Rise and Fall: 90s Boy & Girl Bands

It was the turn of the 90s. Glam rockers with long hair were going out faster than the slime could fall on Double Dare. Grunge was taking over young and impressionable minds like the Sega Genesis. Boy band New Kids On The Block had just come from a wave of popularity off of their hottest track, “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”

Seeing the chaos of screaming teens and endless merchandising unfold into a capitalist’s wet dream, other major record executives took note and began shaping the future of pop music, ultimately creating an army of cookie-cutter boy bands and female acts that would take the world by storm.

In combinations of three to five, these young and attractive males would belt out lyrics of the labors of love in harmonies that should have been too high for their vocal chords to handle. Backed by a prerecorded or hidden band, they would dance in sync to the beat as thousands of females of all ages held signs that begged the heartthrobs in their dreams to marry them. It was Beatlemania Part Deux as the new face of pretty boy music streamed through the airwaves of radio and MTV, their faces plastered on every media outlet and burning into the minds of the spiritually vulnerable.

As the big three – Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, and 98 Degrees – wooed audiences of teenyboppers, the movement began to crawl around the world. O-Town popped up late in the game, coming from the same roots as Justin Timberlake and his posse of pals, with their song “Liquid Dreams.” Meanwhile, miles away in Moldova, their O-type counterpart, O-Zone, were busy releasing their first album, which would pave the way for their dance hit “Dragostea din tei” or “Ma ya hi,” as it’s well known.

Over in England, Take That – featuring “Millenium” singer Robbie Williams – was a success up until the middle of the decade, and their competitor East 17 (later E-17) made it a year longer. And on the other isle, Irish band Boyzone tore up the charts with their hits, including “No Matter What.” Back in America, R&B boy groups All-4-One and Boys II Men added soul and blues to their ballads, showing that it wasn’t just the skinny white boys who could dance and sing to get the attention of the world’s supply of females.

As the 90s waned and the new millennium rang in with a whimper rather than a bang, the innocence of boy bands began to falter as drama swallowed them whole. The movement went to Asian countries, where the J-Pop and K-Pop genres boomed with a flurry of excitement and has continued to do so with acts like TVXQ, KAT-TUN, and Hey! Say! JUMP!

But as connections between boy band members and female solo artists like Britney and Christina filled the pages of J-14 and reports of financial fraud lined the newspapers, teens began to search for a different way to fill the empty part of their soul. That came in the form of the anti-boy band; groups that used harder sounds and lyrics of self-pity and indifference instead of vague love. This motif of indifference carried on throughout the new decade, catering to those who called themselves “hipsters” – and the rest is history.

But all is not gone with the boy band generation in America. Millennials still craving the boys are feeding their addiction with the Jonas Brothers, who have the art of reeling in fangirls and making their hair appear flawless. Most importantly, they play their own instruments and still manage to make passable pop music; which means a new wave of impostors and competitors is just around the corner.

William Sisskind My first memory of any conscious thought was writing my first words on a Magna Doodle at one year old. Since then, I've been fascinated with using words and pictures to communicate with people, which ultimately culminated in my decision to study television and writing at Ithaca College. Along with creating short films that I know I'll burn in my professional life, I write compulsively in my free time and compose electronic music, all while trying to avoid that label of "twenty-something." Twitter: @WXSYZ

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