A long, long time ago I published a piece on the history of girl groups and I've long-since wanted to write one on the boys, an entirely different animal. Boy bands have been around for a really long time, and though some may consider the likes of The Beatles or The Monkees to be among the first of their kind, I'm going to start this one in the 1980's with the very first incarnation of the type of teen idol, made for pop, boy bands we see today.
New Kids on the BlockBack in the year 1984, five teenage boys from Boston, Massachusetts were selected from an auditioning crowd of about 500 wannabe singers to form a "white counterpart" act to then-popular R&B boy band New Edition. The boys, Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donny Wahlberg and Danny Wood, became the New Kids on the Block
After a not so impressive debut album, NKOTB came back in 1988 with a bang and their sophomore "Hangin' Tough" album produced five top ten singles. New Kids mania had begun! For about three years, the boys rode their wave of popularity with such songs as "Please Don't Go Girl," "Step by Step," "Hangin' Tough," and this one, my personal favorite:
You Got It (The Right Stuff)
Before there was New Kids, there was New Edition, another boy band from Boston that had more of an R&B flavor to their music. Formed in 1978 and under the tutelage of Maurice Starr (who was also the brainchild of NKOTB), these boys had a string of hits that lasted the better part of the 1980's. Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins (who later formed Bel Biv DeVoe), Bobby Brown and Ralph Tresvant scored 13 top ten R&B hits during the decade, including "Mr. Telephone Man," "Cool It Now," "If It Isn't Love," "Popcorn Love," and this, their very first smash:
Boyz II Men
Inspired by the sounds of New Edition, four boys from Philadelphia, PA, formed a quartet in 1989 that would later become the biggest-selling R&B group of all time. Michael McCary, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman took the name of their group from a New Edition song and became Boyz II Men, a boy band that would go on to win four Grammy Awards and score such memorable hits as "Motownphilly," "End of the Road," "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," and this amazing smash collaboration with Mariah Carey:
One Sweet Day
Orlando, Florida would become the birthplace of two of the most well known boy bands of the 1990's, a decade in which the genre exploded all over the pop music scene. First up was the Backstreet Boys, consisting of A.J. McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson. These boys brought back the hysteria that followed the New Kids just a few years before, scoring hit after hit with their own form of catchy pop ditties and tender ballads. Memorable Backstreet tunes from the era include their debut single, "We've Got It Goin' On," "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," "As Long As You love Me," "I Want It That Way," and this #2 smash from 1997:
Quit Playing Games with My Heart
Though many boy band's exploded on to the scene in the 1990's, only one really gave the Backstreet Boys a run for their money. The fivesome of Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass and J.C. Chasez were formed in 1995 as "N Sync and these guys scored equally big on the charts with the same style of pop as their crosstown counterparts. Not as heavy on the softer side of things, musically, these boys rocked the charts with such dance-oriented tracks as "Bye, Bye, Bye," "I Want You Back," and "Tearin' Up My Heart." Here's one of their biggest:
It's Gonna be Me
These five boy bands, of course, are not the only ones of their kind. Many others have made girls swoon with their good looks and sweet sounds and have had a modicum of success both here in the United States and abroad. Groups like 112, 98 Degrees, Take That, Westlife, Boyzone and others have all strung up a hit or two, and all of them combined have given us their own fair share of pop music for the annals.
Of the five bands mentioned above, all but "N Sync are still around in one form or another, making concert appearances and an occasional new record, but for right now two new boy bands, both from the U.K., sit at center stage, doing their contemporary spin on the genre. Like it or not, the boy band is back, for now. Both The Wanted and One Direction have already scored big on the charts, and only time will tell how long this wave will last.