Before Boy Band begins tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, take a look at this list of the TV-made boy bands who came before the 2017 search began, and see where they measured up for us.
Definitely the most unconventional boy band in terms of their looks, with a rather chubby 35-year-old (who happens to be Chris Farley’s younger brother, Kevin) amongst four otherwise fittingly young and attractive men. That's largely because 2gether technically existed to mock actual boy bands of the time, via an MTV movie/spin-off TV series. Yet, in their short two-year existence, 2gether still managed to release two albums —within months of each other, no less — that both landed on the Billboard 200 (their second one hit No. 15!), and their biggest hit “The Hardest Part of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff)” earned a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 85).
For a fictional boy band, they weren’t half bad — but the fact that they were created to poke fun at real boy bands lands them at the bottom of the ranking. If anything, though, you’ve gotta give the guys credit for finding a way to fit the words "calculus" and "kleptomaniac" into a pop song.
The Diddy-formed group is reminiscent of a rebooted Boyz II Men, with smooth harmonies and powerful musical moments in every song. As part of the same Making the Band season as Danity Kane, the guys likely got at least a little overshadowed by the “Showstopper” songstresses. But that didn’t stop them from creating some undeniable R&B jams (like “Got Me Going"), keeping up with their Bad Boy label mates by landing their debut album at No. 1, and their sophomore effort at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Perhaps their only downfall was that Boyz II Men set a bar insanely high for groups like them.
But funny enough, as Boyz II Men is on tour with New Kids on the Block and Paula Abdul this summer, Day26 is reuniting for a special anniversary show in New York City on the 10th anniversary of when they were formed -- August 26, hence the group’s name — and even had to add a second show due to high demand.
5. Big Time Rush
After they auditioned for a television show about four Minnesota hockey players who were selected to form a boy band, little did the Big Time Rush guys (Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Carlos Pena, Jr., and Logan Henderson) know that it would turn into reality... well, other than the fact that none of them were actually hockey players from Minnesota.
With a successful four-season run of the show, a TV movie and three albums — all of which landed in the top 15 spots on the Billboard 200, including two top fives — Big Time Rush built quite the career for themselves from a Nickelodeon show. They were essentially a 21st century Monkees, which they totally nailed with their silly antics on the show and likability both on camera and on stage — they just didn’t quite get up to the level of pandemonium that The Monkees caused. Some of the BTR guys have dropped hints that they may be reuniting at some point, but at least fans have tons of episodes to re-watch and remember the group's golden days.
As Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” has proven, Latin music is once again gaining speed in the mainstream U.S. pop world — and CNCO may be the ones to keep that train rolling. After forming on La Banda in December 2015, CNCO has taken the Latin music scene by storm with their swoon-worthy voices and good looks… oh, and their suave dance moves. As if the fact that their biggest hit “Reggaeton Lento (Bailemos)” has more than 825 million views on YouTube isn’t indicative of their insane appeal, CNCO has already earned a No. 1 album on the Top Latin Albums chart, a No. 1 Latin Airplay hit, and opening spots for the likes of Nicky Jam, Enrique Iglesias/Pitbull and Ariana Grande on tour.
And, frankly, even if you can’t sing along without looking up the Spanish lyrics, their Latin pop songs have beats that are danceable no matter what language you speak. Bottom line: CNCO is just getting started, and could very easily battle for closer to the top spot of this list in coming years.
It’s almost hard to believe that one of the quintessential songs of the TRL-era Boy Band Renaissance was sung by a band that was created through a TV show. The five guys that were discovered by Lou Pearlman on the original Making the Band (Jacob Underwood, Dan Miller, Erik Estrada, Trevor Penick and Ashley Parker Angel) are the voices behind “All Or Nothing,” on the same tier of boy band classics as Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) and *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” with one of the greatest choruses of the entire 21st century. Their success inspired three more seasons of the show, but they were arguably the best group to result from the show (and certainly the best boy band).
Perhaps the best thing about these guys is that four of the members are still going strong today -- putting out their first LP in 13 years, Lines & Circles, in 2014 and successfully Kickstarting their way to another album, which they plan on releasing later this year. And despite not being the complete O-Town they were back in their heyday, the remaining guys are staying true to who they’ve been since the beginning: The flawlessly harmonizing, dancing and smiling wide-eyed guys that Pearlman and the world fell in love with on television 17 years ago.
2. The Monkees
As soon as the world saw these mop-topped, bright-eyed faces, fans around the world were believers. The four Monkees guys who were put together for the TV show of the same name in 1965 turned into so much more — three No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits (20 songs on the chart in total), four No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, a boatload of tours, and all-around Monkeemania. These guys have had just about everything a band could want in a career: chart-topping success with songs and albums, world tours, a two-time Emmy-winning TV show, a feature film, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even post-heyday honors like reunion tours and a musical about them.
They proved to be so much more than a band that was made for a TV program, also showcasing that they really were musicians by contributing songwriting and eventually playing their own instruments — something not typically seen in a by-definition “boy band.” (And music aside, their show was actually really quite enjoyable, thanks to their charming personalities -- despite how gimmicky the program was initially meant to be.) Even though they became more of a rock band than a boy band over time, The Monkees helped pave the way for the boy bands that were to come down the line, showing the world what true fandemonium looks like.
1. One Direction
Other than the insane level of success and output One Direction managed in a five-year span, what makes these guys beautiful -- ahem -- is the fact that the members didn’t go into their careers with the intention of becoming the biggest boy band of the 21st century. Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik all went into their X Factor (U.K.) auditions with hopes that they’d amount to something as solo singer. Little did they know they’d soon join forces and basically take over the world.
They may not have had the overwhelming chart success of The Monkees, but they certainly caused just as much (if not more) chaos everywhere they went, selling out arenas around the world and having just about every piece of merchandise imaginable made of their picture-perfect, boy-band faces. Plus, in five years, they went essentially nonstop, putting out a new album every year from 2011-2015, issuing hit after hit (landing 29 tunes on the Hot 100) and performing those songs on tour after tour.
Just looking at them, one would think they were destined to be boy band members from the start — hey, mastermind Simon Cowell saw it — and after what they were able to accomplish, and the catchy-as-hell songs they created in their post-X Factor career, it’s hard to believe they didn’t win the TV talent competition. And now that they’re all doing their own things for a while, they’ve also proved to be talented as solo artists, as they started before their fateful auditions. Whether the four remaining members of 1D come back from their hiatus as they’ve promised, or stick to pursuing solo endeavors, the legacy One Direction left in the world of boy bands is undoubtedly one for the history books.