At some point in our lives, we’ve all engaged in the bizarre phenomenon that is ‘fangirling’ over a group of good looking twenty something boys. Boybands are cleverly produced to be annoying to the point of being lovable. Even people with otherwise fantastic taste in music have a taste for, say Blue. I recently came across a young boy that threatened me with physical violence if I didn’t agree with him that Take That was the best band of all time. He was only seven years old, but the point stands. Through extensive research (i.e. listening to insane amounts of cheesy pop, reading countless articles and stalking celebrity twitter accounts) I now believe I can understand the evil that permeates all boybands, lurking beneath a veneer of good looks and charm.
Boybands are not formed, but formulated. This is pretty much unique to single gender bands. Take One Direction. It seems very unlikely that any adolescent boy would want to sing about some girl flipping her hair around. If you were to look back at their talent show auditions (not that I’ve watched them repeatedly or anything) you will see that their own musical tastes are very different to the generic pop they now create. They have little to no control over what music they produce. All of their music was written by some hired corporate drone who only cared about the paycheque they would receive. That, or a famous singer/songwriter (like Ed Sheeran, who has written a couple of songs for the boys, including their single ‘Little Things’) donated a song to the group. While not exactly plagiarism, because his name was written (in small letters) in the lyric booklet, it gives the younger fans the impression that you don’t exactly need much talent to be able to call yourself a singer/songwriter, like the boys claim. Interestingly, in the song ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ from his album ‘+’, Ed Sheeran raises this point himself, with the line ‘Call yourself a singer-writer – you’re just bluffing/Your name’s on the credits and you didn’t write nothing’.
And it’s not just who writes the lyrics that is problematic, but the lyrics themselves. The song Steal My Girl makes women seem like objects to be owned by men. How is that a message we are still allowed to spread? For millennia, women have been treated like possessions. You’d think that in the ‘highly enlightened’ twenty-first century we would have moved beyond this kind of objectification. ‘Find another one ’cause she belongs to me’ – well no, Liam Payne, she doesn’t. As a human female, she belongs to herself, thanks to basic human rights. And yet again with Payne’s dodgy lyrics: ‘every jaw drop/When she’s in those jeans’ – they might do! But let’s not encourage people to think that’s a good thing. A woman’s body is her own, because we don’t still live in the Victorian era.
When you get down to it, all a boyband really needs is some modicum of attractiveness and to be gullible. What teenage boy would think twice about signing an irresistible document that would guarantee them wealth and fame? They wouldn’t realise they were selling their souls to the devil – aka Mr Moneybags McMusiccompanyowner. They don’t even really need a great deal of talent in this day and age, not with autotune as capable as it is. Cats could make beautiful music nowadays with the help of some good editing software.
I’m not saying there aren’t some talented boybands. Some people do really well when their bands split up – Justin Timberlake and Robbie Williams, for example; their solo careers really took off. Even so, they are still remembered for their boyband days, which is just one sign of boybands being detrimental not only to the public but also themselves. Some members end up on drugs, in rehabilitation centres, and some die young. Homosexual members, like *NSYNC’s Lance Bass have been known to be forced ‘into the closet’ so as to keep female fans believing they have a chance. Closeted people frequently cannot acknowledge for themselves, let alone others, their homoerotic feelings, attractions and fantasies. Their homosexuality is so unacceptable that it must be kept out of conscious awareness and cannot be integrated into their public persona. Consequently, these feelings must be dissociated from the self and hidden from others. Still others end up at home, or in some stupid reality program designed for the uneducated masses. Their heads are so far up in the clouds, they miss out on regular activities like their first proper job and a good education. The band 5 Seconds of Summer went to a pretty basic college, and not all of them passed their courses. So members get a bizarre perception of reality, an illusion wherein everyone is lovely and everything is handed to you on a silver platter – until their looks start to go and they’re dropped like yesterday’s memorabilia. Act your age boys! Bands like these have a short shelf life because management companies like Modest! Management, Simon Cowell’s company, only keep them around until the fickle fan girls move on – and won’t pay exorbitant prices for concert tickets anymore.
And regular people end up with altered perceptions too. Young girls assume that their first boyfriends will be charming and handsome, and the most they’ll be interested in is to hold their hands – not just that ‘one thing’ we’re all warned about them wanting. Boybands uphold squeaky clean images for as long as they can, because people are sheep. Parents are terrified that if Joe Boyband is seen smoking, drinking, or cheating, their darling twelve year old will try to imitate their idol… said twelve year old is probably pressuring their parents to buy expensive tickets, merchandise and even makeup, which they could struggle to afford.
Boybands also take up too much media attention. Oh, wow! Zayn Malik, formerly, of One Direction, has just broken off his engagement to Little Mix’s Perrie Edwards! How exciting – not. The people listening to these sugar coated distractions could be listening to the songs of their heritage, or expanding their knowledge of Mozart’s Symphonies, or even just listening to some independent bands that deserve attention. A talk I attended given by Bonnie Greer mentioned that all good music in some way reflects a country’s history (and future). Do you think that ‘Steal My Girl’ has anything to say about modern politics or the state of the nation? I doubt it.
All this being said, we should temper our contempt for some bands, like Green Day, and for the boys themselves. It’s only when bands turn into poorly concealed money grabbing attempts to control the masses that there’s an issue. I won’t change my mind; the problem here is not whether these boys have more going for them than just good looks, but that they are being used (knowingly or not) for evil. The evil here being Simon Cowell and moguls like him. It’s the same story all over again- like Emperor Nero used his gladiators, so does Simon Cowell use his boybands. Well, following that simile, maybe one day someone nicer will rise up to take his place, and he’ll die needlessly in the process. We can but hope.