Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BOY BAND BONANZA: Current US Affairs

When one thing works in the music industry, you can count on every major label in America trying to find their own "version". Given that One Direction and The Wanted have re-opened the floodgates of frothy, one-part-"You Can Take Me Home To Mom!", one part-"But I'm Still Vaguely Suggestive" pop music that makes up a good boy band's ace catalog, it's safe to assume every pop manager worth his salt is looking to associate themselves with the American equivalent. 

However, given the three groups I mentioned yesterday are either broken beyond repair (V Factory), done and dusted (One Call) or lying in wait (After Romeo), this leaves the requisite US boy band slot wide open. (In fact, I just heard 5ive are making attempts at another reunion after 2007's failed attempt...again with just four members...#epicfailface. COME ON, *NSYNC. Stop crushing my dreams, damn it!)

While there is a slew of promising indie acts sticking their adorable, grinning faces onto a YouTube Channel near you, the fact of the matter is, I'm 25 years old now, fam. I've seen and adored my share of boy bands. It takes a lot to impress me and considering Korea is doing it better than just about everyone at this point (yes, including One Direction -- they don't even dance, okay? Come at me, bro!), it's clear America has a lot of catching up to do. Here are a few of the USA's biggest contenders (ie. boy bands with major label backing).


The New (younger) B2K
Signed To: Interscope/Universal
Toured With: Janet Jackson, Justin Bieber, Backstreet Boys

I first heard about Mindless Behavior after seeing them live when they were the sole opening act for the one and only Ms. Janet (if you're Nasty) Jackson. To open for Janet is a big deal to someone like me, especially since my own beloved *NSYNC opened for her back in 1998 just before they really hit the big time. Of course, in 2011/2012 the music scene is not quite the same, but Mindless Behavior seem to be doing alright for themselves. Their debut album, #1 Girl, debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200. While their singles haven't done too much on the Hot 100 for a mainstream breakthrough (yet), they worked their way through the R&B/urban crowd, particularly with their Top 10 R&B hit "Mrs. Right", which featured Diggy Simmons. The groundwork has been set for a potentially very big payoff for their sophomore record, with the intent to have a more "grown up" sound. Hey, it's working for Bieber...

It's also very pertinent to state that though they may be the youngest duckies on the block, they have the most ferosh stage presence (meaning: at least they try with their choreo!). Despite being double their age, me and my girls found ourselves giving them the A-OK seeing them work it out on stage (until the next day when we realized we were jamming to 13 year olds...but still!).


AKA: The new O-Town (I mean this lovingly)
Signed To: Interscope/Universal
Toured With: New Kids On the Block, Carly Rae Jepsen

The boys in Midnight Red are being touted as RedOne's boy band (get it? Midnight Red?). While this certainly opens doors in terms of namedropping and being radio accessible, I will be very quick to point out that NLT had a Timbaland single and a Ryan Tedder-written single and was still never given a chance, so it would be silly to put all of your eggs in the producer basket (especially given Red's track record with his "homegrown" artists reads like a who's who in artists with potential who get shelved: Mohombi, The Dolly Rockers, Love Generation).

Their debut single, last year's "One Step At A Time" was used as a promotional theme for So You Think You Can Dance and played like a less cringy JLS dance record. The single EP also included a needless but still guilty-pleasure-y cover of NKOTB's "Step by Step" (ooh, baby!). And then 2012 happened, and the group was revamped with a fresh single -- the very RedOne "Hell Yeah!" which sounds quite a bit like Enrique Iglesias' "I Like It" (no surprise, it was also produced by RedOne) fused with Taio Cruz's "Dynamite". That's not a bad thing, but it is a marked shift from their more traditional boy band fair with "Step". I don't have too many complaints -- other than the song itself is just too generic and doesn't stand out. The group themselves are pretty good singers and at least they try to dance (try being operative...but I'm not judging).


The 2012 Monkees
Signed To: Columbia/SONY
Toured With: Bow Down, ya'll because technically, JoJo & One Direction opened for THEM

There is no debate in that Big Time Rush has the poppiest, most straight-ahead/mainstream tunes of the bunch -- and it's also pretty fair to say they are the in the lead in terms of what America has to offer on the boy band circuit. When I hear cuts like "Music Sounds Better With U" (written by Ryan Tedder) or "Elevate", I really really want to shamelessly like them. Sincerely. So I decide to give their little TV show a spin. And then I stop listening to them for about a week. It's that much of a turn off.

Yes, "Big Time Rush" the television show is probably not meant for my demographic. The acting and comedy is over exaggerated and ridiculous, but is that so awful? (Well...) I give them credit for being able to not take themselves so seriously -- having a sense of humor is one of the most attractive qualities a man can have, really -- but it's so cringy sometimes I like to pretend the TV show doesn't exist. 

Their latest single, "Windows Down", samples Blur's big American hit "Song 2" (WHOO HOO!), was co-written by Mike Posner (remember him?) and was supposed to be a Ke$ha cut before BTR decided to grab it for themselves. It's summery and every bit as hummable as "What Makes You Beautiful" or "Chasing the Sun". While the sample made me a little uncomfortable at first (A boy band sampling Blur? What in the...), after a few more listens, it becomes much more endearing. The song debuted on the Hot 100 this week at #97. Their highest bow was their 2011 single "Boyfriend", featuring Snoop Dogg at #72.

You tell me -- who do you think will be the most successful? Is there a different American boy band you are lemming for?

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