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Boy Bands Are Back In Fashion, But Did They Ever Go Away?

One Direction have conquered the U.S. charts, and soon your youngest niece's heart.
One Direction have conquered the U.S. charts, and soon your youngest niece's heart.

One Direction, the newest UK pop import to make it to colonial shores, announced a full-scale summer tour Tuesday, including a Houston date on June 24 up at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pretty big venue for a group that is just now breaking in America, and the Brit-Irish boy band just sold 176,000 copies of new album Up All Night, here upsetting Adele and Bruce Springsteen for the top spot on the Billboard chart. It's also the first time a British act has debuted at No. 1 with their debut album. No small shakes.

Is a country still mired in rap, faux-folk and Adele ready for another wave of boy bands?

Could this mean we will get another Britney Spears, like we got in the wake of the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync? What does this make Justin Bieber, if he is not a part of this next apocalyptic pop invasion? It seems like only a matter of time before American labels ramp up their counterassault to this fifth -- what, sixth? -- British invasion.

I concede that the boy-band model never really went away though, it just changed genres and attitude. Logically, once the girls (and some boys) grew bored with the late-'90s pop explosion, they walked out of the malls and bought a ticket to the Vans Warped Tour instead.

Bands like Fall Out Boy, Good Charlotte, New Found Glory and, to a small extent, blink-182 took up the slack once the kids moved on to greener and more heavily-tattooed pastures. Once it became cool again to like pop, Justin Timberlake showed up with two great albums that even a roadie for Mastodon could dig.

One could even make the case that the Strokes were a boy band in their own way. Obviously they weren't formed by a creepy impresario, bit for a few years they became stylish pinup boys for some of the same girls who had posters of Lance Bass and that one dude with dreadlocks on their bedroom walls.

Plus, they smoked cigarettes, did coke and drank beer, making them the perfect regrettable boyfriends.

 

In 1996 when looking across the pond it became apparent that the worst nightmares of hipsters and Generation X -- the return of boy band music a la New Kids In The Block -- was about to take hold again, there was a movement to reembark NKOTB as some sort of pioneering act.

Girl groups had an easier go of it in the wake of the Spice Girls, with acts like Destiny's Child and the Pussycat Dolls finding success, but boy bands came with a stigma for some reason. Maybe it was the lack of danger, tattoos, or the fact that five dudes dressed the same, dancing rhythmically together is creepy.

The fact that their songs were catchy as an STD was bothersome too, because when you get to certain age, everything should be about wheat fields, sadness and human cruelty.

Little wonder that NKOTB and the Backstreets tour together on the regular, bridging the Gen Y set to millennials. Our own Neph Basedow, herself a NKOTB fan, reviewed their tandem visit here last summer:

Ultimately, the show was entertaining as all hell . There were no breaks, no lulls, and every hit was played. Everything was over-the-top, from the catwalk to the pyrotechnics; I left with streamers in my hair and confetti on my dress, but every fun detail of the show richened it.

A quick spin of One Direction's new album shows it to be textbook boy-pop, even bringing to mind groups like Maroon 5, which is a weird compliment to give them. They're obviously not as horny as Adam Levine and company, but the musical accompaniment is comparable.

In the extreme pop world, the more things change, the more they stay the same. There will always be girls, there will always be pretty boys, and those girls will always want to see pretty boys sing fun and catchy songs to them.

And there will always be oldsters who will complain about their lack of balls, just as trendoids in the '60s complained about the Beatles in their matching suits and haircuts.


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Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

2005 Lake Robbins Drive
The Woodlands, TX 77380

281-363-3300

www.woodlandscenter.org


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