From the Beatles to SHINee: Boy Bands for Every Family Generation
Bold personalities, catchy pop songs and ridiculously attractive young men all fuse together to brew the perfect storm: boy bands. And luckily for families, every generation has had its fair share to obsess over.
Whether it includes attending a concert, blasting tunes on a road trip or providing the soundtrack to dinner and drinks, boy-band music can bridge the generational gap, resulting in at least one thing everyone can happily agree on.
From the Beatles to K-pop's SHINee, here are 15 boy bands to which mom, grandpa and the kids can all step in sync (or should we say ’N Sync?)
Let's start at the beginning with The Beatles. The iconic English rock band from Liverpool, England, has been named the most influential band in history, and for good reason. Beginning in 1960, the Fab Four are the best-selling band of all time, with an estimated more than 800 million physical and digital albums sold worldwide.
Almost everyone knows The Beatles, and no family road trip is complete without singing along to “A Day in the Life” from the band’s eighth studio album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Other notable hits include “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “She Loves You,” “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.”
With more than 200 original tracks, the band changed pop music forever.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Another one of the best-selling groups of all time, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons dominated the international music charts in the 1960s and ’70s. The American rock and pop band from New Jersey churned out dozens of timeless hits like “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Working My Way Back to You.”
As lead singer, Valli’s precise, falsetto vocals became quite distinct and recognizable across the globe. And in 2005, the iconic group came back into the spotlight with “Jersey Boys” — instantly bringing back waves of nostalgia for older generations, while creating a new sensation for the younger population. The wildly popular jukebox musical shares the story of how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons got their start on the streets of New Jersey and eventually ended up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys influenced the rock era like no other. Using different genres, including jazz-based vocal groups, 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and R&B, The Beach Boys created their own distinct surfer sound.
The band’s string of top 10 hits reflected the Southern California youth culture, which meant lots of boss cars, waves and romance. “Good Vibrations” is the ultimate feel-good summer anthem, and it never gets old. Try playing the hits “Kokomo,” “I Get Around,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” at the next beach day or picnic — they’ll instantly bring back feelings of nostalgia.
The Jackson 5
Five brothers from Gary, Ind., paved the way for African Americans in the entertainment industry in the ’60s and ’70s, while simultaneously becoming one of the most legendary groups of all time. Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and, of course, Michael released a string of hits together, including “The Love You Save,” “I’ll Be There,” “I Want You Back” and the ever-so-upbeat “ABC.”
The Jackson 5 is a regular household name, and their songs are timeless, meaning no family party or cookout is complete without at least one track from the famous quintet. As one of music’s biggest influencers, The Jackson 5 set the tone for many boy bands to come.
Taking over the ’80s and ’90s, R&B veterans New Edition shaped today’s hip-hop scene and continues to be one of its biggest influencers. After releasing their debut single “Candy Girl,” New Edition seemed to pump out hit after hit, in a way becoming Generation X’s Temptations.
New Edition’s impact can be heard all over the radio today — think Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” album and The Weeknd’s hit song, “Starboy.” Because of New Edition’s influence on current music, it’s easy to jam along to some of their biggest tracks like “Can You Stand the Rain,” “If It Isn’t Love,” “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man” with the entire fam.
New Kids on the Block
Teen sensations and Boston natives New Kids on the Block took the world by storm with their bubbly pop and R&B hits in the 1980s and early ’90s. Since making a comeback in 2008, the group has gone on a variety of successful tours, with the Backstreet Boys, Lady Gaga and Boyz II Men as just a few of their supporting acts. Today, the boy band consists of brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and Joey McIntyre.
With popular songs like “Step by Step,” “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” “Summertime” and “Hangin’ Tough,” New Kids on the Block provide the perfect soundtrack for those long family road trips.
Boyz II Men
Best known for their emotional ballads and a cappella harmonies, Philadelphia-based quartet Boyz II Men gained international success in the early ’90s with hot releases like “Motownphilly,” “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” “End of the Road,” “I’ll Make Love to You” and “One Sweet Day.”
One of the best ways to unwind after a long day is to throw on some slow jams, and Boyz II Men’s stirring tracks are no exception. The R&B group was nearly inescapable with “I’ll Make Love to You” on a constant loop when it released in 1994. It spent 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was replaced by Boyz II Men’s following single, “On Bended Knee.”
The group became only the third artists (after Elvis Presley and The Beatles) to replace themselves on the Billboard Hot 100, naming them Billboard magazine’s biggest boy band from 1987 to 2012.
Nothing says family more than Hanson — a trio of brothers producing iconic pop rock hits from their hometown of Tulsa, Okla. Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson are best-known for their 1997 hit “MMMBop,” which was the lead single from their debut full-length studio album, “Middle of Nowhere.”
The song is the band’s most successful to date, reaching No. 1 in 27 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Mexico and Australia. Nearly everyone, whether they’re young or young-at-heart, knows the song, making it the perfect throwback to play.
Hanson’s energetic and playful style captured the hearts of millions, selling more than 16 million records worldwide.
When the lyric “Ain’t nothin' but a heartache,” blares from the speakers, it’s hard to resist the urge to sing along. The iconic Backstreet Boys rocked the ’90s and early 2000s, and became the best-selling boy band of all time after selling more than 100 million records worldwide. Their first nine albums reached the top 10 on the Billboard 200, and they’re the only boy band to do so.
What sets Backstreet Boys apart from other groups is their polyphonic harmony and hybrid style of dance club pop and R&B — and their success continues today. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is their most recent single, and it’s pretty hard to leave the house without running into the catchy tune.
Parents and even grandparents certainly remember the group’s greatest hits, including “Quit Playin’ Games (With My Heart),” “As Long as You Love Me,” “I Want It That Way,” “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Larger Than Life.”
Nineties babies and their respective parents know all about ’N Sync, the fifth-best-selling boy band in history. ’N Sync took over the teen pop explosion in the late ’90s with their melodic dance songs and heartbreak ballads, instantly becoming the leaders of the millennial wave of boy bands.
Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, Lance Bass and Joey Fatone made up the wildly successful group, with the pop dance track “Bye Bye Bye” as one of the group’s signature songs. The accompanying album, “No Strings Attached,” is the group’s most iconic, becoming the best-selling album of the decade and top-selling album of 2000.
Other hits, “It’s Gonna Be Me” and “This I Promise You,” stemmed from this project, reaching the Top 5 on Billboard’s Top 100 single chart.
Three teen heartthrob musicians from New Jersey — with one last name. Joe, Nick and Kevin Jonas rose to fame with their regular appearances on the Disney Channel, effortlessly appealing to the younger female generation of the early 2000s. Most parents of this teen crowd could spot these three dark-haired and handsome men from a mile away; the trio was consistently spotted on covers of teen celebrity magazines and merchandise ranging from backpacks to posters.
If there’s one thing moms and dads need to know, it’s that they can’t go wrong with adding a Jonas Brothers song to a morning commute playlist. Every one of the band's vivacious pop-rock tracks will boost moods, and parents of all ages may even find themselves singing along accompanied by some air guitar.
Parents may recognize hits like “Burnin’ Up,” “Year 3000,” “S.O.S.,” “Hold On” “Lovebug” and “Play My Music,” which dominated the radio stations, allowing the Jersey brothers to sell more than 17 million albums worldwide.
Dubbed the “Princes of K-pop,” SHINee has a massive following in South Korea, the group's native country. SHINee is known for their contemporary R&B style and experimental sound, adding in elements of EDM, hip-hop, tropical house and funk rock — but that’s not their only claim to fame. Since 2008, the group has been a lead trendsetter for fashion and dance with its “SHINee trend” and synchronized complex dance routines. Their boyish charm and colorful style won over millions of fans, instantly becoming the face of K-pop.
SHINee busted right onto the K-pop scene with its first single, “Replay,” and hasn’t looked back since. Following singles “Lucifer,” “Ring Ding Dong,” “Sherlock,” “Dazzling Girl” and “Married to the Music” not only dazzled South Korea, but the entire world. These dreamy tracks are a great way to spice up the usual pop playlist.
With countless awards for dance and music, SHINee is considered one of the best live vocal groups in all of K-pop.
From humble beginnings to becoming one of the most successful and biggest boy bands on the planet, One Direction rose to international success in 2010 after finishing third on the British televised singing competition, “The X Factor.” The English-Irish boy band is composed of Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and, until his departure in 2015, Zayn Malik.
A household name, One Direction is the definition of parent-friendly pop and has sparked a resurgence in the interest of boy bands over the last eight years. Their upbeat melodies and catchy lyrics make it nearly impossible to not sing along, and they’re suited for all ages — even grandma can get down to “I Would” or “One Thing.”
One Direction blew up over social media and generated hit after hit, including “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Live While We’re Young,” “Story of My Life” and “Best Song Ever.” Although One Direction is currently on an indefinite hiatus, they have earned dozens of awards, landing them as the first band in United States Billboard 200 history to have their first four albums debut at No. 1.
5 Seconds of Summer
Starting out as YouTube celebrities, the Australian pop rock band rose to international fame after touring with One Direction in 2013. And although 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS) is more recent on the boy-band timeline, they certainly aren’t a name to forget.
The band’s upbeat, bubbly pop sound is easily loveable and undeniably catchy — which is why everyone is jumping on the 5SOS train, mom and dad included.
Since the One Direction tour, 5SOS released three studio albums and headlined three world tours — so it’s safe to say they’ve been pretty busy. Their debut single “She Looks So Perfect” topped the charts in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and their most recent album, “Youngblood,” became their third No. 1 album in their home country.
In BTS, which stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan, and roughly translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts,” seven members bring seven unique talents and personalities to the table. The megastars owe their obsessive fandom to both their diverse musical styles and the craze of social media. What sets the septet apart is that they write and produce much of their music, targeting tougher, honest subjects along the way.
In their song “Not Today,” for example, the group advocates for minority groups, and their second album, “Wings,” sheds some light on mental health and female empowerment. Being advocates for social change, BTS evidently gained a strong millennial following.
Joining SHINee as part of the Korean Wave expanding South Korean culture, the K-pop group hit it big with “Wings” in 2016, peaking at No. 26 on the Billboard 200 — the highest chart ranking for a K-pop album ever. And in December 2017, BTS was named the most-tweeted about celebrity that year, ranking them No. 1 on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list for 2018.
Impress the family with some K-pop knowledge by pressing play on BTS’ hottest hits: “Fake Love,” “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” “I Need U,” “Run,” “Save Me” and “Butterfly.”