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I'm A Bad Boy But I'm Nice (Boyband 15)
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Inspired by Christophe calling Big Bang's "Blue" the greatest boyband song since Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," I compiled a list of fifteen boyband tracks. Not a best-of, not a survey, but some stuff I think highly of, and enough gaps to call forth lists of your own:

The Jewels "Hearts Of Stone"
Dion And The Belmonts "I Wonder Why"
The Marcels "Blue Moon"
The Miracles "You Really Got A Hold On Me"
The Beatles "She Loves You"
The Temptations "(I Know) I'm Losing You"
The Monkees "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"
The Jackson 5 "I Want You Back"
The Moments "Love On A Two-Way Street"
New Kids On The Block "You Got It (The Right Stuff)"
Bell Biv DeVoe "Poison"
*NSync "I Want You Back"
Backstreet Boys "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
Big Bang "Tonight"
MBLAQ "I Don't Know"



I was extrapolating forward and back from early '90s usage; so, the male r&b vocal group taken to by kids and teens, with dancing. Orioles and Drifters not eligible, Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers are. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" eligible, "I Am The Walrus" not. "ABC" eligible, "Shake Your Body" not (among other things, vocals too much a Michael-only showcase). I count the Coasters, but I'd have chosen the Robins/Coasters' "Riot In Cell Block Number 9," which is a bit early and the content is probably insufficiently pre-teen (though I myself would've loved it as a tyke). I count the early Wailers, but my choice, "Jailhouse," is too late, and it reaches older than teen. I disqualified duos even though in my heart I'm sure the Everly Brothers belong for "Cathy's Clown" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream," and maybe even Simon & Garfunkel for the electric version of "Sounds Of Silence."

There are a whole bunch of reasons why country duo Brooks & Dunn aren't eligible, but going by sonics alone, "Ain't Nothing Bout You" would be right up our alley (or up the alley of Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinkin' About You," at any rate).

Enormous gaps in my knowledge, obviously; e.g., between "Two-Way Street" and "You Got It" and between "Everybody" and "Tonight." Along with the temporal gaps, there're the geographic (I'm missing Britain most notably, except for one minor band; also missing the Philly end of MotownPhilly, not to mention "MotownPhilly"; but hey, for once there's a genre where Boston matters, hurrah!), the cultural (for instance, I have no memory of what the Bay City Rollers sound like, or whether there were any freestyle boybands other than TKA), and gender (are there any all-women boybands other than Taiwan's MissTER?), not just gaps but vast missing expanses. Btw, there was a woman in the Miracles, Smokey's wife Claudette, though she tends not to show up on live clips.

The Marcels included two whites, but according to Wikip they left when it turned out that the group's being "mixed" meant it couldn't perform in the South.



Possibly the Moments had an audience that was too old; I wouldn't know, and without them the '70s go unrepresented. "Steppin' Stone" veers hard rock, but it's my favorite Monkees track. The Jewels may be just prior to the teen onslaught, but within a year the song was performed live by Elvis and hit the pop charts in versions by the Charms and the Fontane Sisters, and I felt like including it.

4/15 = 27% = titles with parentheses.

The big debate in my mind was whether to count Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz," which would have busted my genre wide open (speaking of Busted).

So have at it.



(Crossposting at poptimists, to see if it's still a ghost town.)

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Beach Boys and Four Seasons and Hollies were eligible, as well as the Four Tops, but my list was already '60s top-heavy.

Gut-reaction/impressionistic list:

Brother Beyond "The Girl I Used to Know"
Bay City Rollers "Yesterday's Heroes"
The Walker Brothers "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"
The Jackson 5 "It's Great to Be Here"
Color Me Badd "All 4 Love"
The Beach Boys "I'm Waiting For the Day"
Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers "Portable on My Shoulder"
The Drifters "Saturday Night at the Movies"
Five Stairsteps "O-o-h Child"
Linear "TLC"
The Glitter Band "Let's Get Together Again"
Bros "I Owe You Nothing"
SHINee "Sherlock"

Really wanted to list Desmond Dekker + Beverlys All Stars' "Honour Your Mother and Father," but I can't argue that into the work of a group.

NSync's "I Want You Back" could conceivably make it to the top of my list. I love what Max Martin's done since, but sometimes wonder if Denniz Pop had lived on, whether more of Martin's blunt songs would've had that magical ethereal second layer to them.

I love Shinee's "Sherlock," but I can't say that it's really it's a song that is either a pioneering leader of its era's sound, nor particularly its own unique style, either. "Replay," "Lucifer," and "Sherlock" stand out as superbly executed songs, but not more than that. This is also what's disqualified just about every Jpop boyband song I like, especially anything from Johnny's boybands.

DBSK's "Rising Sun" does qualify as quite distinct, though.
Teddy Robin & The Playboys - "Magic Colors"
The Four Seasons - "Bye Bye Baby"
Wow, I have so little knowledge of non-Asian boybands.

There are a few all-women boybands in Japan, but their music either sucks or is nothing special.

For my list I wasn't requiring either leadership or uniqueness, just the ability to look good on a list.

A whole bunch of Four Seasons tracks would've cut a fine figure on my list, esp. "Beggin'," "Walk Like A Man," and "Dawn."

Based on my very incomplete listening to SHINee, my favorite track of theirs is the very familiar-sounding "Juliette" (I think that by boybanding it they improved it). But "Sherlock" sounds adventurous to me, in that it's a mashup that waits a long time on its emotional release.

(I'd never heard DBSK's "Rising Sun"; I may take a while figuring it out. And until just now I'd never heard any version of "Magic Colors." Seems it's a song that trying-to-be-hip Greenfield & Sedaka wrote for trying-to-be-relevant Lesley Gore in '67. A total nonhit for her, which maybe indicates that Teddy Robin & crew were record collectors!)

Hmmm, most of Jpop boybands are still way too cheaply derivative. I suppose at least one standard Johnny's song should be heard to characterize their sound: a less obviously frat-boy douchey One Direction. (It's all about the synth strings with Arashi.)

I was wavering between "Dawn," "Who Loves You," and "Bye Bye Baby." Of course "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" is my favorite, but that's technically a solo single.

The one responsible for Shinee's "boyband harmony"-type songs (Sherlock, Juliette, Love Like Oxygen) seems to be mostly Remee, plus or minus different co-writers and arrangers. Since their other signature sound is relentless beats (Ring Ding Dong, Lucifer) I liked how "Sherlock" appeared to be trying to combine the two styles, going for an ultimate epitome of Shinee.

Wow, I didn't realize that the Teddy Robin song was a cover! Their "Gloria" cover is pretty fun, too.

Not only is "Magic Colors" a cover, it's a cover of a song that failed to chart and that had its album canceled. So, if you're Teddy Robin & The Playboys, you'd likely have had to have been an extreme fan of Lesley Gore to even know it existed, unless you were connected to some producer or talent scout who's scouring America for available material. This assumes that Hong Kong did not remain a major market for Gore after the U.S. faded. In any event, she'd seem not to be the sort whom a psychedelic band — if that's what Teddy Robin & The Playboys were — would be likely to pay attention to, not even during her aborted attempts at being "with it" herself in 1967 terms.

(Gore's major impact had been back in 1963, and her sensibility and style and musical world had been wiped out by the British Invasion; if the person who posted this on YouTube is correct, the Teddy Robin version didn't come out until 1969, which was a different planet from 1963.)

Edited at 2012-04-22 01:18 am (UTC)

Hmmm. I'm assuming that Hong Kong's hipsters followed the same musical demarcations as America's, but this is not necessarily a good assumption. Hong Kong in 1969 could have been mashing together sensibilities that in America had sharply diverged.

Their "Gloria" copies the Shadows Of Knight version in substituting "Then she called out my name" for Them's original "Then she came into my room." Presumably the Shadows Of Knight thought her coming into his room would be a bit risky for American radio in 1966.

Edited at 2012-04-22 12:36 am (UTC)

If Wikip is right, Remee didn't have anything to do with "Sherlock," though his sometime collaborator Thomas Troelsen is on board (Troelsen also there for "Love Like Oxygen"). As far as I know, "Deal With It" was written with Jay Sean originally in mind as the performer, though the song sure screams "We need a boyband to do this justice." I read somewhere (think it was Wikip, though I'm not seeing this info in current postings) that it was Jonghyun's idea to cover "Deal With It." He's the one credited with the "Juliette" lyrics.

For me, most J-pop is in the category "I don't get it." Which means that I'm not generally able to identify what groups like Arashi derive from, as opposed to my being able to hear whom SHINee sound like.

Apparently, The Runnaways were more famous in Japan than they were in the States, so it may be the case with other artists having some unknown momentum overseas. But you're right, it does seem an odd choice for a psychedelic band to cover, much less in the direction they arranged it with.

The information section on the "Magic Colors" names some fellow bands from the era. I don't have enough knowledge to know if the songs I sampled from the list were adventurous the way you're characterizing current Kpop, and it all fell under "60s sounds" to my ears, but bands did seem to cover whatever sounded cool, and not necessarily trying to adhere to one particular genre. The Mystics sounded less British Invasion and more crooner, though. Of course, these bands were mainstream popular in Hong Kong at the time, and may not count as hipsters, other than in their defiance of the government's condemnation of Western music.

LLO: Remee, Troelsen, Lucas Secon, and Yong-Hun Cho
Juliette: Remee, Mich Hansen, Joe Belmaati, and Jay Sean
Sherlock: Troelsen, Rocky Morris, Thomas Eriksen, Rufio Sandilands, lyrics Jo Yoonkyung
Remee and Troelsen seem to be pretty able to replicate each other's sound, so Troelsen was probably following the precedent Remee had set for Shinee.
With a side-by-side comparison, I'd say the arrangement also played a role in how much better "Juliette" sounds. "Deal With It" is sparse and thus requires more of its performer, which Corbin doesn't quite deliver. "Juliette" not only has more members to cover for that, but the arrangement has its own heft as well, allowing Shinee to sing in more of a whisper-y style, doing a charming laid-back serenade instead of the forceful angry rant of "Deal With It." The arrangement for "Juliette's" bridge even has some little disco touches for extra glitz and glamor.
But the main melody of both songs could work for a soloist given a Guetta-style arrangement with electro squiggles. Including the Shinee vocal adlibs, it has Enrique Iglesias written all over it.

My first instinct for Jpop is 50s-70s, where Kpop tends not to go further back than 80s, (unless mining for disco) but the longer I think about classic Jpop bubblegum the murkier possible composition influences get, other than the fact that some of it definitely developed as if the 80s/90s/00s never happened.

Ah, Wikip informs me that Lucas Secon was on hand for both "Echo" and "Lazy Girl"! And he's not even Scandinavian. (Is British.)

Two months ago I'd have had zero name recognition for each of those three.

EDIT: Wait! Secon lives in London but was born in Denmark. So Scandinavia takes it back!

Edited at 2012-04-24 05:17 am (UTC)

I love Shinee's "Sherlock," but I can't say that it's really a song that is either a pioneering leader of its era's sound, nor particularly its own unique style

Does seem as if a lot of the Korean boyband melodies and harmonies hark back to the early and mid '90s (e.g., *NSync and ilk), which themselves were drawing noticeably on the '80s and '70s. Compare this to a girl group like 2NE1 — it's not as if 2NE1's styles come out of nowhere (I'm sure CL would happily create a list of her rap and r&b antecedents), but what the group have made of those antecedents belongs unequivocally to the '10s (or so I think, anyway, though note Michelle Myers at the Jukebox saying, about "I Am The Best," "those circa-2003 pentatonic string synths sound delightfully anachronistic against all the 2010s dirty bass and sing-rapping," which can be cited to either challenge or support what I just said).

It has been noted that Big Bang and 2NE1 (YG Entertainment) stand in contrast to the other idol groups. Their influences tend to be not just more modern, but also less European. (Definitely less Scandinavian.) So this might actually be a reflection on American R&B/Hip hop focus vs. European electronic/dance focus, although the lines have blurred with the influx of electro recently.

The bit about the "pentatonic string synths" and how they sound anachronistic in the new modern setting reminds me of how SNSD's "Gee" sounds purely Korean to me in composition, to where it just doesn't work in Japanese and they ended up leaving Korean in the Japanese version anyways. Set to those 80s style synths, and it's one of the most novel songs that can and has swayed many a pop skeptic into the world of bubblegum idols. I have yet to hear another upbeat song in Kpop that has sounded so Korean to me, instead of Western-derivative.

Tangent: What is it exactly that sets "Scream" and "Fantastic Baby" apart from "Sexy and I Know It" in quality/acclaim? The disdain for LMFAO seems to derive primarily from their lyrical content and the way they carry themselves as frat boys/assholes/trying to be funny. But then is it just that Big Bang aren't trying to be funny all that's need to excuse "Fantastic Baby?" "Scream" does has some additional elements going for it beyond the electro, mainly that 80s chorus, but is that and their straightforward/seemingly sincere attitude really all that's needed to go from a 2.75 to a 7.33? (I can understand it, though, as one of the reasons I listen to foreign pop music is so that I can enjoy music purely aesthetic, without pop's usually cringe-inducing lyrics ruining the experience.) Or is this another Boney Joan Rule moment?

Regarding "Scream" versus "Sexy And I Know It," 2NE1 are adorable and female* and, as singers, genuinely talented, and they don't try to make a virtue out of clumsiness. And LMFAO don't just look frattish, they sound it. But they also pretend to be clumsier than they actually are. And I'll mention that my friend Dave recently made a terrific mashup of "Sexy And I Know It" and Aaron Carter's "Aaron's Party," which is so good that I just put it on a mixtape.

The contempt the Jukeboxers have for LMFAO is not shared by the general public in, say, Korea. By hearing "Party Rock Anthem" through its Korean derivatives, I really came to appreciate it.

*As long as I've been making difficult-to-back-up claims about how the adventure in music these days favors faces that are female and young, I'll add that wasted behavior that, in guys, is coming across more and more as boorish can still be genuinely graceful or challenging when done by women. This is the Female Male Codicil to the Boney Joan Rule.

"Fantastic Baby" hasn't seaped into me nearly as well as "Scream" has.

"Fantastic Baby" is my least favorite from "Alive". There are things I like about it but I find the chorus boring and I'm automatically turned off by the phrase "boom shaka-laka". I just can't take it seriously. On the other hand, I can't stop listening to "Love Dust" which also has it's share of cheesiness.

I have always heard a lot of British pop and specifically Girls Aloud in SNSD, especially in "Gee". That might be more in production than composition but not knowing the language at all they still provide a ton of hooks for me to latch onto and sing along with, which is what Girls Aloud did at their best. There's also the name Girls Generation that just makes them an extension of Girls Aloud in my mind. Except for the language, I could imagine Girls Aloud sounding a lot like SNSD on "Oh! - The Second Album". I can't think of any other k-pop I've heard that comes closer to that style of British teen pop.



Wow, that mashup makes the lyrics sound a lot more humorous than the original. This one could almost be a Lonely Island product. Not seeing the MV visuals helps, of course, I can pretend that they're rapping with a wink at the audience, not leering fratboy faces. Obligatory sound association link.

Does British teen pop include the S-Club-and-its-offshoots sound? (Or do you refer to current British teen pop?) Plenty of Jpop sounds like that, and Kpop has its share, as well, including blatant Max Martin replications.

Would you elaborate on the Girls Aloud-ness in "Gee?" I don't hear analysis of "Gee's" influences often, so it interests me.

I would love to elaborate more but as I was listening to some Girls Aloud last night and comparing it to SNSD songs, I was specifically thinking of the song "Oh" and not "Gee". Today I see you were writing about "Gee", which I agree is a bit different and unique.

As for British teen pop, my knowledge and interest pretty much starts and stops with Girls Aloud (from 2005-2008) and the Minogue sisters at various times. I'm also familiar with Sugababes and some of the Spice Girls solo projects. I basically think of British teen pop as not being afraid to go for the big melodies in all their songs, ballads and upbeat dance songs. American teen pop I think of as more R&B and Hip-Hop based at this point without the focus on traditional songwriting. With SNSD, and a lot of Korean pop, I hear the big melodies mixed in seamlessly with the more experimental R&B production. SNSD steer more toward the British sound than some of the others like Kara and 2NE1.

There are also a number of SNSD songs that just sound like Girls Aloud, at least to me. The one that stands out the most to me is SNSD's "Boys & Girls". It could fit seamlessly on Girls Aloud's "Chemistry" album.


There seems to be a never-ending stream of boybands in Britain, few of whom I like, though who knows what I've failed to hear. And this depends on the definition of boyband. If someone wants to call The Clash a boyband, I'm down with that! And I think Busted and McFly are kind of boyband extensions of the Clash, maybe, and they sometimes did good stuff. I need to explore their catalogs. Tried to get Moggy to tell me if she considered McFly a boyband, and she didn't reply. That sort of band might be what the Jonas Brothers in the U.S. were going for initially. Their first single nicked the start from "Anarchy In The U.K.," "Holidays In The Sun," and they covered a couple of Busted tracks.

But as for the r&b template boyband in Britain, Take That and Westlife and whatever comes out every year as runners-up in X Factor, they rarely reach me ('cept there were a couple of JLS tracks I liked).

I like what I've heard of Girls Aloud a lot, "No Good Advice," "Call The Shots," "Something Kinda Ooh," though I've never gotten a strong overview of them. They seem a bit daunting — cool and haughty. My sense is that they were aimed as much at young career girls as at teenyboppers — though that could well be true of, say, After School and ilk as well. I like that Girls Aloud once sampled Nazareth!

With SNSD, and a lot of Korean pop, I hear the big melodies mixed in seamlessly with the more experimental R&B production.

That's a good description.

Edited at 2012-06-16 10:02 pm (UTC)

"Sexy And I Know It" sounded like a deliberate comic exaggeration and goof in the original too, I thought. The wink was always there. Which isn't to say LMFAO don't mean it on some level — they realize how average-looking, non-studs they are, that's part of the whole setup and joke; but an underlying message, for them and their fans, is that drunk-ass party slugs like them are doing fine, are as sexy as they need to be (especially when everyone's drunk).

The thing is, LMFAO, being the blustery guys they are, could never do what 2NE1 do, go "Even if you were me you'd be envious of my body" and do it straightup, no hedging, no taking it back. And conversely they couldn't turn around, like 2NE1, and say, "Don't lie to my face tellin' me I'm pretty... 'cause I know I'm ugly" and make it sound true, every bit of the pain, as 2NE1 do. Guys like LMFAO would just sound pathetic/bathetic.

I guess my thesis (or something) is that Teddy Park, who wrote "Even if you were me you'd be envious of my body" and "Don't lie to my face tellin' me I'm pretty... 'cause I know I'm ugly," couldn't be the one to sing those lines, either, not convincingly. Has to be girls.

Edited at 2012-04-27 10:09 pm (UTC)

On the other hand, that Jordan Knight song that Christophe mentions below, "Give It To You," is impossible for me to hear except as something that ought to be parody, it's so unconvincing. But in '99 it was a hit in its own right, not out of camp fascination.

Did you ever hear 2gether? They were a parody group, from an MTV comedy, exactly lampooning the boyband sound of the year 2000. And their music was good!

As great as "Poison" is, I'm not sure Bell Biv Devoe should count as a boy band since that was them growing up and breaking away from New Edition. Weren't they trying to be considered men at that time? My personal list (which isn't very long since the popularity of this type of music has not very often met with my interests in music) would represent the men of BBD with New Edition's "Cool It Now", which brings me right back to the school bus in 6th grade.

Besides "Cool It Now", I'd add N'Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" and "Girlfriend", BBMak's "Back Here", and BigBang's "Tonight".

I'd like to add BigBang's "What is Right" because I've listened to it more than any other song of theirs but I don't really think it's that good of a song. It's just a catchy song.

I'd also add Jordan Knight's "Give it to Me" but my Bell Biv Devoe argument pretty much ruined it for me. "Give it to Me" is the first song that really got me interested in teen pop.

You're probably right about Bell Biv DeVoe, but I consider them crucial to the boyband style because they were the specific template that Backstreet Boys had in mind. As for *NSync, I might argue that "Bye Bye Bye" and the entirety of No Strings Attached and then especially "Girlfriend" and Celebrity were meant to signal *NSync's readiness to be a regular R&B/pop act, not just a "teen" act -- though Justin was the only one really to cash in on that intention. I might say the same thing about recent Big Bang material (I'm assuming older teens and young adults in Korea are fine with listening to K-pop anyway, though I don't know how across-the-board true this is).

Actually, as I recall the heyday of the American* teenpop era in 1999-2000, the Top 40 and adult contemporary stations were pleased to play Britney and Backstreet Boys and *NSync; it was only in 2001, with all the attention to this music as, specifically, "teenpop," that these stations began holding off. And the "teen" music itself began to change with the coming of Michelle and Vanessa and Avril, and the rebellion of Pink.

*A lot of these "American" tracks were written and produced by Scandinavians. Just like a good number of the K-pop tracks on SM Entertainment.

The more I think about it, the move (or the attempt to move) from teen pop to a more adult style is really an essential element for any teen-pop band or artist. With "No Strings Attached" that move was spelled out in the title but it pretty much happens with all of them from. The exceptions that come to mind are one hit wonders that never release a follow-up (or never have a hit in the first place) and bands that follow the Menudo template and replace members as they pass a certain age.

In any event, I heartily endorse "Bye Bye Bye" and "Girlfriend" for the boyband pantheon.

Thinking those who once existed must be dead

Interesting that no one remembered the Bee Gees (unless "trio" is too unnumerous):


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