Boybands: Backstreet’s Back again

Dr. Simone Driessen in NRC
Crowd cheering during music festival
Illustration of K-pop boyband

In the late 1990’s the Backstreet Boys turned the music world upside down. The most successful boy band ever is even making a comeback: on October 9th they performed in a sold out Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam. But what makes a boy band such a success? Simone Driessen, senior lecturer and researcher Media & Communication at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC), talks about it with NRC.

Fabricated, fake & low: an attractive concept

Boy bands are often composed by others or externally devised. That separates them from other artists. That’s how the boy band became more of a commercial concept than a product of musical talent and authenticity. “In the industry they call this fabricated, fake & low. And in fact, it is a little fake. But that commercial approach makes the music attractive for radio and for parents who wish to buy it for their children,” says Simone Driessen.

The researcher explains why boy bands appeal to teenagers so often. That has to do with a fabricated carefree and happy sound, and a quite soft image. Add in that boy bands always use a smart trick: there is always someone in the band for you, Driessen adds. “They consist of different characters who appeal to different groups in the audience. Something for everyone.”

A loyal fanbase through the years

Driessen sees that many boy bands from the 1990’s get back together again after ten to twenty years. And that the audience consists largely of the same people. The fans of that time are older and have more money to spend, unlike the bands themselves. “There’s not much left from boy bands’ earnings in their glory days. And fans didn’t give up on them. Look, that show in Ziggo Dome is sold out and these are the same people as back in the days. It is a little nostalgic in the end.

The new generation

After bands like Backstreet Boys, Take That and New Kids from the Block, only One Direction has made it to super stardom. At least, if we’re talking about bands from the United States and Europe. Because the future of boy bands is South-Korean. Driessen tells that bands like BTS conquer the world through streaming services and TikTok. And that even girl bands regain their popularity, like Blackpink. The Korean bands add a new aspect to the mix, that fits the current generation: they keep their fans close and express their feeling through social media.

Read the complete Dutch article by NRC about boy bands.

Researcher

Dr. Simone Driessen

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