Maybe it’s because One Direction was just on ‘SNL,’ or because I’m playing The Wanted on my Top 40 show, but in terms of boy bands, we’re seeing this resurgence, and it’s happening, whether you like it or not!’ – Carson Daly
When it comes to boyband reunions, Take That very much led the way in 2006 and have been just as successful, if not more so second time round. The Backstreet Boys will insist they never actually went away as they continued to release albums throughout the 2000’s under various group formations, N Sync reunited in 2013 but that was pretty much still all about Justin and New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees, 911 and 5ive (of which there are now only 3) have all toured again since their heyday with varying degrees of success.
Cast your mind back to 2000 and with the charts awash with boybands already it was inevitable that someone would put one together for a reality show. Since he’d already been sued by Backstreet Boys and N Sync it stood to reason that Lou Pearlman would be the man to do it and Making the Band and O-Town were formed. It never bothered me that they were manufactured, after all, show me a boyband who say they weren’t manufactured and i’ll show you a liar, it seemed that O-Town had the poisoned chalice of their manufacturing process being televised and made them an easy target for critics.
Despite the critics, they’d built up a loyal fan base on both sides of the Atlantic through the show and their debut album was a commercial hit spawning 2 massive singles (the pervalicious Liquid Dreams and the X -Factor’s favourite sob story background music All or Nothing) followed by the hugely underrated single Love Should Be a Crime which sadly fell short of the UK top 20 and didn’t even make it into the US Billboard Chart at all. Although the album had some strong pop songs (Sensitive and Take Me Under were always particular favourites of mine), the critics still weren’t happy, USA Today said of their debut effort:
‘Strangely, the exhaustive promotional strategy for O-Town’s self-titled debut CD didn’t include making advance copies available to critics — and now we know why. The 12 impressively produced, depressingly antiseptic tracks on O-Town amount to nothing more or less than a calculated attempt to capitalize on every trend embraced by Top 40 radio and MTV over the past five years’
Ouch. Annoyingly, O-Town seemed to be taking the flack for all boybands everywhere. There were all manufactured, but the press seemed to be happy living in blissful denial, that as long as they couldn’t see the strings, it somehow made the other puppets more credible. O-Town however soldiered on regardless and in 2002 released their second album; 02.
I LOVED this album when it came out, it is way less cheesy than the first, the songs are classier, better produced pop songs, they had never sounded better to me. I thought this album would help them shake off the reality TV stigma and start to be taken more seriously. Turns out I don’t have a clue what i’m talking about, the critics panned the album, the good ship O-Town hit an Iceberg. Then sank.
So we all went on with our O-Town-less lives for the rest of the 2000’s and boybands were filed away in the fond 90’s filing cabinet of my mind. Around 2012/2013 i’d started hearing rumours that O-Town were going to reform. I can’t lie and say that I didn’t give the news a mental eyeroll, especially finding out Ashley wasn’t in to it. Still thought for the sake of nostalgia and prosperity I started following them all on Twitter to see if I could get to the bottom of what was going on. It was slow to start with and was beginning to feel like a load of hot air. Until they posted the song Skydive to their youtube account last year. Um hello, what’s this? This is actually pretty good, reminded me very much the stuff One Republic and The Script are doing at the moment and I was thirsty for more.
A few months passed and their third album Lines & Circles was finally released in 2014. Having seemingly risen out of nowhere from the boyband graveyard they have some heavy hitters on the album and someone is clearly backing these lads again and putting their hands in their pockets. The album is extremely professionally produced, the most notable personnel being One Republics Ryan Tedder writing on the track I Won’t Lose. I’ll hold my hands up and say i was dubious to hear they were getting back together especially without Ashley, who sang a lot of their leads (as well as being resident cutie-pie) but honestly, I don’t think they need him. This album could easily be released by One Direction, it feels current and you get the impression they are actually in the driving seat this time around. They play around with styles a little bit, the lead single Chasin After You has clear Michael Jackson influences and they return to their boyband ballad roots with Got to Go. Erik and Trevor also get their rap on on a few tracks, which lets be honest, always puts the ‘fun’ back in funky!
It remains to be seen whether O-Town will make a full come back again, the music world is fickle and it will be hard for them to shake off the past image of being Reality TV puppets. If someone was to give them a chance I can totally hear some of this stuff on current radio. Fingers crossed that they do get given a second shot, me and my inner 15 year old would think it thoroughly deserved.