Any time a discussion of the genre of boy bands come up, it is the definition that is the biggest sticking point. The term "boy band" did not come into wide usage until the 1990s and the advent of the groups New Edition and New Kids On the Block. However, there were clearly earlier precedents. For the purposes of this list, boy bands, despite the word "band," are all male groups known primarily for vocals and not playing their own instruments. They frequently included choreography as part of their act and were marketed primarily to teens. While clearly of historical importance for the concept, the Beatles and the Monkees have been excluded from this list.
The Backstreet Boys were acknowledged leaders, along with Britney Spears, of the sweeping popularity of teen pop in the late '90s. The group came together in 1993 in Orlando, Florida with the assistance of producer Lou Pearlman. The Backstreet Boys achieved tremendous success between 1997 and 2001. After a four-year hiatus, the Backstreet Boys returned with the album Never Gone in 2005. Their next release Unbreakable appeared in 2007 and This Is Us in 2009. Backstreet Boys will tour with New Kids On the Block in the summer of 2011.
New Kids On the Block were a second project by Maurice Starr after his success with New Edition. The group was formed in Boston in 1986 and had a strong run of hits between 1988 and 1990. The group disbanded by 1994 and the members tried solo careers with little success. The group reunited in 2008 and released the album The Block. New Kids On the Block will tour with Backstreet Boys in the summer of 2011.
3. The Jackson 5
Five brothers named Jackson from Gary, Indiana began performing live locally in the mid 1960's and then began appearing on national stages by late in the decade like Harlem's Apollo Theater. The brothers auditioned for the Motown label in July of 1968, and when the videotape of their performance was seen by label chief Berry Gordy, he signed them to a contract. Motown decided that the group would be marketed as a "discovery" made by Diana Ross of the Supremes. She formally introduced the Jackson 5 to the public in August of 1969 and by the end of January 1970, the group was at #1 on the pop singles chart with "I Want You Back." The Jackson 5 would have their first four singles hit #1. The group would evolve into the Jacksons in the late 1970s and record through the 1980s. Their success eventually was overshadowed by Michael Jackson's solo career.
4. Take That
Take That became the biggest selling pop group in the U.K. since the Beatles. They were initially formed as a trio then producer and manager Nigel Martin Smith added two more members to the group in 1990, and they became Take That. After a run of chart-topping hits in the U.K., the group began to fray in 1995 just as they hit the U.S. top 10 for the first time. In 1996, the group disbanded with member Robbie Williams pursuing a highly successful solo career. The band began a second round of their history with a 2006 reunion and return to the top of the UK pop charts. Robbie Williams rejoined the group in 2011 for the single "The Flood" and the #1 hit album Progress.
Like Britney Spears, *NSYNC members Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez had their first significant singing roles as members of the New Mickey Mouse Club. In 1996, they formed *NSYNC in Orlando, Florida with three additional members. By 1998, they had their first top 10 pop hit and spent the next four years frequently near the top of the charts. The group have not released an album since 2001's Celebrity, while Timberlake and Chasez have had success as solo artists.
6. Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men was formed in Philadelphia in 1988 at the Philadelphia High School Of the Creative and Performing Arts as Unique Attraction. After catching the attention of Bell Biv Devoe (a group consisting of 3 former New Edition members) at a conert in 1989, the group was re-christened Boyz II Men and entered the studio to record their first album. Since that time the group have become the biggest selling r&b group of all time.
7. The Osmonds
The Osmond Brothers began their performing career as a barbershop quartet in 1958 well before their international pop success. They were hired to perform at California's Disneyland and, after appearing in a Disney TV special, singer Andy Williams discovered the brother act and booked them frequently on TV's The Andy Williams Show throughout the 1960s. As the decade closed the brothers wanted to become a pop band. They received a recording contract from MGM and in 1971 hit #1 on the pop singles chart with "One Bad Apple." Hit records and touring pandemonium followed. However, by the mid 1970s the pop hits dried up and the Osmonds had several years as a successful country act.
8. New Edition
New Edition was formed in Boston in 1978 while the first 3 members were still in elementary school. The group performed frequently at local events and added 2 new members before being discovered by producer/songwriter Maurice Starr. He released their first single "Candy Girl" in 1983, and the group quickly became pop stars. After breakup, 3 members formed Bell Biv Devoe, and Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant had successful solo careers.
Westlife are a second project by Boyzone manager Louis Walsh. Co-managed by Boyzone member Ronan Keating, the group's first single debuted at #1 on the British charts in 1999. Westlife became the first recording act to have their first seven singles all reach #1 on the UK pop singles chart. Their first 25 singles have all reached the top 10 and 10 consecutive studio albums have landed in the top 3. While making regular appearances at the top of the charts in the U.K., the group have yet to reach similar success in the U.S.
Boyzone began with a 1993 advertisement in an Irish newspaper calling for auditions to form an Irish boy band. More than 300 hopefuls applied and ultimately five singers were chosen to form the group. Boyzone's first single, a cover of the Four Seasons' "Working My Way Back To You," was released in 1994 and reached #3 on the Irish pop singles chart. A cover of the Osmonds' "Love Me For a Reason" hit #2 in the UK near the end of 1994. This was followed by a string of 15 more top 10 pop hits in the UK and three #1 albums before the group took a break in 2000. Boyzone returned in 2007 with a top 10 compilation album and triumphant tour. The group has generated two more top 10 single and a #1 album since their comeback. However, this success was marred by the untimely death of member Stephen Gately in October 2009.