Boy-band resurgence: One Direction and the Wanted try to fill the void Justin Timberlake left

Categories: Poptimystic
Update 4/12/12: Hot on the heels of its appearance on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, One Direction has announced a date at the Pepsi on Tuesday, July, 24. Tickets on sale next Saturday.

OneDirection.jpg
One Direction, looking as much like the Beach Boys as they can.
Pop music is cyclical. With the absence of one niche pop artist arises another: Look at what Lady Gaga did when Madonna was absent from the scene for so long. What has pop music been missing recently? Boy bands.

'N Sync, the world's most revered boy band -- bar the Beatles, pop's first boy band, which pioneered the boy-band aesthetic and package for their generation -- boasted one of the best sales weeks ever, with one million copies of their album No Strings Attached, in one day. The band said bye, bye, bye to the world two years later, in 2002, and there hasn't been a boy band as big ever since.

Although the Backstreet Boys, despite also calling it quits in 2002, returned in 2005 with another boy band, New Kids on the Block, to form the megazord of boy bands, NKOTBSB, and claim best-selling boy-bander status of all time, their market was largely soccer moms everywhere, not pre- and post-pubescent music lovers like 'N Sync.

No matter. Lacking male-drive pop since the rise of Gaga and Katy Perry only three years ago, the United States has ventured overseas to fill the void left by Justin, JC, Lance, Chris and Joey. Their replacements, who answer to the name One Direction, are just as effervescent, polished and boy band-y as their predecessors. They've got the whole pouty, introspective, look-at-the-ground-then-look-at-the-camera thing down to a science, too. Justin Timberlake would be proud (if he wasn't so busy impersonating Bon Iver).

Take, for example, "What Makes You Beautiful" -- One Direction's playful ode to that girl that doesn't know she's beautiful, the one that usually sat next to you in homeroom, that you couldn't stop staring at when you were supposed to be taking notes. "What Makes You Beautiful" is purely feel-good pop, without any underlying message.

The video, likewise, sees the boys, five of them -- like all boy-band greats -- running, jumping and singing beachside to a few fresh-faced girls whose post-acne skincare regimens makes their skin shine like their sun and their smiles radiate with a confidence that says, "Yeah, I know you know I'm beautiful, but I'm going to let you sing it to me anyways." Basically, the video is a trip down early 'N Sync memory lane in all of the right ways; there's an undeniable Beach Boys, America's first true boy band, in there, too. The only thing that is missing is the synchronized choreography.

"What Makes You Beautiful" picked up a Brit Award last week for Best British Single, beating Adele's "Someone Like You." One Direction also saw the highest-charting debut for a British band on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1998, when "What Makes You Beautiful" landed at number 28 last Wednesday.

It may have taken ten years to produce a new boy band like One Direction for the masses, but the Brits did it, and somehow they did it twice. The Wanted, which is everything One Direction is not when it comes to pop -- these older guys wear less clothes, encourage their ladies to drink alcohol and, most noticeably, are old enough to need to shave -- is seeing an equal success in the States lately. "Glad You Came," their big, Ellen-sponsored U.S. hit, is the song for the After Prom party, when One Direction has to retire because of an early curfew and when all the older, Wanted guys only want to get their girls alone. "Glad You Came," packed with its unspoken double entendre, matches both of these sentiments together in a way that the younger lads of One Direction can't even fathom yet. They're like One Direction's older, cooler brothers.

It's almost as if One Direction and the Wanted, like 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, were imported simultaneously to fill the decade-long void in the 21st Century pop epoch. And "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Glad You Came" work well as a reintroduction to what we may not have even realized we were missing: boy-band pop music. These two songs serve as the perfect followups to where 'N Sync left off with "Girlfriend" in 2002.

Will we see more boy bands spring up and cross the pond in the next year or so? Bet on it. Pop music builds on winning formulas -- that's why every song sounded like a Timbaland song in 2006, thanks to "Promiscuous," and like a RedOne song in 2009, thanks to "Poker Face."

Muppets Among Men: The Muppets scored last night at the Oscars, when "Man or Muppet" won Best Original Song for Disney's The Muppets. It was a big win for Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Jason Segel, an avid Muppet enthusiast, but it was an even bigger win for Bret McKenzie, who collected the statue for his work as the song's composer and lyricist. The song's only competitor, literally, was "Real In Rio" from Rio.

Climactic: The anticipated new Usher single, "Climax," dropped last week. It's a sexy electro-R&B track, much like "Love In The Club," but certainly more interesting. Sounds nothing like Diplo's typical production style, but "Climax" oozes Robin Thicke atmospherics. It's a step in the right direction for Usher, whose bedroom songs possess more baby-making staying power than sellout jams like "DJ Got Us Falling In Love."



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8 comments
benjii_T
benjii_T

NSYNC: WORLD'S MOST REVERED BOYBAND? This author is a dumb f$$$! Have the won any European awards? Only got nominated one and didn't even win. The only awards they won more Backstreet guys were KIDS CHOICE AWARDS. These stupid awards don't make them REVERED, and they were more a USA boyband, NOT a WORLD-WIDE group.

Tammy_Chan
Tammy_Chan

Backstreet are still in Guiness Book of World Records for "biggest boy band in history". End of story.

Kathryn
Kathryn

I'm sorry...the "world's" most revered boyband would hardly be nsync.  They were mostly a US, with a few other English speaking countries, phenomenon. Oh, and that boyband JT came from.  While IN THE US, first week sales of nsync's  albums No Strings Attached and Celebrity outsold the Backstreet Boys' respective albums Millineum and Black and Blue--the Backstreet Boys ultimately outsold both nsync's albums in TOTAL sales both in the US and around the world. I would hardly consider a single week's sales as indication of who the more popular band was, and limiting it to what the US thinks is egocentricity at its worst. Ignoring sales, lists of the best pop songs from MTV/Rolling Stone Magazine placed Backstreet's I Want It That Way at #10. Where was Nsync's Bye Bye Bye? WAY down somewhere in the 40s. Not quite "classic".  The Backstreet Boys always WERE an international pop phenomenon and continue to do well enough worldwide. They still record, they still tour both solely and with NKOTB and their WORLDWIDE sales are far out number the sales of nsync even if we discount the 4-5 extra albums they have on nsync. To consider nsync more popular just because of Justin Timberlake would be to consider the Commodores more popular than the Temptations or the Four Tops, or the Drifters just because Lionel Ritchie was in it.So those of us that still quite enjoy the Boys anticipate their next album which they start recording next month.

Angela
Angela

The author already acknowledged and noted that Backstreet has overall outsold NSYNC. You didn't need to go explaining it at length.

Its great that you are anticipating their next album by the way, hopefully they can make it to 100K sales this time.

cindy phan
cindy phan

If the author acknowledged Backstreet out-shined Nsync, he/she would have correct the FALSE statement: "NSync - the WORLD's most revered boyband". Kathryn just pointed that out. So what if they don't make the sales today, it's understandable because boybands have short lives. Even Boyz II Men are NOW in the worse situation than them but we still have to give them the credits that they earned. But if the current status is all that matters, why do we have to mention NSYNC since they have became N'Pieces. At least BSB can still do ARENA concerts around the world, better than being in a cooking competition with other washed up celebrities, or mentoring an embarrassing boyband called Heart2Heart.

Angela
Angela

What Lance Bass chooses to do with his money is not my business nor of my concern. It was a parody.

The point is, BSB's popular has declined considerably. If they're worldwide they should still be able to sell albums.

cindy phan
cindy phan

You misspelled it so I misunderstood, but it just got corrected by the author. Anyways, you are missing the point of the argument. It's not about the word "revered" but " WORLD" (See Kathryn's parentheses?). WORLD means GLOBAL, but NSYNC never got the GLOBAL FAME as BSB and NKOTB. BSB and NKOTB were once teen pop sensations AROUND THE WORLD (not only in the States, U.K. but South America, the rest of Europe and ASIA), when NSYNC only had a couple hits in Germany but most of the success and awards came from the States and Canada. You will laugh if a British article claiming Take That or Westlife with that title since they received a lot of Britt awards. WHAT HAPPENS IN A CERTAIN COUNTRY OR CERTAIN REGION, IT DOESN'T REFLECT THE WORLD.BSB have been on world tours before the collaboration with NKOTB. Their recent This Is Us tour was on UK's X-factor. And as I said before, so what if they don't make as much money as before. They are still able to do what they love and get paid for it. Better than doing nothing and feeling miserable like Chris (his own words in Mission: Man Band).Heart2Heart was a parody? If it's true, why spent too much money making that video, and why did they have to disable the youtube LIKE and DISLIKE buttons?

Angela
Angela

I said outsold, not out-shined. NSYNC generally had more critical acclaim than Backstreet. All of their albums have higher scores on Metacritic. They also worked with and have gotten praise from many legends (the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson/Jackson 5) and crossed over to R&B (Brian McKnight, Stevie Wonder). Jackson even asked them to induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.

BSB toured with New Kids on the Block, not just by themselves. And even with that, they didn't even make the top 15 tours of 2011.

Heart2Heart was a parody group. I thought that was pretty obvious. Joey Fatone has a beautiful family now, I'm sure he's not concerned on what someone thinks about him doing a cooking show for charity.

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