A decade after ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys dominated the entertainment world, boy bands have returned and are making a comeback.
One Direction, the British quintet that placed third on the U.K.’s “X Factor” in 2010, will see its album “Up All Night” debut high on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart this week. The Wanted, another U.K.-based quintet, is spending its second week at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart with the jam “Glad You Came.”
Big Time Rush, a four-member boy band that also has a hit Nickelodeon show readying its third season, recently wrapped a sold-out tour at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, and will embark on a larger U.S. and Canadian trek this summer. And Mindless Behavior, formed by the man who discovered Lady Gaga — record executive Vincent Herbert — debuted at No. 2 on the R&B charts in late 2010 with its album “(hash)1 Girl,” and has toured with Janet Jackson and Justin Bieber, among others.
“It’s just exploding,” said Ernie D., the creative director and on-air personality for Radio Disney. “It’s really amazing to see, especially on my end, hearing all the calls from the listeners. ... So that fever is definitely growing for sure.”
It’s reminiscent of a time when ‘N Sync battled the Backstreet Boys as music’s top act, selling millions of albums and concert tickets, thanks to the millions of girls who invested time, their parents’ money and screamed pleas for their favorite boy band. ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, who rose to fame in the 1990s and carried that through the new millennium, were followed by others successful boy bands, such as 98 Degrees, O-Town and Dream Street.
Before that, it was New Edition who exploded on the scene in the 1980s, followed by the massive success of New Kids on the Block. And before that, there was the Jackson Five and the Osmonds, and so on.
The Jonas Brothers made it big in the mid-2000s with its hit Disney TV series, films and albums. They started to fade years later, though, as the oldest, Kevin, got married, and Joe and Nick launched solo careers.
But now, there are various boy bands releasing music simultaneously, helping drive each other to the top of the charts.
“It’s giving us that little competition that makes us want to go further and excel further than we are right now,” said 22-year-old Carlos Pena Jr. of Big Time Rush.
“It’s cool to see more boy bands, but us, Mindless Behavior, we want to show the fans what we got,” said Mindless Behavior’s Prodigy, who is 15. Roc Royal and Princeton — both 14 — and Ray Ray, 15, round out the group.
Big Time Rush recently had its TV film, “Big Time Movie,” reach over 13.1 million total viewers when it debuted on Nickelodeon two weeks ago. They also released an EP of the same name to accompany the film, which features cover versions of classic Beatles songs.
The group members said they weren’t excited about being coined a “boy band” when they debuted in late 2009.
“We hated that term to start with,” 21-year-old James Maslow said.
“Because the term hadn’t come back yet,” added Kendall Schmidt, 21. “We kind of feel like we paved the way for it to come back.”
The foursome — which includes Logan Henderson — has released two albums. Their last tour featured One Direction as the opening act.
“We want to support other boy bands as well because we really want that whole genre to come back,” Maslow said.
Other boy bands on the verge include Midnight Red, formed by RedOne, the producer behind Lady Gaga hits like “Just Dance,” ‘’Poker Face” and “Bad Romance.” Midnight Run will release a single next month, and an album later this year. Beyonce, who recently launched her production company Parkwood Entertainment, said she plans on putting together her own boy band. And the British quartet JLS, the runners-up on the U.K.’s “X Factor” in 2008, has released three top-selling albums in Europe, collecting five No. 1s; they have plans to release music in America.
“There’s always going to be a market out there for teenage girls and girls in their early twenties that have this desire (for boy bands) ... and eventually they grow with the bands,” said Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys, who recently released his solo debut, “Back to Me.”
The Wanted, whose members range in age from 18 to 23, has released two albums in the United Kingdom; its U.S. debut is out on April 24. At last month’s Brit Awards, The Wanted’s “All Time Low” lost best British single to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” currently No. 28 on the Billboard chart. One Direction, whose youngest member is 18 and oldest is 20, have signed up to do a Nickelodeon show and will perform at next month’s Kids Choice Awards; Big Time Rush is also slated to perform.
Radio Disney’s Ernie D. says the new crop of boy bands are finding success much faster than groups in the past.
“The way it’s happening now, it’s a little more sudden than last time. Because back then you had to build your fan base, get a following. Now with all social media, you have a fan base immediately ... (and) as soon as you nail that fan base, you’re on the rise for sure,” he said.
“Bands like One Direction and The Wanted, they’re just coming out of nowhere and it’s kind of taking everybody by surprise.”