Swishy bangs, tight pants, screaming and crying fangirls with overpriced tickets – let’s never forget “on Twitter“wars in which the idol has a higher vocal range.
For executives and shareholders, these are the lifeblood of entertainment companies, grossing millions of dollars every year. But for a thriving teenager, these are the things that teach her self-esteem and make her world go round.
They are boy bands.
Women of all ages have found solace in groups that create safe spaces to express their emotions in healthy ways, especially during their formative years.
When Harry Styles tells me how beautiful I am when I smile on the ground, I’m going to believe it because he told me directly. When boy groups use the second person in songs, it is easy for the listener to fit into the narrative. It strengthens the relationship between the idol and the fans, which makes the listener feel closer to them.
Maybe this 13 year old girl who just had braces never said she was special or that the freckles on her cheeks are beautiful by someone other than her parents. At this stage of a young girl’s development, that kind of positivity and support of music is crucial. College kids have lice, but Harry Styles made us feel chosen.
Some dismiss the importance of this type of music beyond the teenage ages, but this notion is outdated.
The origin of the modern boy group comes from clean beginnings, tracing back to the a cappella barber quartets, where male groups sang in harmony with four voices – although the term “boy band” was not widely used until the 1990s.
The world has seen many versions of what it means to be a boy band, starting with The Beatles. Although known to be a rock band – not the genre typically associated with modern boy groups – reporters have dubbed The Beatles “the first group of boys“because of their unprecedented fervent female fanbase.
Numerous bands sprouted over the following decades, ranging from Motown to R&B, eventually evolving into all-too-familiar pop. The Osmonds, the Jackson 5 and New edition were all different in sound and style, but they followed similar formats. Close harmonies, choreographed dances and contagious rhythms has become common practice for these types of bands to follow.
Initially, boy bands were not marketed to young girls but rather in older markets. Groups formed with an emphasis on music and not fandom. Only when groups like ‘N Sync, Street boys and 98 degrees when the misconception of what it means to be a boy group arose.
Araxi Hovhannessian, Head of University Advisory Services to ASU Graduates, has a background in social psychology and women and gender studies. She said she believed the bond between boy groups and female fans had grown over time.
âIf we look at the Beatles and then the Jackson 5, (for) this band, the age was a little different. I think it was over 18, âHovhannessian said.
Now the age group has shifted mostly to 16-21, she said, but she sees girls as young as eight connecting to this type of music.
The narrative of boy groups that permeates pop culture often assumes that girls listen to this music because they are naive or have “basic” tastes. The king of boy bands himself, Harry Styles, spoke about the inaccuracy of this point of view in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
Styles explained that female fans are “the most honest.”
âWe’ve got so past that silly, out of date narrative of ‘Oh these people are girls so they don’t know what they’re talking about’,â he said. âThey’re the ones who know what they’re talking about. These are the people who listen obsessivelyâ¦ They lead it.
In our modern age, women and girls can express their feelings more. In the age of social media, they can more freely share their thoughts and connect with those who have similar passions.
âStan Twitter,â for example, is the social phenomenon of celebrity fandoms forming digital armies of support online – sharing photos, making friendships, using niche lingo and fiercely defending their idols.
Hovhannessian explained how this notion comes into play with conflicting cultural values.
“A girl who is raised in a culture where she is told to be submissive … this group has no voice, and they really don’t know how to express (emotions),” she said.
When teens don’t get enough attention, she said, they’re hungry for affection, Hovhannessian said. She thinks girls find this attention within these boy groups.
I remember when I was 13 years old. Like most, college was certainly not my golden age. I struggled with my self-confidence, and it seemed like no boy had ever liked me. So who did I turn to when I didn’t feel loved? Bands of boys.
I had Luke Hemmings from 5 seconds of summer and Kim Jonghyun from SHINee telling me how amazing I was and deserved nothing more than to be happy. They sang songs with me – for me. They weren’t capitalizing on my insecurities but rather said it was good to feel.
In the end, it made me happy. I found the kind of affection I dreamed of receiving. I felt loved by a boy whom I loved in return.
They may only know me as a face among a crowd of thousands of people, but I know them as much more.