From a marketability standpoint, the concept of a “boy band” is absolutely brilliant. Getting young tween/teen girls to pretty much wet themselves over buying posters, pins, books, accessories, and, oh yeah, albums, results in a serious gold mine for many, many people. Bring together a group of young, attractive males that are even just adequate at singing and dancing, give them distinct personalities/characters and ka-ching! So in honor of one of pop music’s most embarrassing motifs, yet one of its most brilliant concepts, here are the top-10 greatest boy bands of all time… in the proper context, of course. Hell, some of them are even down-right good.
10. ONE DIRECTION
Members: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson
The latest addition to the boy band world, One Direction, has brought the craze back in a way Justin Bieber hasn’t been able to do by himself. The boys aren’t exactly first class singers, they admittedly can’t dance (they don’t even try, thankfully,) and their songs aren’t exactly “higher level thinking,” but they really do have that “one thing.” They’re heartthrobs, every single one of them, and they are seemingly ruling the world of pop music in a big way.
Members: Isaac Hanson, Taylor Hanson, Zac Hanson
Hanson really shook it up for the boys. It’s almost impossible to classify them as a trio in the same way you would ZZ Top or Nirvana, even despite the fact that they were actually instrumentalists and did their best to cut out all the excess drama and hoopla… they were a boy band. Their posters were on every girl’s wall in the late 90s, and even though they’re pretty much only remembered for “MMMBop,” they’re always listed as frontrunners in boy band history.
08. 98 DEGREES
Members: Justin Jeffre, Drew Lachey, Nick Lachey, Jeff Timmons
98 Degrees were kind of the “other white meat” of boy bands during a time when the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC monopolized the market, but they got a hell of a lot closer than a vast majority of their peers. The boys are incredible harmonizers that really brought an enviable edge to their songs. In many ways, their hits were almost beneath them. I always thought they deserved more attention than they got.
07. NEW EDITION
Members: Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant
It was up to Ralph, “Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, and Mike” to help reinvent the concept of the modern day boy band. Of course they were successful, but it’s the fact that they became something of a blueprint that makes them so legendary. Tracks like “Cool It Now,” “Mr. Telephone Man” and “Candy Girl” are iconic 80s masterpieces, and it’s always worth noting that the careers of Bobby Brown and Bell Biv Devoe were spawned from the group.
Members: Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, Justin Timberlake
Never has there ever been a boy band feud quite like Backstreet Boys vs. *NSYNC. In the late 90s and early 2000s, there was no gray area; you had to choose. Despite coming half a decade after BSB, the boys of *NSYNC managed to catch up pretty damn quickly. Despite their (in hindsight) terrifying wardrobe and hair choices, they girls loved them. Sure, only two of them ever had solos in their hits, but when one of those two is Justin Timberlake, who can really complain?
05. NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Members: Jonathan Knight, Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood
Just before Boy Band Mania was in full swing, New Kids On The Block reigned supreme. Five young boys with all the “right stuff” to reduce their female fans to puddles of goo in the blink of an eye. It wasn’t about being the best singers, or even dancers, but the quintet completely owned their persona and knocked out an impressive run of hits as a result. Looking back at the late 80s and early 90s, NKOTB are complete staples.
04. TAKE THAT
Members: Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Jason Orange, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams
In the UK, it literally does not get any bigger than Take That. With 11 #1 singles under their belt, the group has found success as a quintet and as a quartet (after Robbie Williams decided to go and have just an unparalleled solo career.) They have everything any boy band has ever had (the looks, the fame, the marketability,) but one thing they’ve got above the rest is Gary Barlow, one of pop music’s greatest songwriters. He’s allowed the group to break the mold and earn themselves respect and legendary status.
03. BOYZ II MEN
Members: Michael McCary, Nathan Morris, Wayna Morris, Shawn Stockman
Whether they consider themselves a “Boy Band” or a “Man Band,” there’s no arguing the greatness of Boyz II Men. R&B’s massive revival in the 90s would never have happened without them and their inescapable harmonies and amazing melodies. They wracked up a mammoth 50 total weeks at #1 in the 90s, which is, you know, about an entire year’s worth… excluding their other hit singles that just narrowly missed the summit… and have earned the title of possessing Motown’s biggest selling single. They were heartthrobs, too, but it was their amazing talent that lured us all in.
02. JACKSON 5
Members: Jackie Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Tito Jackson
The Jackson 5 are the quintessential boy band from every perspective. First off, as a part of Motown’s machine, their music was impeccable, but it was also massively successful. Their first four singles went to #1, which, even today, is completely unheard of. Their influence has even landed them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, and despite 2 of the bothers even playing instruments, they were a full-fledged boy band. Their faces were plastered on posters and memorabilia all over the world, and alongside the respect of every critic in the business, the J5 had tween/teenage girls in the palms of their hands. In fact, the only reason they’re not the greatest boy band ever is really just because they were far too legit.
01. BACKSTREET BOYS
Members: Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, A.J. McLean, Kevin Richardson
Everybody now! Let’s be honest, in many ways, the Backstreet Boys is the boy band upon which all other boy bands are compared. For starting out essentially appealing exclusively to the tween/teenage girl demographic, they we able to find massive success in the mainstream. The five boys managed to stay classy and humble throughout, even despite having one of the biggest selling albums of all time, and they always had incredible vocal talent to fall back on. Both as vocalists and as pop stars, these guys are the real deal. It’s hard to consider them more legendary than the Jackson 5 or more vocally competent than Boyz II Men, but they really are the definition of what a “boy band” is through to the core. They really are the best one in that context.