Monday, 20 August 2012

The Best Of Boy Bands - part 2: 10 to 1

JUMP TO: Part 1 II Part 2 II Part 3

Originally posted in 2012. Updated in 2020.

Ten down, 10 to go as I count down my favourite boy bands of all time. If you missed part one, you can see who made positions 20 to 11 here. Otherwise, let's get going...

10. Boyzone

Members: Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating, Shane Lynch
Years: 1994-1999, 2008-2010
Top 3 best songs: "Picture Of You", "No Matter What", "Key To My Life"

With boy bands thriving by the mid-'90s, five fellas from Ireland decided to get in on the action, and went on to become the biggest selling boy band of the
decade in the UK (yep, Boyzone's albums even outsold Take That's).
Key to Boyzone's success were a series of smart cover versions of songs originally recorded by artists as diverse as Tracy Chapman, Bee Gees, Anne Murray, Cat Stevens and Billy Ocean. Funnily enough, I usually preferred their original songs (and the members were often listed as songwriters for their non-covers) since I got a little bored by the endless stream of ballad remakes.
Not surprisingly, Ronan went on to enjoy quite a successful solo career, but the one and only solo album by the late Stephen Gately also had a couple of good pop moments on it as well. As for Keith and Shane's Milli Vanilli cover version? I'll let you decide...

9. East 17

Members: Terry Coldwell, Brian Harvey, John Hendy, Tony Mortimer
Years: 1992-1999, 2012
Top 3 best songs: "It's Alright", "House Of Love", "Around The World"

If Take That were the good guys of British pop music in the early '90s then East 17 were definitely the bad boys. Pitted against each other from the start,
the two groups couldn't have been more different (although they both had two members whose contributions were marginal).
East 17 combined rap with pop to give them a harder edge, which, together with their tough guy image (oooh, tattoos!), made them the boy band it was cool to like. Their biggest worldwide hit, though, came when they showed a softer side on 1994's UK Christmas number 1, "Stay Another Day", so go figure.
Post-1997 (and post-Brian's infamous ecstacy comments) the group has had numerous revamps and reformations but none of them have stuck.

8. Human Nature

Members: Toby Allen, Phil Burton, Andrew Tierney, Michael Tierney
Years: 1996-present
Top 3 best songs: "He Don't Love You", "Don't Say Goodbye", "Eternal Flame"

Although they've developed into a Motown tribute act in recent years - a very successful one, mind you - Human Nature's best period, for me, were the years between their launch in 1996 and their greatest hits album in 2001. Aside from the songs mentioned above, tracks like "Tellin' Everybody", "Wishes", "Always Be With You" and "Don't Cry" showed they could comfortably handle more than one style of music - even reasonably convincingly imitating *NSYNC on their self-titled 2000 album.
But when their first covers album sold more than 10 times the amount of their last album of originals (2004's Walk The Tightrope), the writing was on the
wall for the first phase of Human Nature's career. And although the guys are no doubt very happy with everything those series of Motown albums and their Vegas residency has provided for them, I suspect they'd love to go back to releasing some of their own music.

7. The Wanted

Members: Max George, Siva Kaneswaran, Jay McGuiness, Tom Parker, Nathan Sykes 
Years: 2010-2014
Top 3 best songs: "Lose My Mind", "Satellite", "Lie To Me"

I must confess, I was a little surprised when The Wanted was launched at the start of the 2010s. I thought the concept of the boy band was pretty much dead and buried, but it was nice to be proved wrong when their debut single, "All Time Low", went to number 1 in the UK and then, more recently, "Glad You Came", became a worldwide smash - notably in the US.
And although the guys don't do formation dancing, I am impressed that they can all sing and don't filter what they say to the media (including myself, in an interview I did with Max, Tom and Siva during their 2012 Australian promo visit).
Towards the end, they kind of fizzled out with some not great singles, but before they started releasing songs about Rihanna, they racked up enough good songs, including "Chasing The Sun", "Lightning", "Warzone" and "Gold Forever", and some album tracks that could have been singles, earning themselves quite a high ranking on my list of favourites.


Members: Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, Justin Timberlake
Years: 1996-2002
Top 3 best songs: "I Want You Back", "It's Gonna Be Me", "Pop"

Just as East 17 and Take That were viewed as competitors in the UK, *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys became rivals in the States - but they actually had much more in common than their British counterparts. Aside from the obvious similarity of both having five members, the two groups were both formed by Lou Pearlman (and would both go on to have legal disputes with him in later years) and were both successful in Europe before the States. Both groups also worked with producer Max Martin and his colleagues at Cheiron in Sweden, and even ended up on the same record label.
With the phenomenal sales success of their No Srings Attached album, *NSYNC seemed to be getting the upper hand over BSB, but they would only release one
more album, 2001's Celebrity, before Justin headed off to his inevitable solo career. And that, I guess, is the main distinction between *NSYNC and BSB - Justin (and, to a lesser extent, JC) was always the standout member of this group, while the attention is shared more evenly in BSB.
It's almost a shame that we never got to see what *NSYNC would have come up with if they'd continued a little bit longer, since their last few singles ("Pop", "Gone" and the Nelly-featuring "Girlfriend") signalled a shift to a cooler, more mature sound - but perhaps it was best the group quit while they were ahead.

5. Five

Members: Abs Breen, J Brown, Sean Conlon, Ritchie Neville, Scott Robinson
Years: 1997-2001
Top 3 best songs: "Keep On Movin'", "Until The Time Is Through", "Let's Dance"

If anything could be learned from Five's career, it's that having the number of band members in the group name is a big mistake - something S Club 7 would also realise a few years later. Because when Sean decided he wanted out of Five in 2001, and had to be replaced by a cardboard cut-out for the "Let's Dance" clip, it really was all over for the boys. Up until that point, the group had been more or less untouchable, even here in Australia, where many boy bands had struggled to sustain interest.
Five (or 5ive, if you must) carried on East 17's legacy of a) blending rap and pop and b) being the bad boys of pop, and even made some inroads into the US market early on in their career. But, like so many groups before and after them, they self-combusted just when they were enjoying their greatest success and credibility.

4. Blue

Members: Antony Costa, Duncan James, Lee Ryan, Simon Webbe
Years: 2001-2005, 2011-present
Top 3 best songs: "All Rise", "One Love", "Fly By II"

With most of the big '90s boy bands out of the pop picture by the early 2000s, there was a gap in the market for a group to sit alongside Westlife and play Five to their Boyzone. And while Blue were probably closer to Another Level in terms of sound and image, they enjoyed a similar level of success to Five with a trio of number 1 albums in the UK.
Blue were easy to like - they were talented singers, especially Lee; had an easygoing charm, especially Duncan; were easy on the eye, especially Simon; and
sometimes said the most ridiculous things, especially Lee. Yes, I realise I've missed out Antony, but he always was Blue's most overlooked member. The four guys reunited in 2009, but despite representing the UK in Eurovision in 2011, have yet to return to their former glory.

3. Westlife

Members: Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily, Shane Filan, Brian McFadden (spelt as Bryan during his time in the group)
Years: 1999-2011, 2018-present
Top 3 best songs: "If I Let You Go", "My Love", "Swear It Again"

As I just mentioned, Westlife had stepped into the gap left by Boyzone's split at the end of the '90s - and not just because both groups were Irish. Westlife's stock-in-trade was also heartfelt ballads, with a liberal sprinkling of cover versions. There were also three (and, after Brian's departure, two) featured singers, with Kian and Nicky rarely getting a look-in on lead vocals.

Another coincidence: one of the five turned out to be gay, with Mark coming out in 2005 and enjoying a long-term relationship with Kevin from boy band V, just as Boyzone's Stephen had come out in 1999 and dated Eloy from boy band Caught In The Act.
Westlife also shared Boyzone's squeaky clean image, with barely a controversy arising throughout their lengthy career. Even Brian quitting the group in 2004 caused only a minor speedbump along the way as the guys racked up the third highest tally of UK number 1 hits ever (behind only Elvis and The Beatles, equal with Cliff Richard).

2. Take That

Members: Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Jason Orange, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams
Years: 1991-1996, 2005-present
Top 3 best songs: "Could It Be Magic", "Shine", "Back For Good"

Who'd have thought that a band who started their career having jelly smeared all over their naked buttocks by girls wielding mops would end up as one of the most beloved musical acts in British history? As attention-grabbing antics go, the "racy" video for "Do What U Like" was genius - although the less said about Take That's initial leather-clad look the better.
But success didn't come immediately. It took several more singles before the group was really on its way. By their second album, Take That were bona fide stars, and by album number three, they were a world-conquering boy band - thanks, in no small part, to "Back For Good". And then the wheels fell off.
We all know the rest: Robbie left, the band split, the band reformed, Robbie returned. And their post-reunion music has been as good as, and at times better than, their '90s string of hits. It's also been more adventurous, although most of the Progress album doesn't really do it for me. Still, with sell-out tours and multi-platinum albums, even the departure of Robbie (again) and Jason haven't slowed them down.

1. Backstreet Boys

Members: Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Litrell, AJ McLean, Kevin Richardson
Years: 1995-present
Top 3 best songs: "I Want It That Way", "Larger Than Life", "As Long As You Love Me"

Here they are: my favourite boy band of all time - a fact that was reinforced when I caught the NKOTBSB show in 2012 and realised BSB could have played for another hour and still only scratched the surface of their vast catalogue of great songs, while NKOTB had already scraped the bottom of the barrel on theirs by the end of the concert.
An instant success in Europe in 1995-96, Backstreet quickly developed a following in the UK, Australia, the US and most other parts of the globe. Things kicked up a notch with the Backstreet's Back album in 1997, and then again with 1999's Millennium.
Although their sales and chart fortunes have gradually dwindled ever since, BSB have continued to produce songs that are every bit as good as those they released at their peak.
The likes of "Incomplete", "Inconsolable", "Shape Of My Heart", "Straight Through My Heart" and "The Call" stand alongside the three I've listed above, "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely", "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)".
And with Kevin back in the fold in recent years, they seem set on recording and touring forever more.

What, no Bros? At the start of this countdown, I mentioned my criteria for a boy band and groups with members who regularly played instruments were ineligible for inclusion. But, in Part 3 of my boy band recap, I'll take a look at my top 5 groups who put the "band" back into boy band. I'll also take a look at some long forgotten boy bands.


  1. My Top 20 Boy Bands...

    1. Backstreet Boys
    2. Five
    3. Human Nature
    4. NSYNC
    5. East 17
    6. No Mercy
    7. Take That
    8. Blue
    9. Boyzone
    10. Westlife
    11. A1
    12. Hanson
    13. Color Me Badd
    14. New Kids on the Block
    15. One Direction
    16. CDB
    17. E.Y.C.
    18. The Wanted
    19. Bros
    20. Big Fun

    Honourable Mentions...

    Blue Train
    Bell Biv DeVoe
    Indecent Obsession
    Boyz II Men
    Robertson Brothers
    Point Break
    3 Piece Suite
    98 Degrees
    Ultimate Kaos
    Right Said Fred
    Bay City Rollers
    Past to Present
    Boys in Black

    1. Quite a few in common up the top. And a few who'll rate a mention in Part 3. But not Kulcha... I never was a convert.

  2. Yeah. It's hard to defend an artist who's only song you like is a cover. ;)

  3. Take That are hands down the greatest, most diverse in terms of songs and genres and also have three amazing songwriters in Gary,Robbie and Mark.
    Take That and East 17 were both amazing and drove each other to huge heights.
    Out of the others Boyzone and Westlife are just far too dull and far to reliant on covers.
    Blue were great and felt fresh for a boyband. Great harmonies and fun easy going personalities.
    BSB some brilliant songs but lack of depth for me and too safe in a formula.
    5ive were ok same with NSYNC. Worlds Apart never really registered and i liked Human Natures one hit in the UK, 'He Don't Love You'.

    1. I totally agree with you, Take That is musically more interesting and complete, also they give the best concerts, they are first class. I was a BSB fan when I was a teen but I was very dissapointed with their songs too safe in formula like you said

  4. My all time fav. Are Blue. Hugely talented, great guys who shares a very healthy relationship between one another (which comes first in a band and is imperative for their longevity).take that and bsb are also good bands. . .

  5. Blue are the best. . .

  6. I love your top ten. It's quite similar to mine although I'm not very familiar with Human Nature (letting aside their only hit in Europe "He don't love you").
    Have a look at my site and my online radio station It plays only boybands 24/7.