While boy bands weren’t created in the 90’s, the rapid explosion of several boy bands (think NSync, 98 Degrees, and The Backstreet Boys) caught the ears and hearts of many young teens and tweens. It was a new sound in the music industry- it was usually upbeat, full of romance, and just a fun, catchy tune that you couldn’t help but dance to.
The influence of these bands spread far and wide through the post-clad bedrooms of youth everywhere. Young boys were imitating their style, girls were engaged in heated disagreements about who was the best looking, and parents got stuck with the bills for all the latest and great memorabilia.
It was the influence that boy bands had on the pop scene however that really left an impression that we still see remnants of today. These guys took the world by storm, and left behind quite the legacy. Let’s examine some of the most significant impacts these artists had on music industry.
The style that boy bands brought to the 90’s didn’t just impact the music; it also had a considerable role to play on the clothes, hair, and accessories that we all wore. Baggy pants, stocking caps, and matching outfits completely took over the fashion world. Frosted tipped hair and ear piercings were sported by some of the top music artists of the 90’s.
This type of style didn’t just remain in one type of group. It seemed like anywhere you looked people were imitating this look, whether it was on the big screen, in music videos, or just the guys from your own neighborhood. Everybody wanted to look like their favorite boy band member!
If it wasn’t enough to see choreographed dance in every 90’s high school prom flick, boy bands took this to the next level. Moves like the “lasso switch” from NSYNC, or New Kids on the Block’s version of Riverdance were repeated by young adults in private and, embarrassingly, very public venues.
Choreographed dances were everything, and it was not only seen in other music videos, but it was definitely something we all attempted at every single school dance we attended.
Michael Jackson had already debuted the cinematic music video with “Thriller,” but that didn’t stop the Backstreet Boys from releasing their own Sci-Fi flick in “Larger than Life.” This video even featured robots dancing the– you guessed it, Robot. In the age of reduced cost computer animations, some of the videos appeared to go a bit overboard.
NSYNC sought to blend creativity, action, and CGI in their smash hit “Bye Bye Bye.” The video features a crazed female super-fan-turned-stalker chasing each of the members on top of a train, through a factory with bloodthirsty hounds, and even on a high-speed mountain chase. Thankfully, Justin Timberlake’s Ramen Noodle hair wasn’t harmed in that production.
Memorabilia became a massive part of the pop scene, in large part due to the popularity of boy bands. It wasn’t just about posters on the wall anymore. Now people were standing in line for bobbleheads, clothing, and look-alike dolls of their favorite boy band member.
People were really fascinated by these guys, and it was an obsession that the pop scene really had not seen before on this level. People would wait overnight in the pouring rain just to get the latest and greatest memorabilia of their favorite guy.
Masculinity in Music
Music has always allowed for social norms to be tested, but the 90’s boy bands created a movement of famous young men that gave young adults a new idea of what it meant to be masculine.
The wild style of many of the hottest boy bands ended up being featured on the covers of magazines and newspapers, which allowed for all of us to push our creativity when it came to how we perceived ourselves. It should be of no surprise that these boy bands turned their status into action on social issues like bullying, suicide, and protections for LGBTQ youth.
In many ways, you could say that boy bands were what made the pop scene of the 90’s what it was. Without them, there’d be much fewer catchy songs to remember, along with embarrassing pictures of ourselves mimicking them. It was an interesting time in the music industry because it was a big push away from the big-hair bands of the 80s, and an entirely different sound than the grunge bands that were also super popular throughout the 90’s.
Love them or hate them, boy bands changed the game for the music industry. And whether you care to admit this or not, you’ve probably also driven an extra block around the neighborhood when your favorite boy band song came on the radio.