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Commentary: One Direction, Big Time Rush helping revive boy bands

First ‘N Sync disbanded. Then 98 Degrees went on hiatus. Finally, Kevin Richardson left the Backstreet Boys. There were no more smoldering-eyed frontmen to swoon over, coordinating outfits, synchronized dance moves, frost-tipped hair or screaming armies of pubescent girls and their mothers. It seemed like the era of boy bands was over.

A few boy bands tried to make it big a couple of years later but most quickly fizzled out without reaching anything close to the success of the ’80s and ’90s boy bands. I’m not counting the Jonas Brothers. The group was a bunch of boys in a band. Not a boy band.  

Eventually we grew up. We took standardized tests and went to college, leaving our boy band CDs and gel pens stashed away deep in our closets. Then suddenly a new name hit the radio waves: Justin Bieber. He was everything a boy band needed to be, except an actual band. Our hearts came to accept he was probably the closest we were ever going to get to another era of boy bands.

One ordinary day, my little brother (my sole contact to the high school world) told me I should check out the band One Direction. I said to him, “No way, bro. I’m a cool college kid. I don’t like boy bands anymore.”

OK, so that’s a lie. I checked out the band, and with my ever-present nostalgia for ‘N Sync and the late ’90s, its singles such as “One Thing” and “What Makes You Beautiful” got my heart racing, my hands up in the air and a huge grin on my face. It appeared that I came across a boy band with some possible staying power.

Had we taken a break from buying tickets for reunion tours and re-learning dance routines from pre-2003 music videos, we would have seen it: five boys were being thrown together on Britain’s “X Factor,” Nickelodeon was showcasing a boy band of its own on its station, yet another boy band was hitting it big on the British charts and the man who helped discover Lady Gaga was putting together a band of his own. These bands are, respectively, One Direction, Big Time Rush, The Wanted and Mindless Behavior.

Collectively, these four bands are credited with bringing in a new era of boy bands. One Direction broke records when its first album, “Up All Night,” debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 top albums chart in March. It was the first British group, including The Beatles and the Spice Girls, to do so. The other three bands have all had singles or debut albums entering either the Billboard Hot 100 or the Billboard 200 charts in the top 10 of the appropriate categories.

But not so fast. We have some violations of boy band regulations with these up-and-comers. One Direction prides itself on not dancing and not wearing matching outfits. (The Wanted doesn’t fit that stereotype, either.) Mindless Behavior and Big Time Rush, thankfully, have the matching outfits and the dancing. The members of One Direction and Mindless Behavior are all too young for me to find attractive without feeling like a cradle-robber, however.

If you’re looking for a group to pick up where your teenage favorites left off, these bands are definitely worth a listen. Some collegians are flocking for the chance to fill the boy-band void on their iPods. Maybe after a decade, boy bands are finally back after all. Let the shameless listening commence.

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