When Will One Direction End? A Look at the History of Boy Bands
It's been a good year for boy bands. New Kids on the Block started filming a new reality series about their superfan cruises that got everyone buzzing. The Backtstreet Boys celebrated 20 years with a new album, summer tour, and an upcoming documentary about their two-decade-long journey in pop stardom. And last but very not least, One Direction conquered the world (and all of our hearts. Swoon). Throughout boy band history, many four-to-five man groups have topped the charts with songs about love and synchronized finger snaps... not to mention the dreamy looks and tousled hair.
Many-a-famous boy band have risen quickly to astronomic heights and then disappeared into the pop stratosphere. Most of the one-hit wonders of the late 90's now live in nostalgic playlists of middle school memories, while most of the mega bands have moved on to successful solo careers, acting roles, and hosting gigs. Beyond a few exceptions to the rule, the life of a boy band often burns bright and fast...that is until they reunite 10 or 15 years later and blow up the Internet.
With One Direction on the top of the pop world, you can't help but wonder if it's only a matter of time before Harry, Zayn, Niall, Liam, and Louis become an answer to a trivia question about music in the early 2010's. Or maybe they'll pull a BSB and keep the glory going for decades to come. If so, long may they reign. Let's take a look at boy bands of years gone by and see where 1D might be headed.
Their Claim to Fame: Being the precursor to the boy band era. And Bobby Brown.
The Height of their Fame: In 1984, the band's self-titled second album went double platinum. They released another album All for Love and appeared in the film Krush Groove in 1985.
Their Downfall: Brown left the band in 1986 to pursue a solo career. Their management tried shuffling in new members, but they could never quite recreate the success of their earlier work.
Their Resurgence: In the early 2000's, New Edition reuinted for appearances at various award shows and festivals including BET's 25th anniversary and the Essence Music Festival. In 2011, the band got together again for a 30th anniversary tour.
New Kids on the Block
Their Rise: In 1986, NKOTB released their debut self-titled album which was made with the "formula" of New Edition in mind by the very same producer. It received some radio play in the band's hometown of Boston, but the album didn't make huge waves. Insert: mall tours.
The Height of their Fame: 1988 brought in the era of Hangin' Tough. NKOTB's second album included the hits "Hangin' Tough," "Please Don't Go Girl," "You Got it (The Right Stuff)," and "Cover Girl." NKOTB became official pop royalty. They followed up with 1990's Step by Step and a huge worldwide 200+ date tour.
Their Downfall: NKOTB started fading into the background as the grunge era and hip-hop started making moves onto the airwaves. They released two more albums from 1992-1994 and they officially called it quits in 1997.
Their Resurgence: In 2008 the band reunited and released The Block. They made an even bigger splash in 2012 when they joined forces with the Backstreet Boys for the NKOTBSB tour.
Their Claim to Fame: The band that brought us Robbie Williams.
The Height of their Fame: Take That was popular in the UK from 1990-1994, but the band had a crossover hit with "Back for Good" in 1995 from the album Nobody Else. It was their biggest song and the band quickly rose to worldwide success.
Their Downfall: Very soon after the band became superstars, Williams quit in 1995 and one year later, the group disbanded.
Their Resurgence: In 2005, the band released a Greatest Hits compilation with new tracks and one year later, all of the members except Williams toured and recorded a new album. Since then, the band has released a handful of albums and reunited with various combinations of members. In 2014, the band made their seventh No. 1 in the UK album, III.
Their Claim to Fame: They were the Irish ones.
The Height of their Fame: We may have only loved "Swear it Again," here in the U.S., but Westlife was huuuuuuuuuuuge in the UK for well over a decade. They broke in 1998 and released hit after hit all the way through 2010.
Their Downfall: Westlife "broke up" with Simon Cowell (yes, THAT Simon Cowell) in 2011, then released a Greatest Hits album and formally split later that year...and went on a huge farewell tour.
Their Resurgence:...Give it 5 more years.
Their Claim to Fame: They were the brothers that actuall played instruments...and had very long hair.
The Height of their Fame: You're lookin' at it! 2007's Middle of Nowhere sold 10 million copies.
Their Downfall: Well, Hanson's "Downfall" is sort of non-existant. They fell off of the mega-pop radar in 2000 when their second studio album This Time Around didn't make waves. However, the band left their label and decided to produce their own work.
Their Resurgence: Oh, they're still going, y'all. Their incredibly loyal fanbase keeps those tours and albums a'comin'.
Their Claim to Fame: They were the one with FOUR guys instead of 5ive (Sorry, I mean five).
The Height of their Fame: Newlyweds with Nick & Jessica! Juuuuust kidding! 98 Degrees and Rising was released in...you guessed it, 1998 and it went four times platinum. Their next album Revelation came out in 2000 and peaked at No. 2 on Billboard with the help of the single, "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)."
Their Downfall: In 2003, 98 degrees went on hiatus and the members went to pursue solo careers...and by that I mean Nick Lachey bounced around reality TV anfd Jeff Timmons became a Chippendales dancer. Has anyone heard from Drew or Justin?
Their Resurgence: You guys watch The Sing-Off, right? Lest we forget 98 Degrees went on tour with NKOTB and Boyz II Men in the Summer of 2013.
Their Claim to Fame: Justin Timberlake, pineapple hair, and riding on the coattails of everything BSB created. Just Kidding,
The Height of their Fame: In 2000, No Strings Attached basically broke every one of the first week release records that existed at the time. You can thank the lucrative 'NSync marionette doll business for that.
Their Downfall: They went on "hiatus" in 2003 after the boy band bubble burst and when Timberlake decided to go solo in 2004, it was game over.
Their Resurgence: Joey Fatone still talks smack about BSB, so there's that. But we all know Justin Timberlake is too famous for them to ever get back together.
Their Claim to Fame: They're the OTHER modern British boy band that's older and has dirtier lyrics.
The Height of their Fame: They reached international success in 2011 and 2012 with their second album Battleground and the single, "I"m Glad You Came."
Their Downfall: They announced a "hiatus," in 2014 , which in boy band terms means "done-zo, until we have a reunion in 10 years."
Their Resurgence: See: 2024.
Their Claim to Fame: They remain the boy band to end all boy bands.
The Height of their Fame: Though their 1996 and 1997 releases featured classics like, "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart," "As Long As You Love Me," and "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," it was 1999's Millenium that was the Backstreet Boy's launchpad into pop royalty.It remains one of the best-selling albums of all time...because we all wanted it that way.
Their Downfall: After the successful release of Black & Blue in 2000, the band took time to write and produce their next album Never Gone in 2004. It did well, but went nowhere near the success of their earlier albums. In 2006, Kevin Richardson announced that he was leaving the band. Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, AJ McLean, and Howie Dorough went on to record two more albums as a foursome...neither of which were huge hits.
Their Resurgence: With Richardson back in the saddle and with the success of the NKOTBSB tour in 2012, the Backstreet Boys found themselves in a whole new era of their career. In 2013 the band released a new album In a World Like This to commemorate their 20th anniversary. In 2015, BSB will release the documentary Show 'Em What you're Made Of. They just keep on keepin' on.
Their Claim to Fame: They are the current reigning princes of pop music and boy bandom.
The Height of their Fame: Now. Whatever they touch turns to gold. PURE GOLD!
What to Expect in the Future: Styles will certainly break out on his own — be it in music, acting, or modeling. Zayn Malik could venture into a solo career and have minor success a la JC Chasez. However, I'd say 1D still have another album or two under their belts before their mid to late 20-something selves can no longer handle the screaming fans. All good things must come to an end. Or if you're an insanely successful boy band, you'll just take a break and then come back and go on a cruise in 10 year's time.