss along with Craig Logan. Formed in 1986, they scored multiple top 10 hits between 1987 and 1989. In Britain Bros also became the first modern era style boyband to have a multiple platinum selling album with Push in 1988, which is still one of the most successful boyband albums in the UK.
Although the term "boy band" did not exist until the 1990s, Boston group New Edition is credited for starting the boy band trend in the 1980s. Maurice Starr was influenced by New Edition and popularised it with his protégé New Kids on the Block, the first commercially successful modern boy band who formed in 1984 and found international success in 1988. 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.
Some managers in Europe soon created their own acts after being inspired by New Kids on the Block. First beginning with Nigel Martin-Smith's Take That in the UK who formed in 1990 and followed by Tom Watkins who had success with Bros in the late eighties and formed East 17 in 1991 who were marketed and pited against Take That as rivals with a harsher attitude, style and sound. Irish music manager Louis Walsh had seen the impact of these two British boy bands and put out an advert for an 'Irish Take That' creating Boyzone in 1993. 911 formed in 1995 were another boy band who enjoyed success in Britain, however by the late 1990s all these bands had ran their course and split up. All these artists were very successful on both the singles and albums charts domestically and internationally however with the emergence of britpop and the commercial co-option of indie rock, many boy bands were ridiculed by the British music press as having no artistic credibility. The media attention was now placed on the Battle of Britpop and the bands Oasis and Blur replaced the importance and rivalry of Take That and East 17 as the two new biggest bands in Britain.
In 1995 successful German music manger Frank Farian who had been manager of Boney M and Milli Vanilli put together Latin American band No Mercy who scored a few worldwide hits during the mid nineties. One of the most successful boy band managers from the U.S was Lou Pearlman, who founded commercially successful acts such as the Backstreet Boys formed in 1993 and 'N Sync formed in 1995, although he was later convicted of unrelated fraud incidents.
In the late nineties in the UK, producer Simon Cowell (noted in the U.S. for the American Idol/ X Factor franchise) is also known for having managed British boyband Five formed in 1997 and Irish Republic boyband Westlife who formed in 1998 and were created by Irishman Louis Walsh as a replacement for Boyzone but were initially promoted by a former member of that band Ronan Keating. They would go on to become the most successful boyband on the UK Singles Charts. Cowell is now also currently having international success this decade with a new British/Irish boyband called One Direction formed in 2010 on his show The X Factor and signed to his label Syco Music.
In North America boy bands were prominent in the 1990s like internationally after having started the modern concept with New Kids on the Block. In the mid-1990s, most boy bands were African American and had R&B and gospel elements, such as the group All 4 One formed in 1993 and Boyz II Men formed in 1988 and who released their debut album in 1991. Boyz II Men are also the most successful boy band act on the US Hot 100 as well as the Australian Singles Chart. Although they had success on the Billboard charts, they had been targeted to more of an adult audience and were not marketed for youth. It wasn't however until 1997 and the change to pop orientated groups like Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, 'N Sync and Hanson that boy bands exploded commercially and dominated the market in the United States. This late nineties era marked the height of boy band popularity in North America which hasn't been seen since.
21st Century (2000s and 2010s)
With the continued success of Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, American and British groups like 98 Degrees, Dream Street, O-Town, A1, Blue, Busted and McFly gained quick popularity both domestically and internationally. International boy bands would also occasionally spring up, such as the Moldovan band O-Zone (better known today as an Internet meme), Overground and Tokio Hotel, who are currently the most successful boyband ever on the German Singles Chart.
Since 2001, the dominance of traditional boy bands on pop charts began to fade, although Gil Kaufman of MTV has described "new boy bands" that are "more likely to resemble Good Charlotte, Simple Plan. This was shown in boybands such as Busted, McFly, Tokio Hotel, Son of Dork and The Noise Next Door etc.
The Finnish rock band HIM have been described by some, and even suggested by vocalist Ville Valo to be a boy band, despite their slightly darker imagery. This view became increasingly popular around the time of their international breakthrough album, Razorblade Romance, stemming from the amount of lyrics revolving around romance, as well as the band members' on-stage personas and tendencies to jokingly interact with one another during shows.
In 2001 a new all-male Japanese pop band and dance group boyband hailing from Japan called EXILE, debuted under Avex Group's label Rhythm Zone with 14 members, putting them on par with Super Junior as the largest boy bands in the world.
Some bands typically labeled as 'boy bands' have achieved larger success because their members create and play their own songs, trying to keep a level of musical performance up to their image. Boston-based power pop group The Click Five is a recent example.
In North America the Jonas Brothers had popularity helped from promotion on the Disney Channel enabling them during 2008 to sell over 180,000 copies on albums in a week and hit number one on the American Billboard 200. However apart from the Jonas Brothers boybands haven't seen the commercial boom experienced in the genre from the mid to late nineties in North America.
Moving into the 2010s boybands are still hugely popular especially in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe due to the continued commercial presence and longevity of nineties boybands such as Backstreet Boys, Take That, Boyzone and Westlife. Some sections of the press have referred to these acts, particularly those who have reformed after a previous split, such as Take That and Boyzone, as 'man bands'. These older generation artists chart alongside US5, Lexington Bridge, JLS, The Wanted and One Direction who are examples of new and currently successful boy bands from Europe.
Boy bands are also still very popular in Eastern Asia, notably so in J-Pop and K-pop, with successful groups such as South Korea's Super Junior, 2PM, TVXQ, BIGBANG, SHINee, MBLAQ, B2ST, Infinite and F.T. Island. Japan's Arashi, SMAP, V6, Tokio, KinKi Kids, KAT-TUN, NEWS, Kanjani 8, and Hey! Say! JUMP top the Oricon charts frequently. Taiwan also has notable boy bands like Fahrenheit and F4. Indonesia also has notable boy bands like SM*SH, XO-IX, DragonBoyz, Treeji, S9B (Super Nine Boys), and Max5.
In America new boy bands include Big Time Rush, and Mindless Behavior who have experienced moderate success on the singles and albums charts including top ten placing debut albums on the American Billboard.
Key factors of the concept
Seen as important to a "boy band" group's commercial success is the group's image, carefully controlled by managing all aspects of the group's dress, promotional materials (which are frequently supplied to teen magazines), and music videos. Typically, each member of the group will have some distinguishing feature and be portrayed as having a particular personality stereotype, such as "the baby," "the bad boy," or "the nice boy." While managing the portrayal of popular musicians is as old as popular music, the particular pigeonholing of band members is a defining characteristic of boy and girl bands.
In most cases, their music is written, arranged and produced by a producer who works with the band at all times and controls the group's sound - if necessary, to the point of hiring session singers to record guide vocals for each member of the group to sing individually if the members cannot harmonize well together. However, for clarity of each voice, recording each voice individually is most commonly the norm with most modern vocal groups. In recent years auto-tune has become a popular tool for boybands who are unable to sing properly.
A typical boy band performance features elaborately choreographed dancing, with the members taking turns singing and/or rapping. Boy bands generally didn't compose or produce their own material, unless the members lobbied hard enough for creative control (for example, The Monkees, The Fukui Boys, and 'N Sync). However some bands were created around the talent of a songwriter within the group like Gary Barlow of Take That or Tony Mortimer of East 17. Five were another group who wrote almost all their own songs. It isn't uncommon to find extra songs on the album written by one or more of the band members, however their producers rarely use these as singles.
Since the 21st Century however boybands have been expected to write or at least contribute in some part lyrically to songs. Apart from the groups mentioned above who all had at least one primary songwriter from their beginning, other groups soon caught up. From the late nineties band members saw the lucrative incentive of songwriting through track royalties and members in bands such as Backstreet Boys who had previously used writers like Max Martin or Steve Mac during their early albums now began co writing. Modern groups of the last ten years such as Busted, McFly, JLS and Tokio Hotel etc. have all made a point from early interviews that they write their own songs and hold their own image as this is an important part of marketing. Some bands like The Wanted have even spent time learning the craft of songwriting.
The key factor of a boy band is being trendy. This means that the band conforms to the most recent fashion and musical trends in the popular music scene. As of 2008, boy bands are more likely to be imitating pop punk acts like Blink 182, as well as the corresponding "emo/pop punk" fashion, as it is the current trend. A good example of this is the up and coming band Allstar Weekend, who give off the appearance of being a punk band while still maintaining the elemnts of a Boy Band.
Although most boy bands consist of R&B or pop influences, other music genres, most notably country music and folk music, are also represented. South 65 and Marshall Dyllon, for example, were both considered country music boy bands, as was to a lesser extent Rascal Flatts. Il Divo, created by Simon Cowell in 2004, are a band that perform Operatic pop, and in several (mainly Italian) languages. Since then operatic/classical boy bands have become quite popular and common, especially in the UK. Since 2001 there has been some crossover with power pop and pop punk from bands that play live instruments. For example, as of 2008, boy bands are often influenced by pop punk, post-grunge and power pop (a perennial genre). Just recently some boy bands decided to go back to their original doo-wop roots, most notably, The Overtones.
Since the 1990s, bands such as Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and LFO have disliked the term "boy band" and have preferred to be known as a "Male Vocal Group". Boy bands have been accused by the music press of emphasizing the appearance and marketing of the group above the quality of music, deliberately trying to appeal to a pre-teen audience and for conforming to trends instead of being original. Such criticisms can become extremely scathing. Boy bands are often seen as being short lived, though some acts such as The Jackson 5, New Kids On The Block, the Backstreet Boys, Boyzone, Hanson, Human Nature, Westlife and Take That have sustained lasting careers, and in some cases, successful comebacks.
Top selling boy bands
- Boy bands
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- REDIRECT Template:Pop music