What is it with “boy bands” that make them so ephemeral? Will One Direction follow the same direction as so many boy bands?
You know the song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth“? Well all my ten-year-old daughter wants for Christmas are tickets to a One Direction (1D) concert. “It doesn’t matter if the concert is in 40 years, ” she told me without a hint of irony.
Well, the odds are stacked against her that there will be a One Direction concert in 40 years. Or in twenty years. Or maybe even in ten years. Such is the nature of “boy bands” – here today gone tomorrow. No, wait. Hold on just a minute… ah…here yesterday, gone today. Yes, they seem to last just about that long.
So if you’re a fan, or your daughter or niece or granddaughter is a fan, you might want to heed Elvis Presley’s advice: It’s now or never.
are on sale now:
If you don’t have a pre-teen daughter or niece, you might be wondering what the fuss is all about. My ten-year-old has been their “biggest fan” for a couple years. She has the posters, the magazines (yes, something she actually enjoys reading!) and the t-shirts. My twelve-year-old saw the movie with a friend, and now she’s also their “biggest fan”.
The thing about pre-teen girls, is that very soon they become teenagers, then young ladies, then…well we all grow up. Some will still like the boy bands of their youth, but they mostly move on to other things, and the magazines get recycled and the posters are replaced by framed paintings.
A very short history of boy bands
And the band members grow up and disperse. Some members go on to launch solo careers. Or they keep on going with albums successful enough, but outshone by their glory days. Could the direction One Direction takes be foretold by the history of some other famous boy bands?
— David Leonhardt (@amabaie) December 6, 2013
New Kids on the Block: They hit the scene in 1986, but flopped. In 1988, however, their second album was a chart-topper, one of two Number One selling albums. They actually stayed together for a long time after their fan base had thinned out to just the hard-core followers. They reunited in 2007 with enough of their old fans remembering them to go on a reasonably successful tour with The Backstreet Boys.
Backstreet Boys: This band hit the charts in 1996 and enjoyed five years of fame, selling more records than any other “boy band”, including two Number One selling albums. Let’s just keep those quotation marks on that monicker for now. The Backstreet Boys have never really disappeared; they just stopped being the object of pre-teen obsession.
‘N Sync: This band hit the charts in 1998 and also enjoyed five years of fame, sort of like a Backstreet Boys echo. They did lay claim to two Number One selling albums, but Justin Timberlake went on to do his own solo career, so that was pretty much that.
Jonas Brothers: It took three years for them to make it big, mostly on the strength of the movie Camp Rock in 2008. Here we are, five years later, and where are the Jonas Brothers?
Boyz II Men: A more traditional group, these boys were singing together several years before their 1990’s fame, and continue to sing long after their fame subsided. They were not formed by a record label, so they don’t fit the mold of what one typically thinks of as a “boy band”. They don’t lay claim to two Number One selling albums, but they did break many records for their singles, placing them in the record books beside Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
Is there hope for One Direction?
I left the term “boy band” in quotation marks because their is one boy band that never makes the list of boy bands: The Beatles. Yes, when they first hit the airwaves, they were four boys creating perhaps the most famous teenage girl frenzy in recorded history. Parents worried that Beatlemania was the end of the world. And The Beatles enjoyed almost a full decade of popularity until they broke up, along the way becoming the best selling band in history. All four members of the band enjoyed successful solo careers afterwards.
But if you had waited ten years to see a Beatles concert, you would have been out of luck. Even The Beatles had dispersed in less than ten years.
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Whether they will be together ten years from now or not, One Direction looks destined to have at least a little more time in the spotlight. Just a couple days ago, their third album debuted on The Billboard 200 at Number One, giving them their third album at that position. That is the first time a boy band reaches that milestone…if you ignore The Beatles.
One Direction will grow up, and so will their fans. They might become more obscure or not, but either way, they already have success. None of the examples of boy bands that we reviewed here is a failure. Any budding artist would be thrilled to have one tenth of the success any of them has had.
If you want to read more about the top ten boys bands, here is Billboard’s official take, up to 1012.
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