Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 10:24 UK

Are boy bands on the way back?

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Avenue are being given a major push after being thrown off X Factor

The boy band is back - or that is what a new batch of all-singing, all-dancing hunks is hoping.

But after a decade out of fashion, is the pure pop combo really ripe for a resurgence in the British music scene?

Boy bands ruled the charts in the 1990s in the form of acts such as Take That, East 17 and Boyzone - all of whom made comebacks, with varying degrees of success.

There is also a new crop of girl groups hoping to make the breakthrough, following the popularity of acts including Girls Aloud and Sugababes.

Record companies are taking the prospects of such groups "a bit more seriously again", according to Top of the Pops magazine editor Peter Hart.

"That comes off the back of the success of something like High School Musical, where people have realised there is room for more cheesy pop in the charts and in people's hearts.

The Saturdays
The Saturdays feature two former members of S Club Juniors
"All the record companies have been working hard to produce a pop sound which isn't perhaps as cliched as the formulaic pop we were seeing at the end of the '90s."

Stuart Clarke, talent editor of industry bible Music Week, says the style of music has evolved, and the groups have had to evolve too.

"I don't think the market would suit bringing back the boy band of the '90s, which was extremely cheesy dance pop," he says.

Some of the main outlets for pop acts - like Saturday morning children's TV - have disappeared, he says.

"So they've got to be songs that can fit alongside everything else on Radio 1 without sounding ridiculous."

So who is in the new wave of pop contenders?



This five-piece hit the headlines two years ago when they were thrown off The X Factor because they already had a management deal.

They have now signed to Island Records, home of Amy Winehouse, Mika and Sugababes, and will be given the biggest push of any boy band in recent years.

They sing upbeat dance pop aimed at the young-and-screaming end of the music market. One of them even plays guitar.



Zen, Jordan, Jazz and George are a boy band from the traditional (or dated, depending on your view) mould, boasting vests and "killer dance moves".

They have supported both Westlife and Girls Aloud on UK arena tours, and had two singles in the top 40.


Pop svengali Nigel Martin-Smith, who created Take That, is working on a new "streetwise" boy band.

He says they will sing about knife crime and other issues "that are more relevant with the kids today", and will release their first single at the start of 2009.

"I searched for these lads in council estates all across the north-west," Martin-Smith recently told the Manchester Evening News.

"I haven't put together a boy band since Take That and I believe there is a huge opening for a boy band that is relevant to today - not just one that sings big slushy love ballads."


The Saturdays

Straight out of the Girls Aloud finishing school, this colourful quintet are the heirs-apparent to the reigning queens of sassy pop.

Two of the members have past form in S Club Juniors and their debut single If This Is Love is currently in the top 10.

"Everyone's taking themselves so seriously at the moment," says Mollie. "We're a proper, full-on girl band and we're loving it."


Another former X Factor group, Hope came fourth in the TV contest in December.

They were mentored by Simon Cowell on the show and are now managed by John Giddings, who promotes stadium tours by the likes of Madonna, U2 and the Rolling Stones.

They have worked with producer Pharrell Williams and their debut single is due later this year.

Red Blooded Women

Carly, Candy and Liz are set to be unleashed by small, hip independent dance label Planet Clique.

Their sound is a familiar but catchy robopop and they play on their feisty image. They are billed as "three powerful confident young women more likely to listen to Kraftwerk than Atomic Kitten".

What do you think of the new crop of pop groups? Is the time right for boy bands to return?

This debate is now closed and some of your comments are below:

The pop charts have always gone in "waves". We have two years of serious music and then a few years of cheesey pop. It's been that way since the 70's and at the moment the music industry seems to be taking itself far too seriously and the songs sound very over-produced. Maybe it's about time we got back to some good old fashioned pop.
Jo Wareham, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire

Musicians. Give me musicians. Any idiot can open their mouth and warble, and with modern technology the poorest of warblings can be instantly processed to be in tune.

Somewhere behind every one of these vocal trios/quartets/quintets is a bunch of REAL musicians, underpaid, undervalued, unknown to the public, that wrote, arranged, and performed everything other than the vocal on the recording. The vocal is the EASY part, yet it is the vocalists who will tour and make money, with a backing track of those poor ignored musicians.

I'm sick of the celebrity of the voice at the expense of instrumental virtuousity.
Robert, Minster, Kent

It will be refreshing to see something other than self indulged egotistical ex students playing indie music in the charts. Boy and girl bands are often good role models and produce an array of top class cheasy wedding music. Lets just hope the new groups retain some innocence reminiscent of some of the less promiscous chart toppers of the 90's. I will be glad to see the back of young people with skinny jeans and bad fringes.
Alyson, Leeds

A good song is a good song, no matter how it comes about. So if they have good songs then they yay them! If not then they deserve to be yawned at.
Gareth Symons, Mancot North Wales

Can I just mention that the definition of a band is a group of musicians - I don't thing manufactured pop groups can be classed as musicians so they should be called 'groups' rather than 'bands'. We don't want to confuse them with real bands who focus on writing music rather than straightening their hair (girls and boys).
Paul, Leeds, UK

I've happened to see Red Blooded 3 times now. Happening upon them at JoJo's I was pleasantly surprised that a girl band was actually good. I felt the past 10 years pop music had taken a dive and had failed its genre.

But when I saw this pop trio perform, I had to change my opinion. I think these girl are going to kick start a revival of pop music, but this will much better than anything Girls Aloud could bring.
Ross, Westminster

I am sure all record company shareholders are looking forward to this opportunity to suck another generation of kids dry of all their parents' hard earned cash.
Chris, Wiltshire

Record companies claim that file-sharing is killing the music industry because they can't invest in new talent. The fact that record companies are investing in these sorts of 'bands' just proves they are in it only for the money and talent has nothing to do with it.
Simon, Brighton, UK

Ah, the old 'real music' statement. Care to define what 'real music' is? Perhaps you could point me to the scientific formula that allows us to seperate the real music from the fake. Or do you just use the term to lend weight to the belief that you have 'good taste' in music and are a 'real music fan', thus allowing you to look down on others musical tastes. There is no good music or bad music, only music you like and music you don't.

Edward Hunt, Exeter, Devon

Well just the usual bunch of old tripe, over produced, talentless drivel. If you want pure pop sung by real singers listen to Abba.
paul, London, London

Real 'pop' bands, like Alphabeat for example, survive because they're a band with real talent, which fundamentally means being able to play their own instruments for a start. Whereas these joke bands sing (mediocrely) to a backing trap - what does it matter who produces it? It's not real music is it?
Tommy Drama, Bristol, Uk

It amuses me that people get so angry about manufactured pop music.

Yes, the bands may have short life spans; yes, their music may not be particularly meaningful, but where's the harm?

If you like it, enjoy it for what it is!
Neil Moir, Aberdeen, Scotland

I really don't see everyone's issue with 'pop' music. It is a vital part of the music industry, always has been and always will be. I would personally congratulate the record companies on at least making an attempt to give pop a facelift. Or would everyone prefer another five indie bands who play the exact same chords, or another assault on the chart by Timbaland, or another five albums showcasing Madonna's leotard collection? These bands may not have longevity, but at least they might produce the odd good tune. Which is surely what it's all about...
Steve, Bedfordshire

I wish record companies would stop treating teenagers and the young like idiots. We know what is good and what is bad music and all we want is more bands like the greats e.g. Queen and The Beatles. In terms of now a days bands and singers like The Feeling, Duffy, The Killers and The Kaiser Chiefs.
Emma , Cardiff

The saturdays, are quality, their a talented bunch of girls who can also sing really well live! I wish them great success, but as for that band called hope...they lost X factor for a reason!! haha

Scott McDonald, essex

This is just another cycle. Boy Bands, Girl Bands, 3 chords scratched out on a telecaster band, yet another R&B act "making it through" it's all new to impressionable kids in the target market who don't recognise or care about format or musical references.
steve, chichester

Asbro! Asbro!!! You couldn't make this stuff up... as if the asbo generation is going to connect with something so obviously artificial! I predict that anything so blatantly manufactured will be completely and utterly ridiculed once presented to the yoof.

They should have called them Hoodie instead.
Adam K, Brighton, England

I would absolutely love these boy "bands" to be given some proper instruments and have to make the music they produce, perhaps even play live at some point.

What's the point in them exactly, it's basically just karaoke with better studio equipment. No surprise the Rolling Stones were the highest grossing artists in 2006/2007 when this is all that we are now producing.
Bibble, UK

Alphabeat, Ting Ting's, Robyn, Leona, Amy - it's pop music that's selling again. I'm aware of most of these, and Red Blooded Women are the pick - put themselves together, write their own songs - just as 'real' as the identikit indie bands we've had to put up with for the last few years...
Michael, London

Dear, oh dear, oh dear... Please, someone shoot these record executives.. What has the British music industry become? Desperation! That's what it is! Why are we allowing this rubbish on the airwaves? I'd rather hack my own arm off with a very blunt gardening device than listen to anymore of this absolute rubbish. Please Britain! Stop buying it so It can go away!!
Chris Jones, Bristol

Hope rule without a doubt! More Hope please!
Lewis , London

Lets be honest here. all of these bands will disapear into the ether as quickly as most of the boy/girl bands of the 90's. No one will be listening to them in 10 years time.
Bob Lord, Croydon, London

About time we had some fresh blood in the boy/girl-band stakes!!! I am a confirmed lover of cheesy pop and can't wait to hear more. The Sugababes and Girls Aloud have shown that these groups can have real staying power. Personally, I think that this kind of music is the perfect antidote to dreary, guitar-led indie music that seems to dominate at the moment.
Martin, Hull

FANTASTIC... about time some pop came back into the charts
Chris Deakin, London

Good luck to them! Who said there should be a rule that 'we' are only allowed a certain number of boybands, girlbands, soloists, balladeers etc? What a boring world it would be if we had no choice & all had to like the same music! Musically, however, you have to take some of these bands more seriously than others. The girl band HOPE, for example, are superb singers and always perform LIVE. Their harmonies are tight, & each girl is an individual.
Ninia Macasil, Surrey

1st band (above) weren't bad, went downhill from there. Girl bands are a waste of space in my opinion, although admittedly all these are better than some stuff out there! They have a tune...

The capacity for the English to put up with this tosh never fails.

So much "indie" music could already be described as "boy"-populist in the extreme, meaningless, soft, vacant and wholly irritating, eg Interpol, The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Max´mo Park, Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, Editors, The Kooks, The Cribs, The Killers, The Fratellis.
wiremu harpuka, Richmond, London

Asbro? Really? Asbro? They might as well be called 'Knife-U-Like'.
Gabby, Birmingham

I love cheesy pop stars although I am not to partial to the music. They have a manufactured whiter than white image then it all goes belly up when they get caught coming out of a club blind drunk at 4 in the morning with a promiscuous young lady or two, try to start a fight with the paparazzi and then fall in a gutter. It's the reason I buy red tops.
Stevie, Dalkeith

Asbro? Come on now! A new generation of boy and girl bands? Oh well, at least it will take the limelight away from the tragically awful rock bands this country is spawning at the moment.
SImon, Bristol

I hope 90s style boy and girl bands never return. I am tired of rubbish music.
Graeme Phillips, London, UK

Please stop...just turn off the machine that keeps churning out these poor excuse for groups (they're not bands, a band kinda implies being able to play instruments) They're just glorified kareoke gangs who've been given songs to sing and not even good ones at that.

They're plucked from stage schools, given a makeover, given a 1 album/3 single recording contract and a bucket load of PR to tell the public what they should think of them.
Caitlin, Nottigham

Real music? This is real music! What is real anyway? It depends on you and your ears.

I've also seen Red Blooded Women live (just the other day in fact) and they were brilliant. For those who are saying these bands are manufactured, useless, they dont write their songs and the old humdinger "they cant sing"...well, have you actually been to see them perform live? Red Blooded Women for example write a lot of the material themselves & can truly belt out some big notes.
Bobpop, London

More overproduced pap. Mo more, I beg of you!
Mark Chisholm, Dereham, UK

More rip off artists!

The Saturdays, I spotted that sample of Yazoo's Situation you used. GO and do something original! Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet have more talent in their little toe nails than this lot will ever have
Peter Mulholland, Norwich

Why are young people being told that issues like knife crime are 'relevant' to their lives? It isn't, for most, so I don't see a reason to make it feel more like the norm.
Mary, Devon

i didn't think Avenue were that bad and Red Blooded Woman was ok, the rest were pretty appalling but i'm not the biggest pop music fan. You can't knock it all though, lets face it the Bay City Rollers were useless too, if you don't like it just turn it off and if you do, have fun with it.
Craig, Leeds

It's depressing to think that cheesy pop will sell even a little. Oh, unlucky souls of the kids born in the 80' see this awful stuff finally die only to be resurrected by greedy record companies. It's like a weed when you don't kill the roots!
Samuel, Warrington

Quite suprised with the sound of Hopes' single but it's not bad. Of course it's all Phoebe centred; she really should have gone solo and tried to be the UK's answer to Pink and Kelly Clarkson. The rest of them were awful!
Matthew, London

In musical terms, hell on earth.
Dave Godfrey, swindon, uk

For most of these groups, it's just about making money. They've seen Take That make a successful comeback and they think that they can do the same. Wrong.

The road to making a decent comeback is riddled with problems - just watch the "Toyboize" clips on YouTube! :)
Andrew B, Leeds

I'm so glad Hope are making a comeback after X Factor! I thought they should of won it easily. Their new track sounds brill cant wait until its released! We need girl bands like Hope who are new and sassy, not boring cheesy pop girl bands, bring on the single!
Carly, London, UK

Obviously these bands aren't to everyone's tastes, but there is a huge number of people out there who love this kind of music whether it be kids or plain old pop lovers. Many of these bands actually write their own material these days too. So don't just pigeon hole all these bands as 'manufactured' as there is some real musical talent lurking amongst them. All commercial music is somewhat formulaic anyway and this covers dance, rock, pop and even indie as well as most everything else we hear in the charts today, whether you want to admit it or not.
Rob, London, UK

As bad as a new wave of boy and girl bands will be could they be as bad as the dreadful conveyerbelt of drab indie bands at the moment who all look and sound the same, Westlife are particularly odious and bland but even they could not top 'Fall to Pieces' by Razorlight which reminds me of Georgeous George Formby on Blackpool seafront.
Kevin Conn, London, UK

I do not understand why these groups who are trying their hardest to make it in the music industry are being so criticised! They are trying to give us new music i think HOPE are fantastic iv seen them perform at westlife and boyzone they are five girls who can all actually sing and play instruments! just because music is going through this phase of groups made up of two people, one banging on a drum and the other one shoutin along tryin to maintain a beat is this really what music has come to??!! YES to boybands and girlbands especially HOPE i cant wait to take out my earplugs and listen to some actual soulful voices! GO HOPE!
Emily, London

Take four or five good looking people, one or two can almost sing + a producer armmed with a computer and mixer that can change a bag of cats into music. Also add the ability to lip sync and there you have it. A new boy/girl band is formed. Shame to all the genuine talent that it still goes on.
Ben, Hastings

I think we need bands like this who supposedly don't produce "real music" to act as a foil for the over-politicised ramblings of so many bands today - music is predominantly a form of entertainment rather than education after all!
Jen, London

Best way to listen to this manufactured music is play all three samples together.....
Gareth, London

I feel sorry for these young people really, being used by agents and record companies alike as a short term fad to make a quick buck. As previous posters have said there's no staying power in any of these groups. All of those samples above sound so generic I wouldn't know what band to look for if i had the inclination to buy the song.

Leigh Douglass, London, UK

Any of the commenters here actually under 18 (i.e. people these acts are most likely to appeal to)?

Why are there not more pop acts comprised of both young men and women together? S Club seemed to work well, Liberty X had a solid pop dynamic. We've seen it work now and then over the years so let there be more of this instead of these boring all-male and all-female line-ups.

Personally I'd love to see a 2 guys/2 girls act making music that sounds like Ladytron meets Alphabeat. Or a British version of Cansei De Ser Sexy. I'm an old geezer tho.

Le Bob, Yamoussoukro, Cote D'Ivoire

I don't really see that any of the current crop of 'bands' are any more authentic - I would much rather we had some proper pop music back in the charts!
Phil, London

Nooooooooooooo! I was just getting used to decent music. Don't take it away, please! Although, the eye candy, sorry, 'girl bands' are welcome.
Martin Dean, London

Real talent does the circuit and works their apprenticeship before getting the slightest bit noticed and [for some at least] mega-successful. This is just more overnight hype, glam and pap. Here today, allbut forgotten tomorrow (with luck).
Ian, Brum UK

If this is "the way back" then the music industry has managed to scrape its way through the bottom of the barrel and reached uncharted scraping territory. Are record company executives really getting paid to have the same idea over and over again? I don't see/hear anything original about these bands and that includes the "we're not like other boy/girl bands" rhetoric their PR machine is so keen on.

This is obviously marketed at kids, because anyone over 18 has already seen and heard it all.

Can I ask the BBC to run a "where are they now" on these people in 6 months time? Now that would be interesting...
Max, London

Boy bands are quite popular in other countries such as ones in eastern Asia - and they have lots of fans in the UK and America. I think teenagers are looking for foreign groups to fill the place of what they used to be able to find in their own country. I say bring back the so-called 'cheesy pop' - it's fun, and it's fits for its purpose.
Juliette, Lincolnshire

Its time for a more contempory take on pop music. The only one of these groups to sound like they have any originality or class above the typical dated 90's pop scene is Red Blooded Women.
Craig, Reading

Not my thing at all but that doesn't make it "utterly useless" or any sort of a threat to "real music". All music has a place if it has an audience, and clearly there is an audience for this sort of thing. Not all people want to listen to clever lyrics or intelligent musical phrasing - it's all a matter of taste. Fair play to them all and if they can make a few quid while doing it, why not.

Colin Reid, Newcastle

Ah stop having a go. Boy bands or girl bands aren't aimed at the average reader of the bbc news website so don't critise them because they're not Bob Dylan. When I was 12 I loved Take That and then at some point I grew up and broadened my range of music appreciation. Why shouldn't 12 year old girls scream along to some 'cute' bloke singing? Let them be 12 and enjoy themselves.
Susan, Leeds

Once upon a time you could get pop bands that could play instruments. They could even sing properly too.
Alex, Birmingham, UK

Having seen Red Blooded Women perform live, I can honestly say that they would sit very comfortably alongside the current chart music out there. It's definitely time for a resurgence of more sing-a-long pop, but this time with much more talent and musical integrity.
Rob, London, UK

Wow, yet another batch of factory produced bubblegum bands. Its not really a new wave of boy/girl bands, they never left us. They still haunt local radio stations and music television. Its all going to be the same rinse and repeat 'music' with no real meaning or cause. Its just another way to get those young girls and boys to spend their hard earned pocket money from ma and pa.
Mark, Wolverhampton

All of them are utterly useless. Every song stinks of desperation. Don't give up the day job guys.
hils, London

Personally I really don't think you can beat cheesy pop. It's a feelgood factor. Take Alphabeat for example, classic example of successful pop music. Give us more pop!!!
Emma B, Toddington, Beds

Not one of these "bands" has even an inkling of staying power and I fail to see why they have even been given web space. Fabricated pop groups of this ilk have come and go since the archetypal pop mogul Larry Parnes first subjected us too simpering balladeers. Thanks to the fickle tastes of the Ipod generation and generally ephemeral shelf life of bands today, these poor deluded souls shouldn't pose to much of a threat to real music!!!
James, London

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