ABC’s Boy Band — a talent search for a newer New Edition, or for some even newer New Kids, so to speak — has gotten off to a slow start this summer. However, for Thursday’s first live episode of the season, the talent show did have the right stuff, at least in its first four minutes, when three members of boy-band royalty (and my proposed judging panel for a possible Season 2) — New Edition’s Bobby Brown, *NSYNC’s Chris Kirkpatrick, and the Backstreet Boys’ A.J. McLean — joined BSB veteran/current Boy Band judge (or “architect”) Nick Carter for a medley of classic boy-band hits.
The number was good silly fun, though it wasn’t quite the “Evolution of the Boy Band” that its title promised, since it kicked off with New Edition’s “Candy Girl” (1983) and ended with One Direction’s first hit, which came out in 2011. What, they couldn’t get an Osmond, Jackson, or one of the more than 30 past Menudo members to show up? Anyway, New Kids on the Block weren’t represented in person Thursday either, but that didn’t stop the contestants from crooning “You Got It (the Right Stuff),” complete with some Nappytabs-modified, NKOTB-inspired, side-kicking choreo. The medley also included a bit of the aforementioned “Candy Girl” with Brown mugging along, Carter and McLean serenading architect/Spice Girl Emma Bunton with the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” and Kirkpatrick making a cameo during “Bye, Bye, Bye.” The whole shebang climaxed with a big group chorus of 1D’s “What Makes You Beautiful” — though, sadly, Harry Styles wasn’t there either.
Also sadly, none of the three newly assembled competing Boy Band boy bands came remotely close to the glory that was One Direction in their reality-bred X Factor U.K. infancy. Heck, they didn’t even come close to being The X Factor USA’s Emblem3, despite one of the groups, the confusingly spelled Tr5ble, having a number in their name.
Topline didn’t come out on top with a desperate “Despacito”; Tr5ble were in deep trouble with an ill-advised cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” (they never fully recovered after member Cam Jackson’s ouchy opening note); and Element seemed out of their element on the Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” a charisma-free and disjointed performance that let down the judges and had them saying bye, bye, bye to the show’s token bad boy, Miles Wesley.
All of this made me unexpectedly nostalgic for the “golden era” (apparently 1983-2011) of boy bands, and made Carter, McLean, Kirkpatrick, and Brown look pretty good by comparison. Maybe ABC should have just revived VH1’s awesome Mission: Man Band (remember that show?) instead.