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With Monday’s news that Rolling Stone readers had named The Backstreet Boys the top boy band of all time, beating out The Beatles and ‘Nsync, I found myself asking for a definition to the term “boy band.” Surely, The Beatles aren’t in the same league as ‘Nsync and The Backstreet Boys!

Initially, I was of the mind set that the term “boy band” only applied to the ‘Nsync, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, Dream Street, and O-Towns of the late 90s and early 2000s. The frosted tips, the baggy pants, the choreographed dancing all seemed essential. But before them came Boys II Men, New Kids On The Block and New Edition in the 80s and early 90s. Before that, young girls were fainting over The Osmonds, The Jackson 5 and The Monkees in the 60s and 70s. We could go as far back as the Barbershop quartets of the doo wop era.

So, despite the fact that the term “boy band” wasn’t widely used until the 90s, boy bands have been around for a long time. In the 90s, boy bands sang and danced in sync (get it?). They didn’t play instruments. But where does that put the Jonas Brothers? Newcomers One Direction and The Wanted don’t match in clothing or dance the way my childhood idols did. They’re still boy bands, though.

It would seem that they all have a few things in common – pop music, a fervent teen following, a look and sound with the right balance between wholesome and sexy, and three or more singing members. The use of instruments and choreographed dancing seems to depict the time period more than it does the type of band.

Where does that put The Beatles, though? Rolling Stone readers included the Fab Four in their list of boy bands. Sure, Paul, John, Ringo and George had an avid teen girl following, but I’d argue that Paul McCartney was the lead singer. Having a lead would, therefore, make The Beatles a band, not a boy band with shared singing responsibilities. Yes, John Lennon sang his fair share, but I’m sticking to this theory because it would kick The Beatles out of the boy band category.

Does that mean that a boy band is any band without a lead singer? What constitutes a boy band in your eyes?

  • http://twitter.com/mocha1110 Azaria Hill

    Hmmm… I never really though about it, but The Beatles really could qualify as a boy band.  What separates them from most other boy bands, however, was the longevity of their careers.

  • Victoria

    I don’t count the Beatles as a boy band.  I just don’t.  They are in a completely different league and I just can’t get my brain to categorize them as a boy band.  It doesn’t work that way.

    John and Paul did sing pretty equally, but George barely sang and I think Ringo sang maybe 3 or 4 songs total.  And it was rare that they all sang equally together on anything.  There are Paul songs, there are John songs.  A couple George and Ringo, but not often.  But there are definite Paul and John songs, even though pretty much all of them are credited to Lennon/McCartney.

    • Samuel

      erm, not quite. George had about two or three songs on every album and towards the end became on-par with John and Paul. Ringo usually sang about a song per album and wrote a few as well. 

      • Samuel

        but yeah, you’re right that they really aren’t a boyband

      • Victoria

        But they limited George quite a bit, and even toward the end, he didn’t have near as many as Lennon/McCartney.  And as for Ringo, I just meant the ones he wrote, so I wasn’t counting things like “With a Little Help From My Friends” (which is a Paul song, technically).  I know I was under-exaggerating a little, but I was just trying to make a point :).

        And by saying they didn’t have as many songs, I was CERTAINLY not saying that George and Ringo weren’t as talented or anything :). 

  • katniss79

    Ugg I love The Beatles and it causes me great pain to hear them called a ‘boy band’. They had enormous talent. Yes, they did have a strong female following but in the latter years they had a strong male following too. The Beatles had there fair share of catchy tween songs but as they matured so did there songs. They became a reflection of what was going on in the world. They also wrote all of their own songs. I think they were simply an amazing band not just a boy band.

    • Susalka

      Don’t forget during Beatlemania, guys would be at concerts too to appreciate the music, not just in their later years.

  • Jordan

    No. They played an instrument.

  • http://twitter.com/greeneggsplusam Sam

    If there’s instruments involved, they’re not a boy band!

  • rdh014

    A boy band is something put together by music moguls specifically to make money.
    Almost all of the bands from the 90′s beyond (excluded Jonas, but still) were–more or less–put together, they weren’t discovered as a whole. Even One Direction was a brain child of The X Factor. 

    So no.

    The Beatles are NOT a boy band. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1396140172 Caitlin Toner

    I agree with some of the other posters. A boy band is a group of male singers put together by producers/record labels. They don’t come together on their own, and they don’t play instruments. The Beatles decided on their own to make a band, and they played instruments; therefore, not a boy band.

    I also don’t think you can count shared vocals as a characteristic of boy bands. If so you would have to call the four Seasons and the Beach Boys boy bands, and that just doesn’t work for me.

    • Claire

      So the Jonas Brothers would not be a boy band then? I agree with that, but I know there are plenty of people that put them in that category. They play instruments and came together on their own (well, by birth).

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1396140172 Caitlin Toner

        No, I would not consider them a boy band. I believe the major criteria for defining a boy band is that they are a creation of the music industry from a group of strangers who happen to sing and can follow choreography. While I believe the Jonas Brothers are an over-hyped group of artists, which can be said of most pop stars, they do not fit the category. I doubt they were approached individually by a recording studio and asked to join a band. I’m pretty sure they were discovered as a full fledged musical group, but don’t quote me on that as I am not positive.

        I also believe that playing a musical instrument is a lot more difficult than singing in today’s industry. (No offense to any singers, but I doubt any one will disagree with me that a majority of artist’s voices today are digitally manipulated in some way.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/sandiegorealestate Dan Heilbrun

      They were the example, the model and the mold for boy bands. The manufacturing of boy bands were meant to mimic the Beatles success with their marketing technique and song composition. I think there is a good argument to say they were the first boy band. If one of the elements required to form a boy band is to have them manufactured by a third party, then technically they arent a boy band, even though they are the model and the reason for every boy band to exist.

  • Isak

    I think they had the boyband appeal up to “Rubber Soul”, after that they evolved into a more mature sound.
    But it is certainly stupid to consider them in boyband polls nowadays because their whole career does not belong in the boyband genre, only a small portion of it.

  • Samuel

    Er, technically John was the lead man rather than Paul, though their song ratio was pretty much 50/50, but it was John’s band originally, not Paul. And, in my opinion, boy band means an all-male singing group put together by a record label.

  • kmorris76

    Nope, but the Monkees, now THEY were a boy band…

  • AlyssaK

    I think the Beatles were a band. They weren’t a BOY band. I look at the two differently. A boy band is a band that does the choreographed dance moves with the HUGE HUGE HUGE female following but doesn’t play instruments on stage. (Such as ‘Nsync and the new Big Time Rush). The Beatles are way above any boy band in history. 

  • Rob Macdonald

    my criteria would be if they write their own music and play instruments they are not a boy band

    • BlueBronze

      I agree. I don’t consider the Jonas Brothers a boy band, just a pop group. 

      I think the biggest thing about boy bands is that they are brought together by their management and didn’t start the group themselves. For example, One Direction didn’t exist until they boys were told they could stay in The X Factor if they worked together. Auditions were held to MAKE the Backstreet Boys, NSync, 98 Degrees, etc. Boy bands exist to make money. 

      Groups like The Beatles, however, formed first and foremost for the music. That’s the difference. The Beatles may have kickstarted the fan fervor attributed to boy bands, but that doesn’t make them one.

      • Megan

         100% agree with both Rob and BlueBronze. Just because a band has a strong teen following does not make them a “boy band.” Additionally, The Beatles left that image behind in 1966 with the release of Revolver and only continued it with Sgt. Pepper. Their music drastically changed! Also, I think it’s completely wrong to lump The Beach Boys into that category as well! Pet Sounds is a fabulous album that shaped popular music and some people believe pushed The Beatles to take a huge leap with Sgt. Pepper.

  • Susalka

    WTF This only proves how fucking stupid Rolling Stone is, The Beatles were MOST DEFINITELY NOT a boy band. That implies that they were forced together by a record company, the songs were written by “professional songwriters” and that they don’t play their own music, which is the opposite of what The Beatles were. To even consider lumping them together with Backstreet Boys and One Direction is borderline sacrilegious!

  • http://twitter.com/MaybeDavey David Weckesser

    The Beatles may have been at one time when they first came out playing pop or pop rock. They became a legit rock band about there second album. I love The Beatles. They are the most influential band of all time and the GREATEST band of all time.

  • Ceciliasyndrome

    i think that what makes a boy band is what they are singing about – love songs mostly. some bands go to coreographs, like new kids and backstreet boys, others play instruments, like hanson and jonas brothers. but what reeeally makes them a boy band is the fans. females fans. screaming loving devoted young fans. (and yes, i was and remain one, except for the screaming part). it usually takes a while for (some) boys to become fans. take that is an example of how much their “following” evolved from that first concept – you can find in their concerts as much dudes singing and crying as women.
    so i do believe the beatles could be considered a “boy band”, at least until rubber soul/revolver, when they began to step away from 3-minute pop rock songs that marked the beggining of their carrer. they started to experiment with different genres, they were more mature in terms of songwriting, and they stopped doing tours. most guys were as amazed by them as the girls during beatlemania, but, and using the example of my own father, only began to really notice them as a true genious rock band after those albuns. once they released sgt peppers, they officially said goodbye to their old selfs (the whole album was conceived that way, but for other reasons, as seen in paul’s biography and scorsese’s documentary about george).
    that being said, i don’t know why people see the term “boy band” as a bad thing to connect the beatles with. or hell, as a bad thing at all. they exist, and as long as there are teenagers, they’ll continue to exist.

    (sorry that was long :P )

  • guest1234

    I don’t consider the Beatles a boy band, as most people have said, because they played their own instruments. However, I don’t agree with saying boy bands are bands that have shared singing responsibilities because with some of the biggest boy bands around there is always one or two of them that sing the most solos. For example, in Westlife, Shane and Mark sing most of the solos, whereas Nicky and Kian hardly ever do. The same in One Direction where Niall and Louis hardly ever sing alone. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/kung.j.john Kung Ju John

    I want to punch the heck out of anybody who considered the Beatles a “Boy Band”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kung.j.john Kung Ju John

    When the Rolling Stones hit America shortly after the Beatles did, they had teen girls going crazy for the band members. The Stones had teen girl followers despite the fact that the band was tougher musically than the Beatles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sandiegorealestate Dan Heilbrun

    I guess the main thing now is that boy bands are manufactured to reproduce the style of marketing and merchandising to a target audience. They were the prototype for a boy band. There is a reasonable argument that suggests they were the first boy band. Just because they werent cheesy and they actually were groundbreaking in their music doesnt make them not a boy band.

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