The Jackson 5. Backstreet Boys. One Direction. BTS. Boy bands have been dominating the charts and capturing the hearts of fans for decades, but what is it about these groups that make them so popular, and what are their origins?
Though the term “boy band” didn’t appear until the 1980s, the origins of the boy group date back to the early 1800s, with African-American barbershop quartets. By definition, boy bands are groups made of men that not only create pop music, but also sing and dance — an important detail that excludes The Beatles from making the cut. The Jackson 5 quickly fell into this definition upon their founding in 1964, and became the blueprint for the genre throughout the ’60s and ’70s.
Groups such as New Edition and New Kids on the Block carried the torch during the 1980s, while the 1990s gave birth to Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. The 2000s experienced a brief plateau until the Jonas Brothers dominated the latter half of the decade, before One Direction came onto the scene in 2011 following their X-Factor formation. As Billboard host Tetris Kelly states, One Direction was one of the first boy groups to benefit from social media, and later paved the way for fan-based armies to thrive, as with BTS.
With signature choreography, perfected vocal harmonies, a curated image and dedicated fans, these groups have managed to stand the test of time and remain relevant to pop culture no matter the decade.
Watch the latest episode of Billboard Explains above to learn more about the magic of boy bands.
After the video, catch up on more Billboard Explains videos and learn about the American Music Awards, the Billboard Latin Music Awards, the Hot 100 chart, how R&B/hip-hop became the biggest genre in the U.S., how festivals book their lineups, Billie Eilish’s formula for success, the history of rap battles, nonbinary awareness in music, the Billboard Music Awards, the Free Britney movement, rise of K-pop in the U.S., why Taylor Swift is re-recording her first six albums, the boom of hit all-female collaborations, how Grammy nominees and winners are chosen, why songwriters are selling their publishing catalogs, how the Super Bowl halftime show is booked and why Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” was able to shoot to No. 1 on the Hot 100.