The past couple of years have seen the reemergence of the “boy band.”
While some boy bands have made names for themselves in the past decade or so, such as Hanson or the Jonas Brothers, not for quite some time has such a group become big enough to be called one of the biggest acts in the world. Well, that all changed with the popularity of One Direction, a British-Irish quintet, all of whom are under 21 years old.
There’s also The Wanted, another English-Irish group who have had pretty substantial success.
These groups are known as boy bands because, well, for the obvious reason that all members are of the male gender. What distinguishes them from being simply known as a “band,” is that boy bands tend to be more pop-oriented, sing exclusively romantically driven songs, don’t play any instruments, and may or may not dance.
But that’s not to say they lack talent. What makes a boy band unique is their ability to harmonize. Five people singing together in a pitch that accommodates each other’s voice perfectly is an extremely difficult thing to do. And that’s why you don’t see many groups of this genre gain international popularity. So One Direction does deserve a lot of credit in that regard.
However, people forget, that for there to be a reemergence of boy bands, there had to be an emergence to begin with.
The Backstreet Boys say hi.
BsB hit their peak in the late 90s, which has come to be known as the golden age of boy bands. At that same time, groups like NSync and 98 Degrees also experienced great success. Of course, one can argue that these three groups were all pioneered by The New Kids on the Block.
But of the four, Backstreet Boys are the only ones who’ve stuck around.
The main problem with boy bands is that they really have one shtick. The only thing that can evolve is maybe their lyrics, but otherwise, their style of singing does not really change. At all. Their fans, on the other hand — who grew up with them, and adored them with all of their heart — will change.
Being a 22-, 23- or 24-year-old girl and drooling over a group of five guys is a lot less socially acceptable than doing it when you’re 14, 15, and 16, and thus, the boy bands lose their buzz. And the 14-, 15- and 16-year-old girls now are growing up with much different types of music.
And thus, the boy bands fade.
In 2000, the Backstreet Boys released Black & Blue, which went platinum in America 8 times. Their next 3 albums, released over the course of 2005 to 2009, went platinum once — combined. A little bit of a drop in sales there.
I think it was kind of a weird phase for the band. NSync and 98 Degrees had already disbanded, and the Backstreet Boys were kind of hanging in that Purgatory phase, where they didn’t really have a fan base anymore. Boy bands were out of style, the members were all in their 30s now, and the young girls they once so greatly appealed to now no longer knew if it was cool to still like them.
It wasn’t until late 2010 when the group reentered international consciousness, when they performed with the aforementioned New Kids on the Block (forming the supergroup “NKOTBSB”) during the American Music Awards. With this performance, they essentially reminded people that they still exist.
But the luster of the performance didn’t last too long. It was a nice nostalgic moment, but it came and went.
And now, three years later, these guys still exist. But it’s different. We now live in a world where boy bands are back. So unlike 2010, where they didn’t have a place in music … now they do.
They put out a new album, In a World Like This, and continue to do what they’ve always done. Harmonize, and sing about love. They sang a mashup of their new single and their biggest hit to date, “I Want it That Way,” Wednesday night on America’s Got Talent, and I must say, I thought they delivered a hell of a performance.
It no longer felt like a befuddled group of young 30-year-olds searching for their place in life. Amazingly, two of the band members will be in their 40s by the end of the year, and, I don’t know, maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s confidence, or maybe it’s an inner satisfaction that this type of music is once again accepted by the masses — whatever it was, they gave a very current, pleasant performance.
And the people they once appealed to so greatly as teenagers are now in their late 20s and early 30s. With jobs and families. At that age, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about anymore. If you want to listen to the Backstreet Boys, then who gives a shit? In your late teens and early 20s, you cared about that type of thing, but not so much anymore.
Humorously, Wikipedia now lists the Backstreet Boys as an “American vocal harmony group.” Come on, Wikipedia, you’re not fooling anybody.
But anyway, you hear a band like One Direction on the radio, and you realize that these kids could learn a thing or two from a group like the Backstreet Boys. And ironically, it’s because of these five Brits that the Backstreet Boys are relevant again.
Will they ever reclaim the popularity they amassed in their heyday? Of course not. But can they fill a void in today’s music industry, delivering classy, romantic-bordering-on-naive pop ballads? You betcha. I think a little romantic-bordering-on-naive is exactly what this world needs, you ask me.
So, in conclusion … wait for it…
Backstreet’s back, alright!