Boy bands. If you're not a fan, you can blame it all on a capella barbershop quartets. Those groups were popular in the late 1800s and through the early 1900s, and they're really the ones who laid the groundwork for the vocal groups we now love, hate and love to hate.
But so-called boy bands, as much as they now appear to be a constant, haven't always been popular. In fact, during the early 1900s, there was a lull in the all-male singing groups. Until, that is, the late 1940s when a revival came about, this time grounded in doo-wop.
It was when a group called the Ink Spots hit the scene, when what we think of as "boy bands" today really began to take shape. The term itself wasn't coined until the '90s, but in terms of the genre, the scene was set. And things started to snowball from there. Groups like The Osmonds (formed in 1958), The Jackson 5 (1964) and The Monkees (1965) began to sprout up and take hold.
And then there were the Beatles. After arriving on the scene in 1960, the Fab Four set many of the precedents when it came to appealing to the female tween and teen sets. No, they were not manufactured along the lines of more modern boy groups, but they were definitely of the teeny-bopper heartthrob ilk. And, as merchandising goes, they set the standard—and perhaps too well.
After the '60s, things quieted down in the boy band universe. Solo teen idols such as Leif Garrett and David Cassidy reigned in the '70s, dominating popular culture as a whole. Then, in the 1980s the modern model started to take hold, as New Edition formed and started the trend anew.
In 1984, things really began to get crazy. That's when Maurice Starr, the Boston-based producer behind New Edition, decided to try the same formula out on a group of white teens. And so New Kids on the Block were born, and with them, the "boy band" term.
In 1997, the boy band phenomena truly exploded. Groups like All 4 One and Boyz II Men enjoyed moderate success, but it was the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC that really had the fans going wild and the charts blowing up. Other boy bands of note from the era include O-Town, 98 Degrees and Take That. Truth is, shockingly popular boy bands can still be found thriving all over the world, with groups like Ivanushki International in Russia, Menudo in Puerto Rico and Latin America, Super Junior in South Korea and EXILE in Japan.
With the exception of maybe the Jonas Brothers, though, the scene has largely fallen by the wayside in the States. But that doesn't mean it's not still profitable. Quite the opposite, as this summer finds New Kids on the Block (Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathon Knight) and the remaining active Backstreet Boys (Nick Carter, A.J. McLean, Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell) teaming up to form NKOTBSB, release a joint album and tour as a supergroup.
And the boy band members, now grown men, couldn't be happier about it.
"I find a lot of people get where they wanna get and then bitch," says NKOTB member Wahlberg. "I'm doing what I want to do, so I'm happy. I'd do it even it was killing me. At least I'd die happy."