“The boys are back!” the Internet cried this week, reinstating the relevance of all-male pop groups. Women have had a strong run dominating the Top 40 pop charts, no doubt, but thanks to some international imports, we may be about to hear a lot more harmonizing than we have in the last few years.
In what looks like the second coming of Westlife and Boyzone, two bands in particular have been leading a boy-band comeback and dominating the discussion: The Wanted and One Direction—each consisting of four Brits and one Irishman. Rolling Stone declared that after months and months of Adele ruling the charts, The Wanted has made significant headway on the Billboard digital-songs chart, jumping to No. 2 with their clubby, Ibiza-appropriate “Glad You Came.”
One Direction, born on last season’s UK show X-Factor thanks to the suggestion of Nicole Scherzinger, has been enjoying success overseas. Their debut album, Up All Night, made waves with its UK release last November, and the group beat out Adele (Adele!) and others at the 2012 BRIT Awards to win Best British Single with their song “What Makes You Beautiful.” They’re performing on the Today show next week, Jezebel notes, and touring the U.S. this summer with Nickelodeon spinoff boy-band Big Time Rush.
It’s not just the Brits and Irish who have a stronghold on the boy band market, though. Korean pop music, or K-pop, has crossing over into American markets, and with it bringing along a slew of boy bands with the choreographed routines and polish of the ‘NSYNCs and Backstreet Boys of yore, along with the hip-hop swagger that’s been mostly dominating radio airwaves for the last several years. (To be fair, there’s no shortage of K-pop girl groups, either—Girls Generation performed on Letterman earlier this year and the group is signed to Interscope, while 2NE1 have been working with will.i.am on an American debut.)
Big Bang in particular stands to gain success in the U.S.—even shooting their latest video for the inanely catchy single “Bad Boy” in Brooklyn. The hysteria they induce overseas is frankly hard to conceive, as they’re more than just household names. They’ve conquered Japan, plan to work with producer Swizz Beatz and Chris Brown, and won an MTV European Music Award in 2011, beating Britney Spears for Best Worldwide Act. In fact, Swizz Beatz has cut a production deal with South Korea’s ON-Media, and told The Fader that he hopes to “migrate the cultures.” “My goal is to have music speak as the international language it is.”
The current slew of boy bands poised to take over the U.S. is certainly international. Aside from Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush, the closest thing we have stateside to a classic boy group is NKOTBSB (that’s New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys supergroup) reunion tours to look forward to. And those tours actually do quite well, thanks to nostalgia-loving fans.
So it’s your move, America. Future boy bands, step forward. If you thought your chance at decorating girls’ bedroom walls with posters of your face were obliterated because you are not the one-man phenomenon that is Justin Bieber, you’re in luck: you can get there with the help of your friends. Just remember there can only be one “shy one” per group.