As with all great things, we must keep a record of boy bands–their members, their music, their matching wifebeaters — lest they be lost forever to the sands of time. I want my granddaughter, and hers after her, to know exactly who these boys were, and the evil whale-man that was Lou Perlman. It is essential that we keep this tradition as alive and vibrant as it was in 1999. Never forget. Never forget.
There was a certain darkness to this 5-member ensemble, a shadowy side that let you know there was always just a touch of angst bubbling below the surface. And, surprise of surprises, the Boy who typified this razor-thin-goatee-dangerousness, AJ McLean, suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. Who, even at the tender age of 10, did not see that coming at least somewhat? Not to worry, though, in true boy band fashion, he triumphantly overcame it. (If I had to hazard a guess, I’d bet he thanks Jesus in there somewhere, but I’d forgive him for that.) With songs like “The Call,” the Boys made cheating on your girlfriend both sexy and catchy, but with “Show Me The Shape of Your Heart,” they proved that they were sorry, and there was no ballad too cheeseball to ask for forgiveness. They nailed the trajectory of Playboy Bachelor to Reformed Sinner, and did it while wearing matching aluminum jumpsuits, so give respect where respect is due.
Crucial Lyric: “Looking at the crowd and I see your body sway, come on / Wishing I could thank you in a different way, come on.” (Hey O!)
Let’s be real here, this band is literally one song, but that song is awesome enough to merit them a place on any list of this nature. Watching the YouTube video for “Summer Girls, ” their Mona Lisa, I learned two things: 1. Apparently one of their members passed away at some point, which is really sad. 2. Given their respective clothing/hair styles and faux-urban pronunciations, they seem like they just narrowly dodged becoming Juggalos. I assume they were just raised in WASP-y families and the yo boy tendencies were transmuted into baggy capri pants and Abercrombie and Fitch muscle shirts. These guys could have gone to your high school.
Crucial Lyric: “Summertime girls are the kind I like / I’ll steal your girl like I stole your bike.”
I’ll be honest, I’ve seen this band name spelled about 70 different ways, the elusive asterisk bouncing around the word like an Olympic gymnast. For our purposes, we’ll settle on this spelling, but you can feel free to write it as is commonly done in your home tribe. I don’t want to step on your traditions. Anyway, The Justin Timberlake Experience featuring A Barber Shop Quartet — I mean, N*Sync — was all of the tight harmonies, peppy dance moves, and rapid-fire hitmaking of the Backstreet Boys, with a touch more mom-friendliness. While the Boys seemed like they were constantly trying to assert a touch of a darker side, N*Sync always seemed happy to embrace the bubble gum-itude of their overall act. Their songs were so eminently danceable–who doesn’t still do the little duck-quack hand move as they bounce around to “Bye, Bye Bye”? No one, that’s who. Their songs were pure cotton candy wrapped in PTA flyers, and we loved it. On a side note, though, JC Chasez kind of turned out to be a bit of a skeezeball. “Some Girls Dance With Women”? Et tu, JC?
Crucial Lyric: “But then you’ve got to realize, what we’re doing is not a trend / We got the gift of melody, we’re gonna bring it til the end.”
Similar to LFO in both the three-member dynamic and the one-song claim to fame (some of you may know some more, but come on, there was really only that one), BBMak distinguishes itself in more than one way. Not only were they all hot and foreign and exotic, from all the way across the pond, but they at least seemed to vaguely play an instrument. They seemed to add that touch of cultured, acoustic class to the spandex-tight harmonies we’d come to expect from any boy band worth its salt, and they certainly didn’t slack in the “Preteen-Screamingly Good Looking” department. Despite not having a lot of staying power, they certainly proved to be a memorable group.
Crucial Lyric: “There’s a feeling inside I want you to know / You are the one and I can’t let you go.”
Boyz II Men
Boys II Men was actually created in a basement factory somewhere in the deserts of Arizona by a discredited scientist who decided his comeback into the world of genetic engineering would be to make, from scratch, a human factory for Ultimate Prom Songs. He cackled as they rose up out of the test tubes, harmonizing their first words, singing about all the kinds of love they would make to you as the soft chimes of 90s prom music tinkled gently in the background. Though this doctor was never heard from again, his reputation has since been restored, and lives on in the hallowed locker rooms of high-school dances where couples go to make out after a good slow dance to a Boyz II Men song.
Crucial Lyric: “I’ll make love to you, like you want me to / And I’ll hold you tight, baby all through the night.”
Despite only being a duo, these guys absolutely earn the title of boy band, if for nothing other than the baby-butt softness of their music. Listening to one of their songs is like covering yourself in cotton balls and floating on a cloud through a river of fabric softener. You can hear the tears dripping down on the page and blurring the ink as they pen one of their more gentle screeds. I mean, who doesn’t listen to “Truly, Madly, Deeply” and immediately long to sway back-and-forth with your lover like this is the most well-decorated middle school dance to ever take place? I know I do. That song — and the rest of their catalog, for that matter — is truly the stuff of cheek kisses and pinky swears. God bless them.
Crucial Lyric: “And when the stars are shining brightly in the velvet sky / I’ll make a wish, send it to heaven, then make you want to cry.” (Just…wow.)
Though there are those who will contest that 2Gether is, in fact, not a real boy band — I refuse to hear any of that nonsense. They transcended any of the parody they ever constructed the moment they churned out such earnestly danceable gems as “U + Me = Us (Calculus)” and “The Hardest Part Of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff).” They are just truly the greatest, on their own plane of achievement. And, God, Jerry was so hot. So, so hot.
Crucial Lyric: “So tell me girl, do I have to say please / Or do I have to involve the police?”
For some reason, it seems like 98 degrees just wrote songs that white trash would play at their weddings and get really emotional over. There are just so many feelings, and so little depth, and you could tell even at 9 years old that Nick Lachey was going to turn out to be an enormous wet noodle. I mean, we couldn’t tell he was going to spend most of his adult life being harangued on reality television by an illiterate wife, but we could tell he wasn’t in the running for the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences.
Crucial Lyric: “I’ve waited so long to say this to you / If you’re asking do I love this much — I do.”
What the hell was O-Town? That had a song called “Liquid Dreams” about nocturnal emissions, and in the video they’re dancing in an unidentified, translucent liquid. What–who? Why, though?
Crucial Lyric: Seriously, what the hell even was this?
New Kids On The Block
And to come back full circle, we must tip our hats to these pioneers of the synchronized man-dancing. Not only is their music forever awesome, no matter when or in what circumstance you listen to it, you also feel like (for the most part) they’ve all avoided becoming that unfortunate child-star train wreck. In fact, their more recent single, “Summertime,” not only proved that they can still make good music twenty years out, but that every last one of them is still eminently do-able. They all seem to have gone on to do relatively sweet things, and prove that the end of the road for boy bands doesn’t have to be the equivalent of a trash heap for humans who were once cool. The NKOTB live up to their role model status for the genre, and will always be known as the ones who started it all, featuring the dude who totally lost his sh-t at the beginning of The Sixth Sense.
Crucial Lyric: “Your first kiss was a sweet kiss, second kiss had a twist / The third and the fourth kiss, I don’t want to miss.”