Almost all trends make a comeback at some point (though Baja hoodies can stay firmly in the past, thanks). So, it’s no surprise boy bands are back… if they ever really left at all.
Sure, the ‘90s were the heyday of boy bands like Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, but they’ve been just as popular in recent years. Have you heard of One Direction? Maybe not, over the sound of a billion screaming girls. But ‘90s nostalgia is big right now, and ABC is looking to tap into that with their new reality competition show.
Boy Band borrows parts from Making the Band, American Idol, and The Voice. Young men from across the country will compete for five slots to form the next supergroup. Three “architects” — Backtstreet Boy Nick Carter, Spice Girl Emma Bunton, and mega producer Timbaland — will mentor and guide them, but it’s America who gets to vote for the final lineup.
Of course, creating the next 1D is harder than it seems. Here’s what executive producer Jane Mun had to say about Boy Band.
Why make a boy band now?
‘90s music is so in vogue right now. Women my age in their 40s now have girls and kids who are now listening all this ‘90s music, especially boy bands. A few years ago New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, and 98 Degrees did this thing called a Total Package Tour and it sold out arenas. There’s this fever and fanaticism for boy bands that still exist today with women who consumed it in the late ’80s and ’90s. And now that we’re parents, our kids, with One Direction, are doing the same thing.
ABC is super into music. They’ve been wanting to get into the music world for awhile. So, somebody said in a creative meeting, “Boy band.” That’s all it took. Two words. Everyone in the executive offices at ABC were like, “What? Wow. Huh.” There was a pause, and I remember getting the call immediately where they said, “We have this idea, but we only have a title. Boy Band.”
I got so excited. We’ve seen other music shows like The Voice and American Idol. But they’ve never really embraced the nostalgia factor of boy bands. It crosses generations and ethnicities. It’s relevant today more than ever.
How old are these boys? Because in some of the ‘90s boy bands, they were more like men.
The age group we have, the youngest is 14 and the oldest is 24. The sweet spot for us is 17. Some record executives think they should be under 18. And then you talk to Nick Carter and Nick says, “Listen, Kevin [Richardson] was seven years older than me and he was the big brother and every boy band needs a big brother.” So, it’s nice to get someone who’s a bit older and has wisdom and maturity and experience.
It’s so interesting to get different perspectives, especially Nick Carter, who’s lived it. He started when he was 12. He started singing when he was 8. He had his first record deal when he was like 17.
What are the challenges like week to week? Is it just singing or are there related challenges, like wearing matching all-denim ensembles?
[Laughs.] I love that! That matching denim of Justin [Timberlake] and Britney [Spears] — I love that photo.
Each week, we have what we call the boy band scramble. We’ll scramble the boys into different configurations. We want to give America what a band would be like, but not get too comfortable with it. Because at the end of the day, we’re finding the top five to make the band. It’s still an individual competition.
These guys are all great vocalists, but not all are great dancers. So, it’s about creating combinations of dance and vocals and having them working together as a group. Are they able to pull off these harmonies?
They will be assigned a song to perform as a group every week and then at the end of the episode, the three groups that the architects scrambled, the winning group will be safe from eliminations. The bottom two groups will nominate one boy from each group to be up for elimination. The last two standing will sing a battle song. And America will save the boy they want to continue in the competition. We’re considering two forms of voting — they can text or go to ABC.com/boyband.
It’s a bit risky to put it all in America’s hands. What if the final five don’t get along?
Absolutely. That’s what makes it exciting. Putting everything on the line without a safety net is what’s thrilling about live shows. We want America to be engaged and the best way for them to get engaged is to decide on the outcome. We feel really confident that America will choose well and that everyone will have their favorites. And there’s five boys. It’s not just one person winning; it’s the last five guys standing.
You talk to any boy band that’s standing today and it’s like any sibling rivalry. Who’s the mediator? Who’s the bad boy? The group dynamic is super interesting. When you get five people of different ethnicities and age and backgrounds together, there will always be challenges. But when they perform together and that harmony locks, it’s magic.
With boy bands, it’s inevitable that someone goes off to be a solo artist. As you auditioned, were you on the lookout for those breakouts who might become really popular?
Everybody that we cast are solo artists. We just picked the best out there. You know, the architects have a really hard time every week. We shot our first three episodes already and we literally had to shut down shooting because they were shaking like leaves. They all had opinions on who should stay and who should go, and it was a fight.
We all love our favorites from each boy band. Talk to anybody and they’ll say, “My favorite was JC” or “My favorite was AJ, because he was the bad boy.” Or “I love Nick because he was the youngest.” Everyone has their POV. But that’s the magic of boy bands. There’s always someone for everyone out there.
Rank these boy bands: New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees, Boyz II Men, One Direction.
They’re going to kill me! If I said *NSYNC, Nick would be so upset with me. And if I didn’t say New Kids on the Block, Joey McIntyre would be really upset. If I didn’t say 98 Degrees, Nick Lachey would be like, “Jane!”
But for me, I grew up with Backstreet Boys. They were the OGs for me.
Boy Band premieres Thursday, June 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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