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Are we on the verge of another Boy Band bubble? With The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” perched at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, teen girls screaming their lungs out over One Direction on “The Today Show,” and Big Time Rush gathering their own “Monkees”-type following from their Nickelodeon series, it sure looks like it.
The timing is right as well. For some reason, there seems to be a new batch of boy bands around the beginning of every decade or so. In the late ‘90s/early ’00, it was the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. Twenty years ago it was New Kids on The Block and New Edition.
No matter what the decade, these acts all carry some of the same traits: They are usually put together in some prefabricated manner rather than coming together organically, they sing pure pop ditties, usually written by someone else, in perfect harmony; they have slick dance moves, and usually don’t play their own instruments.
While some critics are quick to dismiss boy bands as lightweight confections, I defy anyone to listen to Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and not be captivated by its simple charms. Also, because the boys are usually teens or just beyond themselves, they are very non-threatening to the gaggle of girls screaming their names at a high pitch that no one over 16 can reach and, therefore, their accessibility often serves an entry point for a young fan to get into music and claim an act a his/her own. It can become a great gateway to exploring different types of music.
The Wanted is already making a huge splash at radio with “Glad You Came,” which also got a boost from the “Glee” cast, which covered the tune. The Irish/British quintet has a leg up on the other acts because the song fits in seamlessly with the rest of top 40. It starts off as a pure pop tune, but then incorporates electropop as surehandedly as LMFAO.
If The Wanted, which are the "bad boys," of the three acts, has the head start at radio, One Direction, as we previously reported, has arrived on these shores with Twitter and YouTube-primed fanbase that has followed their every move through their ascension in the U.K. They washed up with such a fervent U.S. following that “Up All Night” seems a lock to come in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week. If is does (we’ll find out Wednesday), it will mark the first time a British band’s debut album has entered the chart at No. 1. Plus, the positive, swoon-worthy first single, “What Makes You Beautiful” is pure catnip to tween and teen girls.
We wrote two weeks ago about the shifting sands at radio and the move away from the hip-hop domination to rhythmic pop has ushered us into this new age. If you’re not a fan, don’t worry, these stages never last too long as most boy bands have a built-in expiration date of around three or four years. But if you love fun, disposable pop, hang on, it's about to get good.
What do you think about these new acts?
Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitFixMelinda