Forget Girl Power, What About the Boys?
Forget Girl Power, What About the Boys?
When it comes to reminiscing about the bygone era that was the nineties, people have so easily come to overlook the legacy of boy bands and how the charts were teeming with cheesy lyrics and terrible dance routines.
The nineties were undoubtedly dominated by girl bands and the fierce mantra that was ‘Girl Power’. You could barely flip a page of Smash Hits or tune into Saturday morning telly without seeing the likes of All Saints in all their combated-glory or B*Witched jigging all over the place in questionable double denim. Not to mention the American girl groups which we can thank for sassy lyrics as featured in ‘No Scrubs’ and for giving us Beyoncé.
However, when it comes to reminiscing about the bygone era that was the nineties, people have so easily come to overlook the legacy of boy bands and how the charts were teeming with cheesy lyrics and terrible dance routines. Whilst the girl bands influenced young girls’ wardrobes, hairstyles (um, Baby Spice’s pigtails did not translate well on to curly hair) and a manufactured brand of feminism, the boy bands delivered first crushes and provided young boys with idols whom they could aspire to be – especially if it meant getting all the girls’ attention.
Emerging from the depths of the 1980s, it did not take long for New Kids on the Block to spur numerous copycats across the globe. Record producers were salivating at the chance of churning out robotic dancing men who were expected to harmonise and strictly remain single. Knowing full well that young girls would be begging their parents to buy them everything emblazoned with their favourite ‘N Sync or Backstreet Boy member, it did not take long for merchandise to explode on to the market and for playgrounds to turn into a battleground between the biggest fans.
Despite the flood of boy bands in the nineties, they were not an entirely new part of pop music. No, no, no. One only needs to go as far back as the fifties to examine the popularity of doo-wop and the many bands who sang about love in much the same way as those of the nineties. Then came along The Beatles with their matching outfits and giddy head swaying as they proclaimed songs about wanting to hold your hand and how she loves you. Following The Beatles’ detour into adventures on LSD, groups such as Jackson 5 and The Osmonds littered the charts with their pleads about puppy love or the alphabet. Whilst these two examples are boy bands made up of siblings, they do provide us with a further template from which the boy bands of nineties were to emerge from.
Especially when defining the association for boy band members to have personality types, such as ‘the shy one’ or ‘the cute one’. Rather like the Spice Girl monikers, these were far more subtle and practically introduced pre-teens to the type of man they would be interested in when older. With at least four members from which to choose, boy bands were always going to feature heavily within conversations between friends as the peer pressure to defend your favourite grew ever more intense.
In fact, that is one of the most important factors to take away from the institution that was the nineties boy band. Not only did they produce catchy pop songs to dance around to in your jelly sandals, but they also provided you with an object of affection with which all your doting attention could be dedicated to. As hormones bubble up, fans are obviously going to fall for at least one member and hold them dear once they’re on their journey through puberty. Whether parents like it or not, boy bands are instrumental in the sexual awakening of young girls and have been so far the past sixty or so years. The only thing that essentially changes are the members themselves.
That brings us neatly to the current success of One Direction and the infamy of their die-hard fans. Plastered across the bedroom walls of tweenage girls, it is clear that boy bands have not exactly disappeared off the radar. Whilst they went missing for some time in the noughties, their influence returned thick and fast once the practice of creating a manufactured pop band was resurged. Having recently released their own perfume (as is the trend nowadays) and being available on anything from toothbrushes to bed linen, it’s no wonder the fans become obsessed. Access to their Twitter accounts doesn’t help the matter as the so-called ‘Directioners’ hopelessly woo the members alongside fiercely defending any critic.
What is certainly a development from the rather innocent nineties boy band, the existing format of the boy band looks to be staying strong within the pop music scene. Whilst it is hard to replace the nostalgic memories of Take That, Blue, Westlife and Boyzone (I was more of an S Club 7 girl myself, sorry to all those boy band fans out there) as long as future generations of young girls are seen as a profitable market, boy bands will continue to thrive.
Text: Victoria Rodrigues O’Donnell