Boy Band Megaband: An All-Time Billboard Fantasy Draft
It's Boy Band Week here at Billboard, and after counting down our 100 favorite songs from the best boy bands in history, we've decided its time to devise our own all-singing, (maybe) all-dancing supergroups from the finest male frontmen pop music history has to offer.
Six Billboard staffers sat down with their own dream lists of leading men to draft, five members per group, and each staffer Svengali with their own strategy -- since this isn't fantasy sports, and when it comes to building the perfect boy band, chemistry and concept both certainly matter. Artists were considered mostly from their early career work and persona, and as with our Girl Group Fantasy Draft from last year, we disqualified the deceased -- and we only counted boy band alums if they had found considerable success as solo artists as well.
The results were unpredictable, to say the least. Check out the boy band quintets our staffers came up with below, and vote at the bottom for which is your favorite!
First Round Draft Picks
Joe Lynch: ZAYN. A silky smooth crooner with an edge who refuses to be boxed in by expectations from the label, his bandmates and even his fans? Sign me up. ZAYN has always followed his own arrow, and while he certainly seems happy to have bounced from One Direction, I feel like with the right combination of like-minded rebels, he could flourish in a group setting again.
Chris Payne: Sam Hunt. I know Drake is the obvious top pick left on the board, but I’ve got a vision for this team, and knowing my co-workers’ likely drafting habits, Sam isn’t going to make it to the next round. He isn’t in a rush to release that second album, so Sam can spend his time sing-talking and talk-singing as the good guy heartthrob at the top of my lineup. Just imagine him singing “I don’t have to take your heart, I just wanna take your time" -- not just as Sam Hunt, but as SAM HUNT FRONTING A BOY BAND.
Trevor Anderson: Ed Sheeran. First things first -- any boy band is only as good as their songs, and in that arena, Ed towers over all other eligible candidates. In many ways, he’s already the chief pop songwriter of the past two years. Beyond his own catalog of hits, he’s been the architect of multiple worldwide chart-toppers for Justin Bieber and One Direction. And it’s not like he only writes commercial ditties: He’s the proud owner of a song of the year Grammy Award, with two more nods in the category, and can craft a heartwrenching ballad and a bouncy pop snack with equal mastery.
Taylor Weatherby: Justin Bieber. The mop-topped Biebs has the looks, the prepubescent sound and the charisma necessary for any perfect boy band member. And most importantly, he has the fans -- Bieber Fever was essentially Beatlemania all over again, except all focused around one guy. Can you imagine what would happen if you paired him with other superstars? Total world domination, probably.
Lyndsey Havens: Harry Styles. As a rock fan, Harry was an ideal first pick -- he took a surprising turn on his self-titled solo debut and instantly proved himself a rocker capable of delivering an epic. But, he still paid homage to his pop roots from his boy band days with One Direction. His sonic fluidity was the perfect building block to base my boy band on, as Styles can fill many roles. Plus, he brings to the table unrelenting post-1D fandom that will likely follow him forever.
Andrew Unterberger: Drake. I can't believe he's still available at the end of the first round, but credit my co-staffers' desire to prove their cleverness by reaching for less-obvious picks when the MVP is so clearly still on the board. It's one of the great tragedies of Young Aubrey's career that he never got to front a boy band. He's got it all: The singing, the rapping, the quasi-dancing, the immaculately groomed facial hair and of course, the smarminess. He's also the most popular male solo artist of the decade, if y'know, having actual hits is the sort of thing that matters to you. Too easy a pick here.
Second Round Draft Picks
Andrew: Pharrell Williams. As with my girl group strategy, I like to get a little in-house songwriting and production with my boy band roster. Anyone remember *NSYNC's "Girlfriend"? How about the Neptunes remix of BSB's "The Call"? Pharrell has long proven he can enable boy bands to be their best selves -- and lest we forget, he was quite the heartthrob himself in his shirtless "Frontin'" days. Get him and Drake on the same roster, it almost doesn't matter who the supporting cast is.
Lyndsey: Like I said, I’m a rock fan. There was no way Sir Paul wasn’t going to be in my fantasy band. Similar to Styles, Macca is capable of double-dipping in pop and rock in a way that never feels forced or stale. Since his early days with The Beatles, in which he and John Lennon were the primary songwriters -- yet another reason why he’s a valuable asset to my band -- he’s managed to maintain an element of familiarity while continuously pushing boundaries. Case in point: collaborating with Rihanna and Kanye West… but we’ll get to that later.
Taylor: Dancing is a quintessential part of the boy band gig, and with a guy like Derulo on the squad, the group essentially has a built-in choreographer. Plus, his own catalog proves that he knows how to craft a smash pop hit -- and collaborates well with others -- while also bringing in a little grown-up sexiness to the traditionally more innocent boy band scene.
Trevor: Usher. Ok, fine, if Michael Jackson (R.I.P.) is ineligible, I’ll go with his earliest successor: Usher Raymond IV. Yes, Usher hasn’t held court over the 2010s as he did in decades past, but in his prime, he was untouchable. He churned out hits at will with a stock of dancefloor grooves, pain-drenched slow jams and sultry duets -- and brought pristine, sharp choreography to his live sets. With an updated arsenal of hits, Usher, the seasoned frontman, can mix the emotional and energetic into an high-octane, unforgettable show.
Chris: Justin Timberlake: So J.T.’s 2018 album wasn’t nearly as country as we first thought, but in my band he’ll have, trust me, EVERY OPPORTUNITY to indulge his Tennessee boy back-home guitar-strumming urges. Henceforth, this will be the first boy band to collaborate with Chris Stapleton. One of the songs will be named something like “Whiskey in My Beard Oil by the Pond,” but it’ll be worth it because I hear Justin has experience in this boy band thing.
Joe: Axl Rose. Appetite for Destruction-era and earlier Axl was a teen heartthrob for sure – and can you imagine the Guns N' Roses frontman circa 1987 hitting that mind-shattering falsetto while ZAYN goes deep with those seductive low notes? Plus, "November Rain" is proof positive that Axl could write a GOAT boy band ballad if he wanted to.
Third Round Draft Picks
Joe: G-Dragon. Not unlike ZAYN and Axl, G-Dragon says he's a quieter person who unleashes his extroverted side onstage. With BIGBANG, the K-pop singer/rapper/producer demonstrated he's a valuable team player without ever fading into the background, and his unerring, provocative fashion is sure to guide this band toward visually stunning peaks.
Chris: Post Malone. Post has been dying to be a guitar-strumming folkster since he was a kid, and I’ve been dying to put him in a country boy band since I saw this picture.
Trevor: Bruno Mars. The reigning Grammy champ in all three major categories may rightfully fight Usher for frontman status, but I see Bruno as both performer and a director of sorts for the group. He has a smart sensibility about staging and aesthetic -- watch his network special from last November -- and let’s not forget that this non-black artist paid homage, to strong positive reception, to In Living Color with the hottest rapper of the moment. Bruno’s has the ability to shift into and out of any lane -- remember, this one guy’s greatest hits playlist includes “Just The Way You Are,” “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Uptown Funk.” That versatility, in genre, and both as singer, songwriter and producer, makes him an invaluable complement here.
Taylor: Maluma. With Latin stars beginning to infiltrate the U.S. pop mainstream, having an artist to add a little reggaeton flavor to my boy band is pretty much essential. Maluma’s own music has plenty of pop in it, and he’s just as alluring when his smooth voice is paired with other artists. And on top of his irresistible sound, he’s the heartthrob of the Latin community at the moment — just imagine that face on a teenager’s wall.
Lyndsey: J Balvin. Who wouldn’t want J Balvin’s Midas touch on a track? The Latin hitmaker moved to the states as a teenager, but it wasn’t until more recently that he found overwhelming acclaim here, courtesy of the inescapable “Mi Gente,” which even earned a remix treatment from Beyonce. Balvin’s 2013 album La Familia showcased his pop-infused dance direction, but also included softer gems like the guitar-driven ballad “What A Creation,” which illustrates how Balvin’s Latin flavor would pair perfectly well with the pop-rock tendencies of Styles and McCartney.
Andrew: Barry Gibb. Is there such a thing as too much falsetto in one boy band? Between Pharrell and Bee Gees legend Barry Gibb, we're gonna find out with my group. Besides, Skateboard P's upper register is cute and all, but Gibb's is an all-timer, and that's the kind of secret weapon I need in my boy band -- especially on our late-song key changes, which we will of course employ liberally. Songwriting and beats are also a nice bonus.
Fourth Round Draft Picks
Andrew: David Lee Roth. My boy band is already undeniably potent, but it risks coming off a little too nice, and definitely a little too safe. We need a shit-starter -- an Irrational Confidence Guy, as Bill Simmons would say -- and Diamond Dave would undoubtedly be more than happy to fill that role. He'll show up late to gigs, he'll hog the mic and needlessly milk his solo sections in the studio, he'll write his own scripts for the music videos -- but he'll also provide the most electric parts of every show and every song when he's feeling it. He'll be Bobby Brown, basically, but with better high-kicks.
Lyndsey: Kanye West. Every boy band needs its wild card member. Kanye is just that. As previously hinted at, he’s already worked with Paul McCartney a handful of times, on the heart-rending "Only One," the striking “FourFiveSeconds" and even the incendiary "All Day." Ye’s softer, more melodic production, heard on Graduation’s “Good Morning” or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Runaway” makes sense with the instrumental offerings from Styles and McCartney. But a track that starts soft and slow then builds, like “Lost In The World” featuring Bon Iver, is easiest to imagine here: Styles and McCartney open the track, then West and Balvin come in hot to take it to the next level.
Taylor: Adam Levine. At his Songs About Jane peak, he had the voice of an angel, and one that could transition from a sweet ballad like “She Will Be Loved” to a more risqué pop-rock tune like “This Love” -- the kind of versatility you need from any band member, especially when the group is vocally driven. Even if he can’t do any intense choreography, he knows how to sing and shake it well enough to make the girls swoon.
Trevor: Romeo Santos. Romeo adds another dimension to the emerging diversity of the roster, and his experience as a member of Aventura proves he’s already a veteran when it comes to working well with others. (To boot, he and Usher have already recorded a successful collab, “Promise.”) His sonic prowess, too, integrates well, as he’s retained his core bachata stylings, but garnished them with pop and hip-hop elements to hit a sweet spot between the cultures.
Chris: John Mayer. Okay, seriously though, if I’m going to really play up the country side of this boy band, I need a sick guitarist. Mr. Mayer is a modern day virtuoso, and back when he felt like being a pop star, his dreaminess and angelic voice made it look easy. I’m envisioning Sam, J.T., and Post singing up front, working the crowd and maybe busting some moves, while John grooves on the Stratocaster and fills in on the high-end of some harmonies. I like where this is going.
Joe: So far I have three artists with a reputation for doing things their own way and blazing their own trails, and to this I add Bobby Brown, the Ultimate Boy Band Bad Boy. With a disarming face and even sweeter voice, teens were helpless against early New Edition Bobby Brown back in the day. But far from just crush fodder, Brown had a consistent artistic vision that puts him in good company with this crew.
Fifth Round Draft Picks:
Joe: The Weeknd. Okay, the reclusive Abel Tesfaye might not seem suited for playing well with others, but in a group of outsiders, he's likely to find plenty of common ground. Imagine his impossibly immaculate voice harmonizing with the likes of ZAYN and Brown… it's the stuff that pitch-perfect dreams are made of.
Chris: Darius Rucker. He’s the last pick in this band, so I guess that makes him more like one of the Blowfish. But that’s okay! I need his sultry baritone for our harmonies, and if anyone makes fun of this off-the-board pick, I can remind them Rucker has approximately one more Diamond-certified record plaque than their first round pick.
Trevor: Chance the Rapper. To bring it home -- any boy band in 2018 needs a rap anchor, and Chance is best suited for this task. He’s got cred and fans across all genres, his personality is fun and fresh, and you get the sense he can tone it down enough to risk offending all the pre-teens’ moms (this is a boy band, after all) or requiring the dreaded “explicit content” sticker on the album. Plus, his sonic style on a verse wouldn’t break the flow or feel when he jumps into a pop or R&B song. And like nearly all rap acts, he’s skilled in the art of successful collaborations, and has an ear for creative arrangements.
Taylor: RM from BTS. There is no boy band currently taking over the world the way these K-pop phenoms are, with RM (formerly Rap Monster) at the forefront. He’s not only the one that can spit some impressive bars over irresistible pop hooks, but he’s also been the BTS member serving as the group’s ambassador as they’ve crossed over to American audiences, as well as a breakout solo star with his own mixtapes and feature appearances. Between having his own fan base already in place and some serious rap skills to go with it, RM is an indisputably clutch recruit for my group.
Lyndsey: Chris Martin. Chilling ballads are Chris Martin’s lifeblood, and being in a band with both Styles and McCartney doesn't raise any eyebrows. But what he adds here is his later-in-life shift via Coldplay, towards colorful pop production and dance-driven tracks (most fully realized on the 2017 Chainsmokers collab “Something Just Like This”) “Lovers In Japan/Reign of Love,” off 2008’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, best shows Martin’s shape-shifting skills; the track begins as a driving pop-rock song before suddenly changing gears into a glimmering and stripped-down second half -- not too dissimilar from parts of The Beatles’ famous Abbey Road Side B medley. Songs like these are where my boy band will shine: winding tracks that take listeners through various tempos, stylings and cadences.
Andrew Unterberger: Khalid. I've got plenty of star power and showiness in my group already -- I need to fill it out with a Quiet One. Khalid fits the bill perfectly: He can be the brooding supporting vocalist who only gets a solo or two per album, but invariably ends up the thinking teen's member of choice. And don't get it twisted: Anyone who's ever seen Khalid live can vouch that dude can bring it with the dance moves when required, too.