Bringing Back Boy Bands

From The Monkees To One Direction, Boy Bands Endure

The Monkees, 1967
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Bringing Back Boy Bands
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Bringing Back Boy Bands

The Monkees were the first group to exhibit all or most of the qualities we now associate with the term "boy band." They were assembled through auditions. They had a set of visual styles imposed on them. They were incredibly popular with tweenaged girls. They were plagued by the accusation that there was less to them than meets the eye. That last accusation was false, by the way.  

The Monkees and their music have held up remarkably well over the ensuing decades. But they started a pattern that would repeat itself sometimes less gloriously in a slew of manufactured boy bands. 
And yet, and yet ... if boy bands were as reprehensible as their critics make them out to be, they wouldn't be as popular as they are.
In the last analysis, what's the point of making war against nice looking guys singing catchy songs and acting goofy? 
You can join the conversation. Please send your comments to or Tweet us @wnprcolin.



Sara writes:

What about the way Motown shaped its singers/bands?

NPR's Marianne O'Hare writes:

To wit:

I fulfilled a childhood dream of dining with Davey Jones. A dream that was spawned by their Saturday morning show – and fueled by seeing all those “lucky” kids who got to be in the Kool Aid commercial with him.

Fast forward – three decades. Invited to a very large, very surreal Orthodox Jewish wedding at which I found my self seated (among 700 guests) smack dab next to Davey Jones. (!!!!!!!!!) Yes – he barely came up to my shoulder. And yes, the crow’s feet cut a distinct set of tracks across the still-boyish face. But it was just as I imagined it would be. A carefree, casual discussion about life, (or in this case L’chaim) breeding and raising horses(his passion), and remarking on the steady stream of middle aged orthodox Jewish women coming up to tell them how much they still loved him.

What a memory!

Jen writes:

As someone who came of age with Duran Duran, and is currently a kpop Boy Band fan, I have many opinions. I'll share two or three.

1. Anyone interested in this subject should read John Taylor's autobiography, Beyond the Pleasure Groove. He is smarter than he looks, and has some interesting things to say about it all. Their business plan had been to be equals, and to not have a front man. This worked out in strange ways. They did not plan to be a boy band. They courted magazines that catered to teen girls out of desperation. because no one else would print anything about them. The teen magazines responded, and the teen girls responded even more. The members of Duran Duran were the most surprised at this, but it helped them sell records, so who were they to argue.

Because they did not have a front man, all members of the group were crush worthy, and available for photo shoots. Again, this worked out so well, that it is now most boy bands' business model.

2. The South Korean music industry has perfected this business model. I suspect they pick out the type of boys they want in a band before they audition them, and then find talented folks to fit those types. The band Super Junior, has too many members to keep track of. They have the cute one, the nerdy one, at least three gender bending ones, the chunky one, and any number of other ones.

Side note my current favorite kpop band is Bing Bang and their spin offs.

3. And this might be my most important point. Any culture that can support a boy band is a culture in which girls have both cash of their own and time of their own. The music industry can only count on these autotuned dancing hotties to be cash cows if there are girls with cash to buy all the music. The subculture of girls that girls themselves will create around the bands will only happen if the girls have unsupervised time with each other. Both have to happen. And while there are problematic messages coming through the music and the videos, I think that for girls, and women to come up and UNDERSTAND their economic power through boy bands is not a bad thing, and can be used for good.

Nick Rhodes, of Duran Duran, in a quote I have yet to track down, once said essentially, that their music was denigrated BECAUSE it was for girls. He then posed the question, why are things for girls any worse than music associated with or designed for men?