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?