Earlier this week, Billboard published their list of the 30 best albums by boy bands over the past 30 years, and it was an interesting read. It covered four decades of boy bands with all genres, styles, and countries included…but there’s one problem with the list – not all of the bands included fall into the technical definition of “boy band”.
Wikipedia gives the following definition of “boy band”:
“A boy band (or boyband) is loosely defined as a vocal group consisting of young male singers, usually in their teenage years or in their twenties at the time of formation, singing love songs marketed towards young women. Many boy bands dance as well as sing, usually giving highly choreographed performances.”
Simply put, boy bands emphasize singing and dancing. And generally speaking , while some of them write songs, they generally focus entirely on stage presence and do NOT play their own instruments. Some of them may not even play an instrument AT ALL – they may just excel at being a vocalist. And that’s fine.
But it does skew Billboard’s list somewhat, because they’ve included three other bands, all of which play their own instruments and do NOT do choreography as part of their act, as part of their list. And while all three may be made up of young men, have plenty of teenybopper fans, and make the ladies swoon, those three bands – 5 Seconds Of Summer, Jonas Brothers, and Hanson – are NOT Boy Bands. Never have been, never will be. Although two Billboard writers, Andrew Unterberger and Joe Lynch, tried to redefine the term when making their “close calls’ for the purpose of their Top 100 Boy Band Songs of All Time list last year, in my opinion, they got almost every one of their close calls WRONG. It’s plain and simple, no matter WHAT the attraction to the teenage females, no matter what genre of music, if they play their own instruments, they are NOT A BOY BAND. Period.
They determined the status of the following bands thusly; I’ve offered my corrections/opinions as well as to why I personally think they’re wrong about most of them….
Billboard: Boy band (at first)
TC Sez: WRONG. It doesn’t make a single bit of difference that they had hordes of screaming teenage girls listening to them at the beginning. And I think they would have been appalled to have been classed as such – ask surviving members Sir Paul or Ringo now, I don’t think they would appreciate it. AT ALL. They always played their own instruments, and from the very beginning wrote more than just love songs. NEVER a boy band
Boyz II Men
Billboard: Not a Boy Band.
TC Sez: WRONG – they are vocal and choreography only. They are all about vocal musical performance, and most of their output consists of love songs. When I did my “Rank This” list of the top boy bands of all time a couple years back, I included Boyz II Men – as well as New Edition – on that list. DEFINITELY a boy band.
5 Seconds Of Summer
Billboard: Boy Band, with the following argument from Unterberger: “They can’t be a boy band, they play their own instruments!” This argument drives me nuts — as if the Jackson 5 didn’t play their own instruments, as if a term with the word “band” in it somehow suggests a group with no musicians allowed. It is true that at a certain point, a band of all-boys does just become a band, but when they’re a bunch of extremely successful and good-looking teenagers playing power-pop jams — when they inspire mania enough that even the friggin’ bass player briefly becomes a celebrity — they still make the boy band cutoff for me. Besides, what is “She looks so perfect standing there in her American Apparel underwear” if not the “You looked like a girl from Abercrombie & Fitch” for the next generation?”
TC sez: not only were you rude, insulting, AND sexist, not to mention the blatant stereotyping involved, you aren’t even close. J5 were NEVER a boy band because three of them – Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine – DID play instruments, so did Randy during their later years as “The Jacksons“. Also true, by the way, for the Osmonds – NEVER a boy band. I mean COME ON – this is the band that came up with “Crazy Horses“, which many a UK heavy metal band, including my boys Def Leppard, have cited as a major influence on their initial sound. Boy bands by definition are typically accompanied by a host of backup musicians and focus on choreography. That point is UNDENIABLE. Being teenagers has NOTHING to do with it. Nor does their musical appeal – I mean, most Backstreet Boys fans are older now, as is the band themselves. But they are STILL a boy band. So as far as 5SOS goes….WRONG – NOT a boy band.
Billboard: Boy Band (at first)
TC Sez – WRONG. I hate these half-assed, half-qualified answers. “..at first”?” WHY? They have ALWAYS played their own instruments, as well as writing their own songs, and like The Beatles, they have always done more than just love songs. Despite their ages at the beginning, they have now been performing together for over 25 years (Taylor, who was just 14 when “Mmm Bop” hit big in 1997, now has kids older than he was then…which just blows my mind, heh heh) and continue to redefine their sound to their loyal fans. NEVER a boy band.
Billboard: Boy Band
TC Sez: Hey, you guys finally got ONE right – agreed, boy band.
Billboard: Boy band (before self-actualization)
TC Sez – another half-assed qualification, I see. Although this one is more complicated because by technical terms, they were NOT a boy band, see “played their own instruments”. But in reality, when they first started out, The Monkees were NOT a band AT ALL – they were actors. Doing comedy. The “band” was the hook – so they fall into “prefab band” territory. But for the most part, I would class them as NOT a Boy Band.
Billboard: Not a boy band
TC Sez: Maybe not in the traditional sense, but musical genre and style do not USUALLY come into play in the definition. I wasn’t familiar with the band, so I had to do some research about them. And yes, Brockhampton, who call themselves a boy band despite doing somewhat hardcore hiphop/alternative/pop/rap, technically CAN be called a boy band if they so choose; they do stylized choreography, but their statements about “redefining” what a boy band is, mixing a lot more than just love songs into their material, doesn’t fit the STANDARD definition – but like they said, they’re trying to redefine the term, and that’s fine. Boy bands should be allowed to grow. But as long as they’re not playing their own instruments and doing choreography – both of which apply – they can be called a boy band. So once again, WRONG.
Interestingly enough, in their article the duo did NOT evaluate Jonas Brothers, who are always lumped into the boy band category thanks to their teenybopper history because of their their array of “Disney Channel” shows. And they included them on the boy band list. But as noted above, under the standard definition, they don’t fit the mold, and are NOT a boy band. And they especially do not fall into it now, having redefined their look and sound after nearly eight years away working on solo stuff and other projects.
So, dear reader, what do you think? Should there be a “semi-boy band” category for the acts I honestly would not class in that full category? Or are you like me in thinking “who cares, it’s all just great music”? Let me know by dropping me a line!