No, we have not traveled back to the heydays of the late ‘90s. It is 2012 and boy bands are indeed making a comeback. Not just any boy bands though. British boy bands. Who knew that all it would take to revive this wickedly ’90s phenomenon would be accents?
At this very moment, there are two British boy bands sitting pretty toward the top of the American music charts. Each is carving out their own little niche within the mainstream, American pop scene. First, there’s One Direction, a UK act that originated from their version of “The X-Factor” and is signed to Simon Cowell’s record label. Their debut single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” is currently nestled at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.
Just last month, their first album, “Up All Night,” made history on the charts as One Direction became the first UK group ever to debut at number one with a debut album. That’s right, not even The Beatles debuted at number one with their first album. Boy band domination!
Next up, there’s The Wanted who have been a popular dance-pop group in the UK since 2010, having topped the charts across the pond multiple times. Their breakthrough United States single, “Glad You Came” has already hit number 1 on the pop charts and is perched right above One Direction as number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second album, “Battleground,” is expected to arrive stateside sometime this fall.
While One Direction is geared more towards a pre-teen crowd of teen girls with their sugary sweet pop-rock ode to all the traits that make a girl pretty in “What Makes You Beautiful,” The Wanted are definitely geared towards an older crowd looking to get their alcohol-fueled rave on with the pounding dance floor anthem “Glad You Came.” Even the respective videos for the songs, which are shockingly similar in theme, perpetrate this fact.
One Direction’s video has the boy band frolicking on a beach, serenading this mystery girl. The Wanted find themselves on, you guessed it, a beach vacation living a luxurious lifestyle full of yachts, pool side hook-ups and strobe light filled clubs. What’s even weirder is that the five members of The Wanted look eerily similar to grown up versions of the five members of One Direction.
Time will only tell whether these two boy bands can capitalize on the success of their breakout singles. One Direction has a massive teenage audience driving them to success, and their using this knowledge well by promoting themselves on the Nickelodeon show “iCarly” and recently performing on “Saturday Night Live.” Meanwhile, The Wanted have the sound of every current pop act that’s been able to hit the top of the charts this past year with unrelentless dance beats and carefree songs about going out to party/dance/get drunk. Their recent performance on “The Voice” proves this band knows how to put on a captivating live show.’
Personally, The Wanted won me over instantly. The first time I heard “Glad You Came,” despite its repetitive nature, I was hooked. And try as I might not to fall for the cutesy charm of One Direction, I ultimately have succumbed to the classic boy band catchines of ‘What Makes You Beautiful.” Right now, I place The Wanted slightly above One Direction after their buoyantly energetic performance of new single “Chasing The Sun,” which has all the elements that made “Glad You Came” a success, except that it’s better. One Direction’s new single “One Thing” is practically a carbon copy of “What Makes You Beautiful” and I have trouble seeing them branching out of their innocent image into actual longevity.
If there are two things I credit both these bands for, it’s that they make me feel insanely old because I thought I had long outlived the days of boy bands and that they could be the defining pop culture question of 2012 a la “N’Sync or Backstreet Boys?” that defined a generation of ’90s kids.