What is a Boy Band?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

A boy band is a musical act consisting of at least three young men who typically sing in harmony and perform choreographed dances. The members usually do not play instruments as part of their performance, a fact which distinguishes the act from a regular band. Boy bands typically fall into pop, hip hop, or R&B genres, and their fans are usually young people, mostly girls.

A boy band is a musical act consisting of at least three young men who typically sing in harmony and perform choreographed dances.
A boy band is a musical act consisting of at least three young men who typically sing in harmony and perform choreographed dances.

These bands are often criticized for being fabricated by producers — which the majority are — and for having essentially talentless members chosen only for their looks. Most members, however, are talented singers and dancers, many of whom can also play an instrument, and many of whom pursue solo careers in music after the group dissolves. While these bands are notorious for lip-syncing during performances and for using session singers on studio recordings, it is not economical for a producer to invest in an entire group of band members who cannot sing.

A boy band has a short shelf life almost by definition; boys only remain boys for so long, and as fans age past the demographic these bands are meant to appeal to, they commonly lose interest. This fact, along with the fact that most groups do not form on their own or write their own music, has contributed to the popular image of them not being genuine.

Whether or not one respects boy bands, their popularity, though short-lived, is undeniable. It is common for the members to be portrayed as different types, such as the "bad boy" or the "baby," in order to appeal to a wider population. These groups often have a much larger following than other types of bands, though they can rarely sustain for more than five years or so. Some bands, however, such as the Jackson 5, survived well past this mark.

New Kids on the Block, the 1980s brainchild of music producer Maurice Starr, is often considered the first boy band to be recognized as such, but the trend is actually older. The Jackson 5 debuted in 1962, for example, and the Puerto Rican band Menudo debuted in 1977. This type of act has its roots in even older forms of music, including a cappella harmony acts and gospel music, both of which sometimes incorporate choreography.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


One Direction. 'Nuff said.


@aaaCookie, I think that you have a good point there for why the boy band thing never totally goes away. While right now it seems like American boy bands might be winding down a little, English boy bands have been on the rise for the last few years. There will likely always be some, in one nation or the other, because they do fill a niche in music.


While many people criticize boy band music as being too generic, many boy bands are successful in the way that they can communicate so well to their main audience-young teenagers, especially girls. All of those songs about young love, unrequited feelings, and feeling out of place sound silly to those of us who are a little older, but for someone around the age of 14 or so, they tell life the way that it is.


Hanson are another example of a successful group to move past the average boy band shelf life. First a 90s boy band that fulfilled, or seemed to, many of the stereotypes, the three Hanson brothers grew up,kept good voices, and re-entered music will a new and much more mature, experimental sound. They continue to be successful today, thanks to their ability to adapt as they aged and reinvent themselves.

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