Ever since the 60’s, boy bands have continued to be universal heartthrobs for tweens and teens worldwide. From the Beach Boys and the New Kids on the Block to NSYNC and the Jonas Brothers, something about these collective groups of all-American, innocent personas has led to sold out shows and massive fan bases. Boy bands were not only dominant in the 60-80’s but continue to be the center of attention. What is it that makes these modern boy bands pop culture icons? Obviously as the years passed, the “look” of boy bands has changed dramatically, but by comparing them, it is easy to see what has kept them around for so long.
When the Backstreet Boys released their third album, Millennium, on May 18th 1999, it held the record for the most shipments in one year, over $11 million. It later became one of the best-selling albums of all-time, with sales reaching $40 million. The band consists of five members, who each have distinctive and well-known personalities. America seemed to fall in love with their “all-American” image and choreographed performances. The Backstreet Boys set the stage in the late 90’s and led the way for future boy bands. NSYNC, a similar group, came in as a close second and worldwide fame. With catchy songs, and a likeable persona, the Backstreet Boys instantly became the face of advertising, merchandise, world tours, and superstardom.
Today, the Backstreet Boys remain the best-selling boy band of all time with 130 million records sold. But that may soon change. One Direction is a British boy band who appeared on the show the X- Factor in 2010, but soon took their career into their own hands. Similar to the Backstreet Boys, the group consists of five members, each with a quirky and friendly personality that makes him so likeable. “Directioners”, or fans of One Direction, have brought back the boy band craze that had been missing since the 2000’s. In March 2010, nearly 10,000 directioners swarmed the stage of The Today Show to watch their first television performance. Unlike the Backstreet Boys, some argue that One Direction has more of a sexy appeal to teens, with daring lyrics and an edgier look. They have broken away from the traditional “boy band choreography” and changed the overall “look” of a traditional 90’s boy band.
The rise of social networking hasn’t hurt One Direction’s career either. The boy band fan bases target the demographic of young people throughout their teen years, and more exposure to social networking at younger ages make the bands more globally popular. As of 2010, Twitter’s fastest growing audience lies within the ages 12 to 17. Worldwide hash-tag trends make iconic pop stars such as One Direction household names. As more and more teens have social networking sites readily available to them, it’s easier for One Direction’s fan base to expand, and rapidly. Obviously, this is shown by their business empire of $50 billion.
One Direction’s career is significant while looking at the changing dynamic of boy bands because of how much they stray from the traditional 90’s boy band persona. Many One Direction’s songs, including “Live While We’re Young”, are about partying, whereas many of Backstreet Boys’ singles were about romance, with songs like “Shape of My Heart.” They also differ in their performances, with more casual dances that are not dramatically in sync like the Backstreet Boys. Despite the changes, One Direction’s debut has undoubtedly brought back the boy band craze that has been missing for nearly a decade.
Whether it’s the old school, choreographic appeal of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC or the modern day, social-network dominating and edgy One Direction, boy bands have continued to remain pop culture icons. Although the standard formula for boy band success has changed over time, the same fascination over these groups have created historic fan bases and captured the hearts of teenagers everywhere, and continue to thrive as global phenomenona.