Pop music is nothing new, but ever since The Beatles stepped onto that stage on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ something ignited in the teenage brain around the world. The foundation of what it meant when hysteria ensued after a group of guys sang had been laid, and fans haven’t stopped screaming since. Every generation has its own boy bands that they hold near and dear, and for well over six decades boy bands have been a staple in the hearts of millions. From the ones made up of family to the ones made for TV, we’re going to cover them all in this Ultimate Boy Band Evolution playlist. So sit back and enjoy, but also feel free to sing and dance along.
Diehard Beatles fans will try and argue that this group is more than a boy band, but Beatlemania looks exactly like scenes from the late ‘90s when boy bands would stop by MTV’s ‘Total Request Live.’ The high octave screams don’t lie.
Today Donny and Marie Osmond are known for Vegas shows and those big, white smiles but before the brother and sister became a duo, it was a bigger family affair. They went by The Osmond Brothers at first but no matter what one called them, they were still a group of siblings singing, dancing, and ultimately influencing what would become the biggest name in pop music – ever.
The Jackson 5
Joe Jackson didn’t wait too long to put his own kids in the spotlight and thus, The Jackson 5 was born. We all know who broke away from the group to then go onto have a very lucrative solo career, and no – it’s not Tito!
With all of the above doing well enough, Hollywood decided to bank on this new crop of interest in groups of guys singing, and from that came a TV show about just that. The Monkees was the first made for TV band, but keep on reading because they’d be far from the last.
Menudo started in the late ‘70s but in the ‘80s really started to take off. However, what made this boy band different from the rest is that the members always changed. Once a member hit a certain age, they were out and replaced by someone new. Like The Jackson 5, one of the members went on to have a very amazing solo career. Ever heard of Ricky Martin?
There is a boy band coming up that gets a lot of credit for helping usher in the modern boy band, but before them came New Edition. Yes, they were the basis on which New Kids on the Block was based, which then led to an excess of boy bands in the ‘90s, but we’ll get there.
New Kids on the Block
So here they are, the boy band that mistakenly gets the credit for the wave of boy bands in the ‘90s. New Kids on the Block was a great band and definitely helped push the boy band narrative to the masses, but they were fashioned after New Edition. However, New Kids on the Block took the blueprint that New Edition laid out and ran with it towards the bank in terms of marketing. They were on everything from lunchboxes to bedsheets. It was the ‘80s and excess was everything.
Boyz II Men
While New Kids on the Block was heating things up and representing Boston, Boyz II Men was starting to pave their own path in the late ‘80s. By the ‘90s they were one of the most beloved and played groups in the world. When it comes to romance and R&B, no one does it quite like Boyz II Men. They were a boy band but definitely relied more on their vocals than their synchronized dance moves and ‘Tiger Beat’ photoshoots.
If you remember how big Backstreet Boys and N’SYNC were in the late ‘90s, that’s how huge Take That was in the UK in the early ‘90s. Plus, once they were no more, we got the solo career of Robbie Williams. While they were one of the biggest acts overseas, they never made that big of an impact in the states. We wouldn’t see British boy bands until much later.
Like Boyz II Men, Hanson wasn’t about the typical boy band thing. They didn’t do overly hyped pop music, nor did they dance. Although they did do some awkward disco-like moves to the sugary sweet debut single, “MMMBop,” Hanson was more about showcasing their instrumentation and songwriting ability, but because they were young, cute, and marketable to teens and tweens, they often got lumped into the mix.
The late Lou Pearlman saw what had happened with the boy bands of the ‘80s and thought, let me try that and in April 1993 five guys came together to form the Backstreet Boys. They didn’t know it then, but they’d go on to be the first artist to sell one million records in a week, later they’d become the number one selling boy band of all time. In their almost 30 year career, they’ve done just about everything from play around the world in 24 hours to have a stellar Vegas Residency.
Okay, so Lou Pearlman wasn’t the greatest guy in the world. He stole a lot of money from a lot of people but as Joey Fatone of N’SYNC once said at 90s Con, without him we wouldn’t have his group of Backstreet Boys. So it’s sort of like you have to have the evil to get the good. All that said, once Pearlman saw Backstreet Boys doing well enough, he put the formula to work again and then cranked out N’SYNC. They were the first group to then sell two million records in a week, but after only a few records and a Christmas album, the group parted ways. Fans are still holding onto hope that one day they’ll reunite but it’s a longshot since Justin Timberlake couldn’t even show to Coachella for that epic Ariana Grande performance.
They may not have had a lot of hits, and Chinese food made them sick but LFO stands tall as a memory in many millennials’ minds. For that, we salute.
98 Degrees stood out from the big two of the late ‘90s because unlike Backstreet Boys and N’SYNC, they only had four members and were more about the ballads. They’d attempt those more uptempo songs, but it was always their insanely romantic ones that always made the most noise.
We started to get a bit of a British invasion in the mid to late ‘90s with boy bands like BBMak coming through. Like a wonderful mix of Hanson and 98 Degrees, this trio came ready to play with actual instruments but dove deep into those heartfelt love songs.
Anyone who had the Disney Channel in the late ‘90s knows this song. 5ive never did much else in the states, but this song was enough to keep them in the minds of many.
Like Take That, we didn’t hear too much about Westlife stateside but that didn’t stop teen magazines from printing their pictures to pique the interests of young buyers at the time. So those who were able to get to the import section of their local Sam Goody could then indulge in this British delight.
MTV saw the popularity of boy bands and like many before them, tried to bank on it. So they went and created a movie spoofing boy bands. They really underestimated the power of teen girls because the movie did so well, they then had to give their fictitious boy band a TV show. 2gether may have been fake, but the love they got from fans was 100% real.
Lou Pearlman is back one more time as he got into the reality TV game early on to create yet another boy band. From ‘Making the Band’ we got O-Town. They had a handful of hits, including the “Liquid Dreams,” which…why was that sold to teenagers? Anyways, wild singles aside, O-Town still heads out and plays shows, only as a quartet nowadays.
Like The Osmonds, Jackson 5, and Hanson, the Jonas Brothers were siblings who put their genetics to work. They started out small in the mid-00s, but eventually landed on Disney Channel, and well, the rest is history. Well, not actually. They did take a quick break, had some kids, all got married, and then came back like the break had never happened.
Big Time Rush
Boy bands weren’t as popping as they once were when Nickelodeon decided to make a show based around one, but we’re forever grateful they did because Big Time Rush was pretty amazing. Cute guys? Check. Great music? Check. What else could one want?
On one hand, Simon Cowell was right to put the five members of One Direction together because for a minute they were the biggest group in the world. However, since parting ways each member has managed to prove they did indeed have what it’d take to have a solo career. Nevertheless, we’re happy to have experienced the beauty of this modern-day boy band. Even if it was short-lived.
The fervor that BTS brought to the world is so reminiscent of Beatlemania and late ‘90s boy bands, that it’s refreshing to know that even as we head deeper into the 21st century, boy bands will always be a constant in music and pop culture.
Written by Kendra Beltran