This week, for an inexplicable reason, I decided that I was going to make a CD of 90’s/early 00’s boyband tracks to entertain my carpool-mates. I was a massive boyband fan up until about the age of 15, so I figured that I could tackle this self-imposed challenge head-on and without difficulty.
I was right, to a degree. I deftly chose tracks by the likes of Backstreet Boys, Boyzone and Take That. But once I got to the latter part of the 90’s, I was stumped. I couldn’t remember much of those bands who came after the titans of stool-sitting and air-grabbing, as I’d denounced my love of anguished songs of broken hearts when I discovered Green Day. So I turned to Twitter and discovered quite a few friends had murky musical secrets of their own (mine, by the way, is that MmmBop is one of my all time favourite songs. Don’t judge.) I was surprised at the length and breadth of their knowledge of groups made up of entirely pretty boys (and the token weird looking one. I’m looking directly at you, Mikey from Boyzone.) I instantly felt relieved. It wasn’t just me who remembered the names of 911.
So I went of a journey of musical discovery and found out quite a few things. I felt like the Darwin of Boybands by the time I’d finished. For example, did you know that British boybands were much filthier than their Irish and American counterparts? MN8 and East 17 in particular were excellent in their use of double entendres. My mum bought ‘Deep’ and played it quite loud on a regular basis. I’m still recovering from the retrospective mortification of realising just what the lyrics were actually about. Another Level were just desperate, it seems- I’m sure there’s a Dane Bowers/Jordan joke in there somewhere, but I can’t be bothered to stoop quite that low.
It also seems customary that every boyband song starts with some kind of unrelated sound effect. Plane noises, phones, footsteps and a weird ‘whoosh’ were favourites, but there was also- bizarrely- a dog at the start of one. Bonus points also if you have a sound effect on the outro.
What also surprised me is that some of the songs were actually quite good- I cite ‘Keep on Movin’ by Five and ‘Back for Good’ (obviously). These were songs that had messages and didn’t relate to sex or pressure, perfect for little girls with idols on their walls. I don’t think it did me any harm listening to the Backstreet Boys or PJ and Duncan, no matter what I insisted when I was seventeen. It was fun and not one of those bands ever came out with their own brand of condoms or told me about sexy times or ‘the club’.
Clearly, modern girls are being short-changed. The boybands of today have nothing on the ones we had fifteen years ago. The Wanted all look too perfect and One Direction should be doing their GCSEs, not pratting about miming on a stage. JLS? A rehash of the ill-fated MN8. I do wish they’d keep their shirts on.