Back in 2014 I did a blog post about an A-Z of 90s Girl Groups which has gone from strength to strength and seems to be a lot of people’s go to encylopedia for a musical nostalgia hit. Which is great. It struck me recently though, while listening to a dusty Point Break album, that I probably should do the boys too (ooh err) after all who doesn’t love a 90’s boy band? And for every Spice Girls there was a Backstreet Boy and for every Vanilla there was a Milli Vanilli…
When your uncle is the biggest selling pop star of all time it makes sense that you and your brothers would form a boy band and release ballad after ballad, all of which sound largely the same. I will caveat that snarky comment with the fact that It’s Gotta Be You was actually quite decent. Sadly when your uncle is also accused of being inappropriate at some ill advised sleepovers with young boys then radio isn’t gong to be so keen to play your stuff, so it’s off back to your mega rich Jackson mansions for you, 3T to await that call from The Big Reunion.
Taking their inspiration from Take That by forming a boyband of dancers from Manchester 911 were a big ball of fun and bodyshaked their way into the hearts of many a teenager girl in the mid to late 90s. The reunited for The Big Reunion in 2013 and have been doing the nostalgia tours ever since. Rumours that they are so called because Lee’s vocal ability is a 9 and the other two a 1 are unconfirmed.
This american quartet never worried the British charts all that much. They were very much riding the Backstreet Boys/N Sync crest of the pop wave in the 90s. They had one decent song called The Hardest Thing which name checks Dr Zhivago, who isn’t mentioned in enough pop songs in my opinion. Nick Lachey unsuccessfully married Jessica Simpson and the group reunited in 2014 for the My2K pop tor in America with Dream and O-Town among others.
Only just scraping into the 90s with their first single Be the First to Believe being released in June 1999 but very much a 90s band in terms of style and musical substance. They took a more mature turn with the release of their third album in 2002 and released so pretty decent songs (Caught in the Middle is a tuuune) however superfluous member Paul soon left after throwing a tantrum over vocals and they split shortly after. Thanks to The Big Reunion the remaining 3 got back together and have been kicking about with Five and 911 on the nostalgia circuit. And Ben’s still a total cutie!
Another Level were never really my cup of tea; trying to pass themselves off as Britain answers to Jodeci or Shai when really they had all the charisma of a sack of potatoes. They managed to keep it together for 3 sensational years (their song Summertime with TQ was probably the best thing they ever did). Bobak and Wayne left in 2000, probably because they couldn’t bear to sing ‘let me lick you up and down’ anymore with a straight face. Leaving Dane to attempt a solo career. Spoiler alert, it didn’t go well.. It’s worth remembering though if Dane Bowers can record a song with Jay-Z anything is possible.
Bad Boys Inc
A lot of people will have forgotten that these 4 whippersnappers ever existed. But exist they did for a few short years in the early nineties and even racked up 5 ‘hit’ singles. Sadly they were the poster boys for why you shouldn’t just get models to form a band (some advice The Wanted should have heeded) because (other than David) they were pretty shit. And I’m allowed to say that because other than their mum’s i’m the only person in the UK who bought their album, Speaking of David he went on to be quite a big name in LA and even recently appeared in a Stephen Fry documentary so maybe there is life after crap boy band afterall?
How am I going to keep this one short?! Not only officially the most successful boy band of all time but also the best boy band of all time in my opinion. Despite Kevin leaving for a brief period in 2005 they went on to release their best two albums of their career as a foursome (again, in my opinion). And now have the most successful Vegas show of all time too. So there.
So Blue are the exception to the rule as they’re technically not a 90s band but most of their first album was written by Gary Barlow (when Robbie was trying to turn the world against him) so that counts right? They had some good pop songs which no one can deny and even their Eurovison effort was listenable to. Its a shame Lee Ryan is such a prat really otherwise they’d be big faves of mine. As a side note, Simon Webb’s first solo album is amazing.
Ah Boyzone, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. I’m not normally a fan of serial ballad churners (see also Westlife below) but I did go and see them in concert once and was (shamefully) a bit a solo Ronan fan. In my honest opinion after the sad death of Stephen Gately in 2009 they should have called it a day but give the fans what they want I guess. I just don’t get the appeal myself. They weren’t even fit.
Caught in the Act
Caught in the Act (or CITA for those in the know) were an English/Dutch boyband that will have completely passed you by unless you lived in Germany where they were huge. For some reason. They came out around the same time as Backstreet Boys so I think rode their coattails on all the magazine pop tours they would have done back then in a bid to nick some of their fans. Not me though, I wasn’t for nicking. And didn’t live in Germany. Needless to say I don’t think we missed much.
This UK foursome came out around the same time as the whole 911, Hanson, Five era and to be honest, always had an air of performing at a sixth form talent show about them. They just didn’t cut the mustard talent wise and the fact they attempted a Eurovision entry didn’t earn them many cool point. Plus the names Phillip, Neil, Lee and Roger aren’t the sexiest in th world are they?.
I LOVED Damage. I just thought they were so cool and notched up some impressive hits in their (too short) career. Ghetto Romance is an absolute banger and remains one of my favorite boyband tracks ever. Sadly lead singer Coree’s ego got the better of him and he left acromoniously in 2001, leaving the band in a lot of financial trouble and barely on speaking terms. That was nothing the lure of The Big Reunion couldn’t fix though and they got back together (without Coree) in 2014.
It kind of feels like East 17 were sent in to f shit up and start a fight with squeaky clean Take That. This was my first consciousness of boyband rivalries because certainly in my middle school you had to be one or the other. Problem was I liked them both. Although i was definitely way more of a Take That girl. They were lucky to have Tony Mortimer’s song writing ability but he was no Barlow. Tony smartly left the band in 1997 after Brian Harvey made some idiotic comments about taking drugs and they tried to carry on without him. Tony took pity on them and they reformed in 2006 for a one off gig but left swiftly after because Brian was still a cock. The other two went back to their plumbing jobs presumably.
Short for ‘Express Yourself Clearly’ and the were right up my street. Being American made them instantly a billion times cooler than any British boyband and of the 3 top 20 singles the released in the UK between 1993 and 1994, none of them were ballads – hurrah! The Way You Work in and Black Book are still on my mp3 player to this day and *fun fact* they were the first band to ever win the Smash Hits Poll Winner Party Best Roadshow Act which was later won by Backstreet Boys and Boyzone, so it clearly wasn’t just me who thought they were cool.
Who doesn’t love Five (sorry, 5ive)? No one that’s who. Because they weren’t a boy band, they were a ‘lad band’ and that means they’re the lads that hang around drinking cider in underpasses while those nice Take That boys are home revising for their GCSEs. Five were lucky to have Mr Cowell behind them the whole way the the Swedish pop factory Cheiron Studios writing all their hits. Their first album was pop brilliance and never out my cd player for a good year. Sadly all good things must come to an end and they disbanded in 2001. They reunited again in 2013 for The Big Reunion sans J, because he’s a big old meanie it turns out, but 4our became 3hree when Abs left in 2015.
Were Hanson a boyband even though they played their own instruments? Was their fan base predominantly 14 year old girls who thought Taylor Hanson had the dreamiest eyes you ever saw? The answer is yes to both of those questions. The fact that they’re related probably stood them in good stead as they were never really going to break up. And despite Mmmbop being a bit shit (lyrically if not musically) they did go on to release many better songs. Like Georgia. Which is bloody brilliant.
It was only a matter of time before we had a group with a ridiculous spelling of a common word to make them seem hip and trendy. Imajin were and American r’n’b boyband who only ever had one single in the UK. but what a single it was. Shorty (You Keep Playing with me Mind) was so good I bought an r’n’b compilation album just because it was on it. Why I didn’t just buy the single, I have no idea. I wasn’t a particularly bright teenager.
Let Loose were one of those ‘we play our own instruments so don’t call us a boyband’ boybands. They had one massive summer banger Crazy for You in 1994 and looked like they might be the new big pop act on the scene. Sadly follow up singer Seventeen was a watered down version of their brilliant first single and all subsequent singles just got worse after that. The drummer (Lee) was really fit though and i think went on to be drummer for Busted.
Boybands of the 90s liked an acronym didn’t they? LFO stood for Lyte Funkie Ones, the ‘lyte’ left ambiguous as to whether it referred to their weight, their skin colour, or their brain cells. Probably most famous for their song Summer Girls (or the Abercrombie and Fitch song as it’s also known) however they did release a single called Every other Time in 2001 but it failed to make waves despite how brilliant it is and they split in 2002. Sadly lead singer Rich died of leukaemia in 2010 and Devin of adrenal cancer in 2018.
My life wouldn’t me worth living if I didn’t include Mero if only for Ang’s sake because she loved them. Even though they only ever released one single called It Must be Love. That fact that Ang was the only person in the world to buy this single (on cassette no less) meant that sadly Mero were one flop wonders and the Scottish duo never bothered the charts again.
These boys were another lot who had a soft spot in my heart. Most obviously because their debut hit I’ve Got a Little Something for You, sounds almost exactly like BSB’s first single We’ve Got it Goin On. Both of which are simply great songs. Interestingly MN8’s first single was one of the first songs ever to be remixed by a young Puff Daddy, which you think would stand them in good stead for a long and illustrious career but, aside from a few rumours of a reunion, nothing has surfaced as yet.
I always found the Milli Vailli story a little sad. At the end of th day they were yong and poor and somone who should have known better convinced them it would all be ok. Sort of like a pre curser to Lou Pearlman and all the shoddy deals he did with BSB , N Sync and O-Town’s careers. For those who don’t know, they were discovered to be miming when the backing track failed. I mean, groups mine all the time right? Problem was they wee miming to someone elses voices entirely. They were disgraced and stripped of their Grammy. They did try and release an second album, this time with their own voices however sadly Rob Pilatus died of a drug overdose/suspected suicide in 1998 and the album was never released.
A group of long haired singing brothers who all play instruments? Have we seen this somewhere before? These Canadian Hansons were huge for a short period of time in Germany and South Asia between 1998 and 2001 but split up after Dave came out as gay, which upset his dad (who was also their tour manager). Oh Dave. Lucky little sister Scarlet was arond to carry on the family name.
Along with OTT (see below) it seems that Louis Walsh was single handedly trying to give every lad in Ireland under 21 a shot at the big time, like he needed a sub bench in case Westlife suddenly got their white coast caught in a wind machine and couldn’t perform any more. Mytown released 5 singles between 1997 and 2000 only one of which ever dented the UK charts. The most interesting thing about them was that a young Danny O’Donoghue was a member. And he never struck me as someone who had much natural rhythm so find that fact quite funny.
New Kids on the Block
Technically an 80s boyband I supposed but they realised two of their best songs (Tonight and Games) I’m 1990 and 1992 respectively so that counts! Being such a BSB fan it’s no surprise I was a massive New Kids fan too, there’s just something about those young Americans that does it for me! They trailed off a bit in the mid nineties after some lip synch accusations hit them hard but came back with a stonking pop/rnb album in 2008 and formed a boyband supergroup (NKOTBSB) in 2011. And all my dreams literally came true
Next of Kin
A group of long haired singing brothers who all play instruments? Have we seen this somewhere before? Proving that whatever the Americans can do, the brits can do a slightly shitter version of, Next of Kin were very much made in Hanson’s image. However one Hanson is more than enough and they only released two singles (reaching numbers 13 and 33 in the UK charts) before disappearing without a trace. They did reform and recorded a song with Stephen Dorf in 2012 but who hasn’t?!
Remember that boyband rivalry I spoke about before? Ditto for BSB and N Sync. While I will be BSB 4 lyfe, I also had a soft spot for N Sync too with their baggy pants and energetic dance routines. No Strings Attached and Celebrity were class albums. Kind of a reverse synergy sadly – they weren’t stronger together than their individual parts as one of the members was Justin Timberlake and the other 4 weren’t. Rumours of a reunion are always circling but Justin probably figured out early on that it’s better to earn all the money than have to split it 5 ways so not sure that will ever happen!
Kind of the first in a new wave of reality tv produced pop acts and technically Making the Band didn’t air until 2000 but it started filming in 1999 which means he band was technically made in the 90s. Anyway, they’re also a fave group of mine so my list, my rules. Despite their first single being an ode to a teenage boys wet dream, they had a strong first and second album pop wise however with viewing figures of the tv show dwindling, so did the record sales and they were dropped on 2003. Fast forward to 2014 which saw them reform (without Ashley – he’s too busy posing for pictures in his pants on instagtam) and released that fantastic Lines and Circles album. A welcome return in my eyes
Another Irish boyband who were ‘big in Japan’ they only had one single that worried the UK charts in Let Me In which was released in 1996 and was so dreary the UK public pulled up the drawbridges and made sure they were very kept out instead. Plus they were called Niall, Alan, Alan, Glen and Keith. Not very showbiz is it?
PJ & Duncan
Catapulted by the success of their characters on kids show Byker Grove, Pj and Duncan had quite a successful music career before deciding to just be nation sweetheart Tv presenters. Probably most famous for the mega smash Let’s get Ready to Rhumble which only got number 3 when it was first released but straight back to number one in 2013 when they performed it on Saturday night takeaway. In 1997 they reverted to using their human names in a bid to be take more seriously for their 3rd album. They weren’t.
Speaking of Byker Grove, you thought PJ and Duncan were they only musical genius to come out of that show? Well you’d be wrong. Point Break consisted of two ex grovers and another bloke called Declan who wrote all the songs and had all of the talent. Despite only appearing in the charts for two consecutive years (1999 and 2000) two of their 5 singles were actually pretty decent. And if you can get over the sheer smut that is Freakytime, that wasn’t bad either. I’m not really sure what caused them to fall off the musical map but I’ll bet those pesky Burners had something to do with it
Launched at the height of the boyband era they found success mainly in their native Canada and unusual for bands at the time wrote their own music and played their own instruments. Their debut album was certified platinum and they opened for Christina Aguilera on one of her Canadian tour dates. Other than that they failed to really set the world on fire and there’s very little on the internet to explain where they went or why
Music mogul Nigel Martin Smith saw a gap in the market when he saw how crazy teenage girls were going for New Kids so decided to put his own band together to rival them. All he needed was 5 willing young bucks happy to dress in leather and be smothered in jelly. Who’d have thought then that Take That would be one of Britain’s most successful bands ever? They also blazed a trail by reforming in 2005 and having an equally successful career second time without Robbie (although he did rejoin again for the Progress album in 2012). They’re still going strong as a three piece (does anyone even miss Jason?) but their last album wasn’t as strong as other recent efforts in my opinion
Despite sounding like a WWE tag team; Ultimate Kaos were a guilty pleasure of mine in the mid nineties, I didn’t listen to Backstreet Boys all the time. Think of Ultimate Kaos as the 90s version of Musical Youth, put together by Simon Cowell they had some good singles in the shape of Some Girls, Hoochie Booty and Right Here. They just seemed to have a bit of an edge to them that other (British) boybands didn’t at the time. And while Musical Youth were age inappropriately singing about taking drugs, Ultimate Kaos were age inappropriately singing about girls with massive arses. So the more things change the more things stay the same.
Ultra were a non descript, extremely bland, didn’t exactly set the world on fire, the people who like this kind of stuff find that this is the kind of stuff they like kind of band. They had one mediocre hit called ‘Say it Once’ in 1998 but didn’t get picked up for a second album. Probably in everyone’s best interests really. They should have really named themselves ‘Moderate’. It wold have been a more accurate description.
This quartet were put together as part of a BBC documentary about making a boyband which showed the audition process and subsequent promo trail. Problem was the independent record label bankrolling the whole project had no money, the Band members had no charisma and the first single and no musical quality whatsoever. Is it any wonder they were a flop?
The pattern of 90s boybands is thus; Take That were a British New Kids, Boyzone were the Irish Take That and Westlife were an even Irisher Boyzone. Louis Walsh could tell getting up and down off those stools was starting to take its toll on the Boyz’ knees so needed a younger model. I can’t slag them off too much, I saw them in concert 5 times (thanks Ang) and credit where it’s due they gave good ballad. The upbeat songs they did release were good too actually, it’s just a shame they were such crap dancers.
World’s apart a a multi national boy Band (hence the name) who have been going since 1993 and are actually still together today, albeit with only one original member. So think of them as the Sugababes of the 90s. Interesting they were so big in France that Backstreet Boys and N Sync actually supported them on tour. They also started out with Bother Beyond’s Nathan Moore as a member because he just still needed to keep that boyband flame burning bright
See more 90s nostalgia: