It’s been years since a traditional boy band or girl group have hit it big in the US. In the late 90s and early 2000s, groups like *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls and TLC were dominating the charts. What happened?
There’s definitely a stigma surrounding groups, because most people see them as gimmicky. The “manufacturing” of endless boy bands in an attempt to mimic the success of *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys by other labels certainly gave prefab pop groups a bad name. In order for another boy band to girl group to breakthrough, the process of putting them together will have to be much more organic.
There have been some successful girl groups in the past decade, like the Pussycat Dolls and Danity Kane, but both groups fizzled after two albums, plagued by infighting between the members. In the case of the Pussycat Dolls, the group was obviously built to launch front woman Nicole Scherzinger as a solo star. This was pretty apparent to anyone watching or listening to them and can be off-putting for fans of the entire group. Sure, there are always inevitably one or two members that standout, but in order for a group to achieve long-term success and make an impact, each member has to have an identity and share the spotlight.
The time is also right for a group explosion. Within the past few years, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, have all proven that tween pop is still an incredibly viable marketplace. We’ve had breakout male and female solo stars and “bands,” but a good old singing and dancing troupe of teens has yet to hit it big. The audience is there, but the niche hasn’t been filled.
This fall, the X Factor debuts in the US, where unlike “American Idol,” groups are allowed to audition. Will this be the platform to launch the next boy band or girl group? Maybe. It’s certainly not organic, and the entire show will undoubtedly be gimmicky, but with millions of people watching, it’s not a bad place to start. Also, if the demographic is similar to “American Idol,” with a large tween, female audience, it’s the perfect place to do it.
Boy bands and girl groups are also pretty versatile with the kind of music they can create. They thrived during the bubblegum pop explosion and have also rode the waves of hip-hop and R&B. However, with dance and electropop still dominating the airwaves, it makes things even easier.
Pop groups are still popular overseas, particularly in Asia and the UK. One of the UK’s most popular boy bands, The Wanted, is releasing their first single stateside this month (“All Time Low”). The question is, have we recovered from the fatigue of the teen pop explosion over a decade ago and are we ready to embrace boy bands and girl groups once again? I for one am ready to hear some solid, catchy pop harmonies and hooks once again.