DON’T LOOK NOW, but boy bands are sort of making a comeback. Feel free to punch something, but don’t act all surprised. If you thought they were dead, you were wrong. Is Jason ever dead? Does herpes ever die? Acts like One Direction, Big Time Rush, Mindless Behavior, and The Wanted are starting to gain serious steam. Hell, even The Backstreet Boys are hitting the studio again to release a new album (face punch).
At this point, we’re not saying that boy bands would survive the apocalypse. But we’re not saying they wouldn’t, either. They have a few crucial things going for them that allow them to never die and always be ready for another breakout.
1. THEY’RE EASY TO MAKE
From Making the Band.
Boy bands are made in much the same way 1950s Westerns were shot by MGM and Universal Studios in that there’s a very simple and time-tested industry formula to it. First, you gather up a handful of twentysomething guys who fit the following prerequisites (in order of importance):
1. Must be good looking
2. Must know how to dance
3. Must not be a pain in the ass
4. Must know how to sing at least a little bit.
Here’s a boy band casting audition sheet from Moss/Litel Entertainment just to give you an example of how they skirt around it:
Moss/Litel Entertainment is currently seeking males between the ages of 16 and 22 who can sing, dance, has style and know what it takes to be the best for an up and coming boy band.
They are looking for the following things:
- Attractive white/Caucasian, Asian, and Latino males who are in shape
- 16 – 22 years of age
- 5’ 6” to 6’ 2” height
- Ability to dance or pick up on choreography quickly
- Strong vocal ability
- Able to harmonize
- Must be determined and dedicated
- No ego and easy to get along with
- Must live in the L.A. area or be able to travel to the L.A. area for an audition
Then you employ a team of stylists, publicists, song-writers, and music producers to mold these fine lads into the latest incarnation of teen pop. ABC made a show out of this process back in the early 2000s called Making The Band. And if you can remember the name of the actual band that was in the show without googling it, then brownie points for you.
Finally, you let social media do the rest. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (or at least once upon a time), and Spotify have evolved and expedited the process of building a fan base. Nowadays, 70% of all music is found by what friends post on social networking sites. This means that the job of organically building a fan base via touring and promotional campaigns is cut in half.
2. THEY FLAME OUT AS FAST AS THEY CATCH ON, AND THIS IS A GOOD THING
Boy bands, if you factor into account things like number of studio albums produced, years those albums span, and number years those albums actually produce successful sales numbers, have a mainstream pop-culture shelf life of about three years. No matter how big one of them gets, a flame out is inevitable for a few important reasons:
1. They can’t stop themselves from getting older. You can’t really maintain a BOY band when every member is on the wrong side of 30. You can try, but not without coming off as sad and washed-up.
2. They can’t stop their fans from getting older. Tweener girls (more on them in a moment) have the same relationship with boy bands that their male counterparts have with professional wrestling—they don’t generally stay attached to it as they get older.
3. All music is cyclical, anyway.
That being said, this limited window of success and popularity actually helps the genre in the long run because every time a new batch comes around and explodes, they don’t stay long enough to make a truly lasting impression of over-saturation.
3. THEY’RE ALL THE COLORS OF THE RAINBOW
The world is always up for a good success story implicitly predicated on the defiance of racial expectations, like when a black person wins a gold medal at the winter Olympics, or a white person wins a NBA regular-season MVP award, or a Korean person buys a dog and they both live happily ever after. It confirms, on a smaller scale, the underlying ethos of what historical moments like Obama getting elected president, and The Jeffersons movin’ on up to the East side were supposed to accomplish.
Enter Boyz II Men. Enter Menudo. Enter B2K. Enter these guys. The novelty of subverting the annoying prototypical teen idol troupe never gets old, just as long as the novelty pops up inside an era when boy bands are “in” again.
4. TWEENER GIRLS AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE
Tweener girls are a most replenishable and reliable demographic. Tween years are tough on girls. Not only are they still expected to think and behave like a child while their bodies develop rapidly through puberty, they usually have to wait a couple years for their male peers to emotionally and physically catch up with them. It’s a time when want to be liked is at critical mass, and anxiety about feelings like romance is at an all-time high.
It’s only natural that boy bands fill a certain kind of psychological and emotional void for them. They’re the “male prototype of a young, not sexually threatening, highly popular object of affection.” Tweeners feel infinitely more comfortable projecting romantic feelings towards them because they’re bubblegum, and they don’t need to imagine the pressure of sexual advances.
Boy bands sings about love, harmony, peace, rainbows, lollipops, and all that other gooey crap. To insecure girls, it’s both literally and figuratively music to their ears. Their being a fan is a form of validation and acceptance that requires no work, no danger, and unconditional love. Like a puppy, except with shitty dance moves.