The term ‘boy-band’ started to become well-known in the 90s, when pop band groups consisting of young ‘boys’, started popping up (pun intended) all over the place, incurring media coverage, screaming teenage girls, marketing paraphernalia and a spate of semi-romantic ballads and love songs dripping with hormones and fairytale-like soul-searching. Needless to say, at the time, I loved them.
I remember scribbling my name coupled with the name of the guy from my favourite boy band (Backstreet Boys at the time) all over my school notebook, giggling about magazine interviews with my next door neighbour while we waited for the school bus, sticking posters with blue-tag all over my room and generally being insufferably silly about it. What can I say? I was going through ‘that age’ – a perfect target for the type of producers who marketed boys’ sexual appeal, and dealt in young girls’ romantic notions.
But what has actually happened to these 90s ‘boy-bands’? I confess, I haven’t thought about them for ages, and at a certain point, they seemed to disappear from MTV, being replaced by bum-swishing divas with pouty lips and gold-encrusted rappers denouncing society, while lounging in huge swimming pools.
Backstreet Boys – Wikipedia hails them as ‘the best-selling boy band in history,’ but apart from them selling the most album copies, what actually made them such? Perhaps, it was the fact that whoever PR’d the band had the genius idea of ‘marketing’ (for want of a better word) each ‘boy’ differently – that is, portraying each specific and individual character and therefore targeting girls according to their specific desires as to which kind of guy they fancied.
I remember, for example, how Nick Carter was known as the baby-faced Prince Charming of the group, A.J. McLean was the rapper/bad boy, Kevin Richardson was the sad dreamer, etc etc. The band, which was formed in 1993, started to fizzle out by 2000. They tried to release a comeback album in 2005 with little success, after which a member of the band (now no longer really ‘boys’) left the group, and they became a quartet. Later, this same member rejoined the band again, however although they never stopped touring together, they never again achieved the status and popularity they had enjoyed in the 90s.
East 17 – These were hailed and known as Backstreet Boys’ main competing band, being however grittier and harsher, singing mainly hip hop and R&B. The band was formed in 1991. After 1997, all four members at some point deserted the group and all of them more than once. This disintegration was mostly attributed to ‘creative differences.’ Almost all of the members tried performing solo, however all returned to the band when they were not successful. East 17’s last album was released in 2012.
Take That – The band’s first appearance on TV took place in 1990, when they were releasing a number of singles which were minor hits in the UK. Their first album was released in 1992. By 1994 they had become TV and radio stars across Europe and Asia, and in 1995, they went on their first World Tour. It was at this point that Robbie Williams’ drug abuse started to become a real problem, ruining public appearances and performances. The group decided to disband in 1996, after which Robbie Williams rose to greater fame through his solo career. Although the members reunited to record four more albums, with Robbie Williams taking part in the last one, two of the five members left the band for good in 2014, leaving only three of the original five members.
There were many other boy-bands at the time, and even in the 2000s, ranging from Boyzone, Westlife, NSYNC, Hanson and others. I mentioned these three because they were my personal favourites. Of course, my musical tastes have evolved and changed a lot since then. Having said that, I guess that I will always think back fondly on those teenage crushes.
What was your favourite boy-band? Do you still like them?