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Kooperman

Once again, boy bands say 'bye, bye, bye'

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Once again, boy bands say 'bye, bye, bye'

As Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync fade away,

only Timberlake's star continues to shine

By Eric Olsen

MSNBC contributor

Updated: 8:27 p.m. ET March 04, 2004

Hello (hello hello hello) — any boy bands out there? Just a few years ago the charts and airwaves were dominated by the pop stylings of ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and lesser boyish lights like O-Town and Five. Where did those precision drill teams of harmonizing heartthrobs go?

After Nick Carter’s '02 solo bomb “Now or Never” (it was “never”), Backstreet Boys have reunited and are back in the studio, but it remains to be seen if they can recapture previous glory — the odds are long against them. All of the other “bands” (singing ensembles, to be more precise) have gone bye-bye-bye, and Justin Timberlake is the only certified star to have emerged from the era.

While “Schizophrenic,” the solo debut of Timberlake’s ‘N Sync-mate J.C. Chasez (pronounced sha-zay), enters the album chart this week at No. 17 after selling a respectable 52,000 copies, fans clutched 439,000 first-week copies of Timberlake’s “Justified” in their sweaty little hands when it debuted 16 months ago.

Chasez has spent much of the last 10 years toiling gamely in his friend Timberlake’s shadow since they appeared together on “The New Mickey Mouse Club” in the early '90s. In keeping with the theme, Chasez’s own duties as halftime entertainer at the Pro Bowl were the first casualty of Timberlake’s notorious breast-revealing Super Bowl halftime stunt with Janet Jackson. It figures.

And while Nick Lachey, ex of 98 Degrees (“I Do,” “Give Me Just One Night”) has become something of a celebrity due to his marriage to blonde pop hottie Jessica Simpson and their joint appearance on the MTV reality series “Newlyweds,” his solo album, “SoulO” (get it?) has sold only 123,000 copies since its release last November (at the age of 30 it’s been a while since Lachey was a “boy”).

Grammy-winner Timberlake’s success has been based upon a combination of a calculated forsaking of his wholesome, color-coordinated, boyish ‘N Sync image for that of a sexual young bachelor on the prowl, sowing his wild oats with the steamy likes of Britney Spears, Alyssa Milano, Cameron Diaz and the nasty Miss Jackson. Musically, Timberlake has been able to convince a skeptical world that he isn’t a posed popster, but is in reality a gritty soul man, charting his own course down a path rich with funky, organic grooves. Thus far, his fellow boy band alumni have been left behind.

The cycle is hardly new

Not that this prefab cycle of bright bloom and hasty withering is anything new: attractive, non-threatening young men (and women, of course) have been assembled by songwriters and producers for the purpose of safely titillating teens and tweens since the early days of recording, and few have lasted long or spun off major stars.

In the '60s, the Monkees were handpicked as a telegenic American version of the Beatles (Stephen Stills was famously rejected for bad teeth), and while their run yielded enduring hits like “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Stepping Stone” and Daydream Believer,” they didn’t write or play instruments on any of them, and only Michael Nesmith had any kind of post-Monkees solo career.

Menudo — constructed of cheerful young Puerto Ricans in the late '70s primarily for the Latin youth market — ran through more than 30 members in a 20-year period, ruthlessly booting each out as he inexorably turned 16, yielding only Ricky Martin as a solo star.

The '80s saw outstanding success from New Kids On the Block (“I’ll Be Loving You Forever,” “Hangin’ Tough” and “Step By Step” all reached No. 1) and New Edition (“Cool It Now,” “Earth Angel,” “If It Isn’t Love”), both manufactured and coordinated by Boston impresario Maurice Starr. The success of NE alums Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant, Bell Biv DeVoe (Ricky Bell, Michael Bivens, Ronald DeVoe), and Johnny Gill, as well as their hit reunion in 1996 (“Hit Me Off”), is the exception that proves the rule: serendipitously, the members grew from pawns into strong singers, songwriters and producers in their own right, at least for a time. Only Bobby Brown is still in the news, and that is primarily due to his tumultuous marriage to Whitney Houston and legal problems.

Loss of innocence

But while the boy band boom and crash cycle is familiar, there is something new under the sun this time around. Beginning with severe loss of innocence when Milli Vanilli was unveiled as two pretty boys who didn’t sing a note on their smash '89 album “Girl You Know It’s True,” the pop public has become increasingly aware of the process involved in the creation of musical confections, and more demanding of “authenticity” from those in whom it is willing to place lasting affection.

Heightening this trend in recent years has been the explosion of reality television, which like a visit to the sausage factory, may be fascinating in the short term, but can kill one’s appetite for the product in the long run. While Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync at least made the effort to be perceived as authentic musicians, O-Town reveled in its artificiality as the formation of the group was chronicled in the ABC reality series “Making the Band” in 2000. Gleefully fabricated on-camera by former Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync manager Lou Pearlman, the process of assembly may have made for some interesting television, but its stark revelation also doomed the group to about zero artistic respect and a very short shelf life.

While it is centered on individual singers, “American Idol,” now in its third season, has also contributed to the public’s awareness of the nuts and bolts of the star-making machinery: industry-insider judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and former pop star Paula Abdul critique the contestants and chat revealingly amongst themselves about song selection, image-shaping and non-musical elements such as stage presence and charisma. There is still magic in a performance that clicks, but we are all much more aware of where the magic came from, whether we choose to be or not.

There was also a flap immediately after “AI’s” first season when an artist contract became public, revealing that show creator Simon Fuller’s company owned the careers of contestants — like competition winner Kelly Clarkson — from their heads to their toes into the distant future.

With all of this media exposure, fans, even very young ones, are on some level sadder but wiser and their enjoyment of pop perfection will never be pure again. We may never again see a boy band era succeed like the one just past.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4448803/

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Talent, is slowly becoming a factor again.

File Sharing plays a helping hand in this.

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exactly Ken

musicians create music just for the love of it, not money. Pop idols are slowly dying

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Next fad will be to bring back the old boy groups and combine them with the latest bunch, making something like The BackSync Monkees.

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I'm your next idol, baby. Take a good look and remember my name...

LOL Punk Rocker type eh?

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I'm your next idol, baby. Take a good look and remember my name...

ohgod YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

/me vomits

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The JT concert went off *Brisbane Australia*... Obviously not as good as sean paul but it was still bangin. :)

:wub: mwa mwa :wub:

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