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The lasting impact of boy bands

The lasting impact of boy bands

The lasting impact of boy bands
August 01
13:18 2020

Don’t deny it, you’ve bopped to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” or *NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye,” and thoroughly enjoyed it. With One Direction’s recent 10th anniversary on July 23, the on-hiatus group dropped exclusive songs and EP’s to celebrate their cosmic rise to fame within the last decade. 

Despite the mildly disappointing celebration, the anniversary of one of the greatest boy bands in music history is equally awe-inspiring and bittersweet. Their five albums, four tours and the backlog of Billboard hits only cements their relevance in the music charts and the hearts of fans everywhere. 

Regardless of your music preference or disinterest in the world of boy bands, their influence on pop culture and the music industry is astounding in terms of record sales, pop culture references and global fandoms. Their credibility, whether it’s their artistry or influence, is often waived off, but their record sales and enormous fandoms say otherwise. 

The definition of a boy band is a complicated one since it’s evolved over the last few decades and with music scenes. There isn’t a clear-cut definition or mold to the boy band formula, but usually, they’re an all-male vocal group, in their late teens or twenties and marketed toward the young female demographic, according to a 2014 podcast from NPR. 

In addition to these traits, boy bands are usually “factory-produced,” a CEO or talent manager is highly involved in the creation, casting and artistry of the band. For example, the infamous Simon Cowell engineered the formation of One Direction and oversaw their music, marketing and public appearances up until the band announced their indefinite hiatus. 

Musically, boy bands are stereotypically known for writing bubble-gum pop music, not featuring much musical complexity and often the boy band members don’t write their own music.  

Probably the most prominent feature of the boy band world is the fans. Their young, female audiences are the basis of their entire marketing strategy and drive the streams, sales and influence of the band for decades to come. If you think about it, the 1960s fan hysteria of the Beatles, coined Beatlemania, could be considered the blueprint for modern fandoms. 

The origins of the boy band are muddled due to their loose definition, but the Jackson 5 and the Temptations paved the way for generations of boy bands in the mid-1960s. By the ’80s, the R&B group New Edition topped the U.S. and U.K. singles charts and became the model for modern boy bands through the nineties and 2000s. 

After New Edition’s immediate success, boy bands were churned out like clockwork — New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC took over the world and music charts through the ’90s and early 2000s. 

By the mid-2000s, the Jonas Brothers, One Direction and BTS broke free from the classic boy band mold: incorporating rock and electronic dance into the bubble-gum pop style, playing their own instruments, writing more sexually-charged songs and shedding the matching outfits from their performances. 

The artistry of boy bands has evolved past the bubble-gum pop stereotype and incorporated rock, folk, R&B, hip-hop, electronic dance, jazz and just about any other musical sub-genre to create tracks unique to each band and give an ounce of creative control to the micro-managed groups. 

If anything, the boy band’s music has permeated nearly every musical genre and artists today sample from them all the time. *NSYNC’s classic R&B and pop sound defined the late ’90s, early 2000s and would later be sampled by DaBaby on “INTRO” Rick Ross on “Apple of My Eye” and Anne-Marie on “2002”. 

Beyond the music, boy bands became the Internet’s heartthrobs and propelled the overzealous mentions of them in film, television, comedy, fashion and pop culture. Just look through the One Direction and BTS hashtags on Twitter and millions of tweets declaring user’s love and devotion for the bands are everywhere.

Every year on the first of May, Twitter is overwhelmed with Justin Timberlake’s “It’s Gonna be May” meme 20 years after the song’s release. 

Additionally (and embarrassingly enough), the 2019 romantic drama “After” is based on a Harry Styles fanfiction of the same name, which later became a best-seller and grossed over $57 million at the global box office. 

If a movie loosely based on a Harry Styles fanfiction can rake in millions, the boy band’s themselves seem to be dripping in money with every financial move they make. One Direction raked in $282.2 million in 2014 from their “Where We Are Tour,” making it the highest-grossing tour of 2014, according to a report from the New York Post

BTS produced a whopping $4.65 billion in gross domestic product for South Korea, boosting the nation’s economy and placing the boy band in “the same economic league as Samsung and other top conglomerates,” according to a 2019 report from Forbes

Let’s not forget about the driving force behind boy band popularity: the fans. Whether it’s Beatlemania or One Direction infection, fans show up and show out for their favorite boy bands and the hype is real for them. 

Fan-driven projects, such as One Direction’s Project No Control, have placed their marketing into the hands of fandoms whether or not the band even realizes it. After expressing their frustrations about the poor advertising of the group’s “Four” album, the fandom did a “self-release” of “No Control” on social media, streaming services and radio without the band or management’s help, according to a 2016 study from the College of William and Mary

One Direction’s 10-year anniversary has seen an uptick in worldwide streams and revitalized the fandom’s online presence on Twitter and Instagram. More than ever, people are rediscovering their music and have renewed interest in one of the greatest boy bands of all time. It’s humbling to see new fans on Twitter or receiving questions about what albums to listen to after spending 10 years obsessed with the One Direction mania. 

There’s no telling who the next big boy band will be, but there’s no denying their influence and money-making abilities. 

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Sarah Berg

Sarah Berg

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