In Defense of the Boy Band: Over hated genre deserves less hate

In music, there tends to be various iconoclastic genres that, while some people enjoy them, they are generally considered a universal “bad.” Talk to any random person about their music taste, and they’re likely to answer either Country or Hip-Hop as the genre they hate. Take to a person who’s more in depth into music, and the common answer is generally Nu-Metal. One common ground that I find both groups of people share in their dislike of is the “Boy Band,” the type of band exemplified by groups like N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys. The modern incarnation of this is One Direction, who stand pretty much unattested in terms of popularity in comparison to other modern “Boy Bands.”

Like many boy bands before them, they tend to get a lot of hate, which for the most part is undeserved, especially when one looks back at music history. Getting multiple attractive men in a room and making them sing super soft Pop/R&B is a classic formula that has yielded many artists that are revered today. The Jackson 5, for example, is the prototypical boy band, and they are generally revered for their work. Even farther back, one can point at groups like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, who both started as the average clean cut boy band and ended up revolutionizing the way albums are recorded. The bubblegum pop simplicity of both groups’ early work ended up being more influential than anyone would have guessed, given their throwaway nature. The Ramones are frequently cited for what they were doing as a raw and incompetent version of bubblegum pop and that ended up changing the face of rock music as we know it.

In spite of that history, many still look down on the boy band. Many tend to draw ire with the artificiality of what they’re doing. That’s a rather stupid complaint in music given that popular music has always been artificial. Johnny Cash never shot a man, Cobain never slept under a bridge, Green Day is about as punk as the Captain and Tennille, and anyone’s favorite rapper probably isn’t an unstoppable charisma machine. Boy bands usually embrace the artificiality of their being and their music reflects that. Most of it is clean, polished, and catchy, it caters to a certain demographic, and it’s usually inoffensive and doesn’t overstay its welcome in terms of radio play. Really, what more is there to pop music than that?

One could also find a slight undercurrent of misogyny to a lot of the boy band hate, too. There is a bit of an ugly perception that because something appeals to women its more “shallow” or “vapid” than other forms of media, which is a larger problem with many facets and boy bands only being one aspect of it. Overall, though, the hate for boy bands is mostly confusing; it’s indistinguishable from any other form of pop music, so why should one complain? You don’t have to like them but maybe just calm down a bit on treating them as the worse thing to happen to music since Creed.

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