It’s time for teen girls to recycle their back copies of Bop magazine and box away the posters of the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSYNC and O-Town that previously lined their bedroom walls. Gone are the matching, flashy jump suits, choreographed dance moves and harmless lyrics characteristic of the last generation of boy bands; say hello to the new age of “boy band”: vintage rock t-shirts, jet-black haircolor and pale-skinned singers.
They integrate an overabundance of profanities into everyday conversation, they embrace non-conformity and pride themselves on being dysfunctional, they know their way around pastey white foundation, brought back the mohawk and are no strangers to black eyeliner. Meet this decade’s answer to the boy band.
They take on names like Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, My Chemical Romance, Sum 41, Dashboard Confessional and New Found Glory. You’ve heard them on the radio, seen their music videos and unknowingly found yourself tapping your foot to the beat of their breakout hit single – they’ve penetrated the music industry and showing no signs of withdrawal.
It was only a few short years ago that yesterday’s boy bands ruled all facets of pop culture. In addition to the trendiness of retail giant The Limited Too and popularity of the film Clueless, the innocuous serenades of four and five-member ensembles proved as popular among teenyboppers as Phish does to dreadlock tie-dyers who spend their summers following the band’s tour from city to city. ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees, not to mention acronym-friendly B2K, O-Town and LFO, not only ruled the airwaves and consistently secured their position on the weekly Billboard Top 40, but also left teenage girls screaming and swooning during sold-out concert venues across the country. The mere thought of locking eyes with Justin Timberlake during ‘NSYNC’s set or the possibility of a drop of Nick Carter’s sweat ricocheting off the skin was enough to bring pre-pubescent schoolgirls one step closer to cardiac arrest or losing consciousness.
It’s no wonder the music industry tapped into, and took advantage of, what would have otherwise been an unprofitable portion of the market. It only made sense to market boy band personalities to hormone-crazed, soon-to-be-adolescents. Pre-teen girls could fixate on an unattainable “musician” with a Y-chromosome, a sweet face, perfect teeth and the ability to “keep it real” by breaking it down with a few dance moves.
But times change. Beats are deemed lackluster, choreographed dance moves become stale and teenyboppers, who once pined for melodious boy-next-door groups, mature. Former-boy band aficionados denounce the cheesy song lyrics and vocal chord resonations of cookie-cutter groups that once topped the charts. It’s been years since any one of a multitude of pop group deities, such as ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys or O-Town, graced the presence of the TRL studio, appeared as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live or received any sort of publicity.
As ex-Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC enthusiasts quickly moved further from the sugary pop sounds of their youth and their boy-band paraphernalia continued to depreciate in value, record labels were faced with no choice but to circumvent plummeting profits by introducing a new wave of bands intended to rouse record sales among an aging teenybopper generation.
It doesn’t take a music industry tycoon or rock journalist for Rolling Stone to understand the logic behind the recent saturation of the airwaves by edgy pop-punk bands into mainstream music. As kids move into their teen years, they typically rebel against anything shoved down their throat, especially when it comes to music. Think back to your late middle school and early high school years, as you neared adolescence, you probably noticed that your parents condoned your listening to inoffensive pop-rock (I’ll openly admit that I purchased the Hanson album featuring the single “Mmmm Bop”). However, once I realized that my mom enjoyed the tune as much, if not more, than I did, I threw the CD in the trash and started listening to Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Most teens do the same; they seek out freakier bands that fail to receive their parents’ seal of approval.
For this reason, it only makes sense that aging teen girls would eventually grow weary of cliché all-male pop posses in search of edgier groups who claim to understand the drama and perils that accompany adolescence. Hey, Simple Plan knows what it’s like “to be hurt, to be lost, to be left out in the dark,” – or at least their lyricist does. Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance sings “I told you time and time again you sing the words but don’t know what it means; To be a joke and look, another line without a hook…,” you get the gist of it. What better way to entice teenage girls, who are rebelling against what is mainstream, to buy records than by marketing pop-punk, all-boy bands who boast rebellion, in a conformist sort of way, and have likely vested more money in Hot Topic than the retail chain’s primary stockholders?
However, not since the late-‘90s onslaught of sweet-voiced, kid-next-door ensembles have the rock gods deemed this pathetic attempt by bands to achieve “punk” status sacrilegious. You’ve heard of the seven deadly sins. In my opinion, production of crap punk-rock is the often overlooked, and commonly forgotten, eighth deadly sin. Needless to say, the majority of the pop-punk bands that have inundated the music market are guilty of this cardinal offense.
Not surprisingly, the internet is chocked full of blogs where die-hard pop-punk teens spew their thoughts about these bands being nothing short of musical geniuses. However, it’s obvious to most of us that the Good Charlottes, My Chemical Romances and Simple Plans of the music industry are far from musically innovative and certainly cannot have their share in the category holding legends such as The Ramones and The Clash and, to a lesser extent, Green Day.
The question is not whether the onslaught of pop-punk bands impacts our society musically. Most would agree that the uninspiring lyrics and manufactured bass loops characteristic of these groups are lifeless at best. These groups are simply recycled versions of the last generation of boy bands and they’re filling a niche in the music industry. It’s become cool for girls to avoid what is conventional in music in search for something different. But, the formula is the same – there’s a guy in a band a girl can fixate on. Whether it’s former-‘NSYNC member Justin Timberlake, 98 Degrees heartthrob Nick Lachey or Good Charlotte brothers Benji and Joel – it’s simply some guy in his late-teens/early-‘20s – it’s only that in this new version of a boy band, he appears to be keen on bondage and looks as though he’s a cousin to Dracula.
As pop-punk groups maintain appearances on TRL, Jay Leno and David Letterman, continue to hoard album sales and headline national tours, it remains likely that the current alternative to last decade’s boy bands are here to stay. However, the question remains: will the cycle of boy bands ever cease to exist?
In the words of Lou Pearlman, the evil marketing mind behind the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSYNC and O-Town (I’m sure he was sitting in a brimming La-Z-Boy, stroking his malevolent cat when he made this statement), “I know exactly when boy bands will be over. When God stops making little girls.”

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