The evolution of boy bands, from Backstreet Boys to One Direction


In the ’90s (with choker necklaces, hip huggers, and Lisa Frank supplies, of course), boy groups were all the rage. Of course, music has its fair share of pop boy bands with bands like The Beatles and Jackson 5 in the past in the 90s there was a huge surplus. Almost overnight the boy groups caused a stir and songs from The Backstreet Boys at * NSYNC were broadcast on almost every radio station around the world. The teens were obsessed with buying all of their albums, hanging posters of their favorite member in their bedrooms and ending up arguing with their friends over which boy group was the best.

With the advent of the new millennium, however, the boy band‘s reign of glory came to an end. As trends changed, the need for boy groups giving choreographed performances shifted to the need for boys in a group playing their own music (like Good Charlotte and Maroon 5). As many of the members pursued other career options (such as Justin Timberlake’s transition to acting), others waited until it was over.

While nothing can quite compare to the ’90s success, over the past few years boy groups have made a comeback, this time with a new twist. They might not be exactly as we remember them, but they’re not very far either – so let’s take a look back at the evolution of boy bands over time.

Backstreet Boys (1993 – present)

Fashion Style: It was all about congruence with these guys, from their movements to their outfits. Even today, they still wear matching outfits for their In A World Like This tour.

Music genre: When boys started their careers, they were strictly pop. But as they got older, they experienced R&B and even the adult contemporary.

Media representation: The Backstreet Boys have always established themselves as a vocal harmony group not a group of boys. They always tried to combat the backlash of lip-syncing by fishing a cappella during performances.

* NSYNC (1995 – 2002)

Fashion Style: Closely following the Backstreet Boys, each member was dressed like the other with their own personal touches, such as Justin’s blonde hair with frosted tips and Chris’s braided pony.

Music genre: Throughout their careers, the boys have remained fairly stagnant with their musical style ranging only from pop to dance-pop (the latter mostly only included in their third and final album, Celebrity.)

Media representation: In addition to being the Backstreet Boys contest, * NSYNC has collaborated extensively with Britney Spears, helping to create one of the greatest celebrity couples of our generation, Timberlake and Spears.

98 Diplomas (1996 – 2002, 2012 – present)

Fashion Style: Basically the boys were a hipster version of Backstreet Boys / * NSYNC with matching outfits that were a weird preppy / skier / firefighter combination.

Music genre: Unlike most boy bands, 98 Degrees had a more R&B side to it and they wrote their own material.

Media representation: The boys were a member of the classic boy group ensemble. While other groups changed their lead vocalists, Nick Lachey was the best known – and when he started dating Jessica Simpson, the two became an overall contract for the group’s success.

Bonne Charlotte (2000 – present)

Fashion Style: With their dark hair, tattoos, and MADE clothes, the boys were the complete opposite of the matching white jumpsuits we were used to.

Music genre: As pop faded, pop rock became the new trend. The boys played their own music and the only dance moves were their stage jumps.

Media representation: Although Good Charlotte doesn’t really fall into the “boy band” category, they are an interesting example of how music has evolved over time. As the boy groups portrayed a cookie-cutter image, Good Charlotte exposed the outrageous lifestyles of the rich and famous. They had a simple “don’t care” attitude that attracted people.

Maroon 5 (2002 – present)

Fashion Style: These guys were all about plain t-shirts and jeans. With very simple looks, they let their music speak for them.

Music genre: When the band started, a lot of people confused their R&B and soul influences with pop.

Media representation: While Maroon 5 doesn’t classify itself as a “boy band”, strictly speaking, they represent how the meaning of the term went from a bunch of guys singing and dancing to a bunch of guys just doing their own music.

Jonas Brothers (2005 – 2013)

Fashion Style: For the Jonas Brothers, each member has had a signature look over the years: Joe has his mohawk, Kevin has his bandanas, and Nick has his locks curly.

Music genre: While their music was mostly pop, they occasionally experimented with other genres. Aside from the 90s boy bands, they were really involved in their music making process, writing their own lyrics and playing their own instruments.

Media representation: Ever since the boys got their Disney Channel hit, their image was all about those healthy boys next door. They were polite, well dressed and everything you would want to take home to your parents.

One Direction (2010-present)

Fashion Style: The boys are known for their distinct style (especially their hairstyles) but neither of them have the same look.

Music genre: Musically, One Direction goes back to the heart of the boy bands of the 90s. Even though they are classified in pop, they also play their own instruments from time to time.

Media representation: One Directions sparked the craze of European boy bands (well, revived if you count the Beatles). Since they debuted in the UK X factor they opened the door to other acts including The Wanted, 5 Seconds of Summer and The Vamps.


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