Illustrated by Stella Engel
In 2011, One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 music chart upon its release. The success of the single signified One Direction’s status as a rising pop artist and serves as a recent example of boy band reign.
The term “boy band” originated in the 1980s, but the idea of male singing groups has been around for decades, according to Billboard. Since then, bands like New Kids on the Block, *NSYNC and the Backstreet boys emerged in the second half of the 20th century. Pepperdine students who grew up as fans of these boy bands have said they love the bands and help study the bands’ evolution and phenomena.
“I feel like ever since I was little I’ve been drawn to music and boy bands,” junior Kaila Crouch said.
Settling on a true definition of boy bands is its own challenge. In a 2014 NPR segment, host Jason King said he defined them as an all-male vocal group whose songs are usually written for them — and they don’t play instruments.
“I think there’s a difference between a boy band and a bunch of boys,” junior Caroline Pennington said. [boy bands] don’t usually play instruments. They are more for a show. And I feel like most of the time you find that they don’t write their own songs – they’re built more by the music industry.
The Beatles, who rose to popularity in the 1960s, stand out in the evolution of boy bands, King said. Although they played their own instruments, King said their style can be seen as a model for modern boy bands.
The Beatles fan base revolutionized the public’s enthusiasm for musical groups. The band created a cultural backlash, known as “Beatlemania”, from extremely ecstatic female fans in the UK and US, according to History.com.
Fans screamed and passed out at concerts due to their adoration of the Beatles and their music, according to the Museum of Youth Culture. This change in fan behavior served as a gateway for other bands and boy groups to receive similar attention from their fans.
After the era of the Beatles and bands, Pennington said the 1990s were an important decade for the history of boy bands.
“There were a few bands after in the 60s and 70s, but I think there was a resurgence like in the 90s,” Pennington said. “You think of the Backstreet Boys and MTV and television and all that kind of stuff.”
As the popularity of the Backstreet Boys spread into the new millennium, more and more bands, like the Jonas Brothers and One Direction, paved the way for the continued resurgence of boy bands, according to research by Tamia Braggs in 2019. So the 2000s ushered in a whole new wave of boy bands Pennington, Crouch and sophomore Allison Johnson said they memories of their childhood.
“One Direction is definitely my favorite, but I also love the Jonas Brothers,” Crouch said. “I grew up listening to their music, even watching Camp Rock and their show on the Disney Channel as well. I just grew up in those days and I love them now.
According to Vice, the majority of a boy band’s fans are young women. Young women are attracted to boy bands for several reasons, said Hubpages writer Michelle Liu. These include crowd mentality, overexposure to music on the radio, addictive catchy music, and teenage hormones. Johnson said she remembers becoming a boy band fan around the fifth grade.
“During puberty, you start having crushes on boys, and then you get into boy bands and stuff like that,” Johnson said.
In these groups, PennLive wrote that it’s common for the boys to adhere to specific archetypes to make up a distinct yet lovable group of singers. The Band and the TV Show Big time Rush serves as an example, according to Tulane Magazine. The public meets Logan, the clever, James, the pretty, Carlos, the funny and Kendall – the cement of the group.
“You put all the attractive young men in a group and the different archetypes are like, ‘Oh, he’s a bad boy. He’s the flirt,'” Pennington said. choose and say, ‘Oh, that’s him.’ It’s so easy to market.
The excitement surrounding boy bands has made them particularly successful in their gigs and tours, according to Vivid Seats. Irish Mirror wrote that One Direction made $282 million in ticket sales on their “On the Road Again” tour for their fourth studio album, Four. Crouch said she attended a concert on this tour as well as the Five Seconds of Summer concerts.
“You can just feel all the energy, and it’s really fun because you’re with a group of people who also feel passionate about those groups,” Crouch said. “It’s a very good time.”
Out of a world-class K-pop boy group, BTS remains one of the biggest groups after their 2013 debut album according to Grammy.com. Four of BTS’ albums have landed on the charts faster than any group since the Beatles and have broken 25 Guinness World Records.
Today, the popularity of boy bands has declined as solo pop artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift become more popular., according to The Irish Times. Pennington said over time her musical tastes changed – but she still had a love for the boy bands that shaped her childhood.
“I’ve become more sensitive to what’s going on in music and the process of making music, and I think boy bands are a bit outside of that circle,” Pennington said. But, I still think it’s fun, and I’ll still listen to One Direction from time to time.
Despite the growing lack of interest in boy bands, groups such as the Jonas Brothers, Big Time Rush and even the Backstreet Boys have recently made a comeback, according to PlanetRadio. The students said that as dedicated fans, they always follow the careers of their favorite boy band members. Johnson said she still listens to Harry Styles, One Direction’s most successful solo artist.
“I was a massive One Direction girl all through college — I went to a gig,” Johnson said. “I still love Harry Styles to this day.”
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Contact Jackie Lopez by email: [email protected]