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The dawn of Social responsibility
Hector Chapa Sikazwe
The dilemma of Boy-bands
The dawn of Social responsibility Newcastle upon Tyne, 2010 Hector Chapa Sikazwe
Keywords: Boy-bands, girl-bands, Take that, Destiny child, Westlife, Social responsibility, UK music industry, Ex-factor series, Drugs, paparazzi, autographs, money Disclaimer: The articles cited and included in this discourse are a compilation of several internet positing‟s from blogs, newspaper articles, unqualified interviews and comments from personalities in the industry and as such cannot be used for legal purposes.
Table of Contents
Abstract................................................................................................................................................. 4 1.0 2.0 Introduction to Manufactured boy bands................................................................................... 5 Evolution of boy-bands ............................................................................................................. 7 A BRIEF LESSON IN MUSICAL HISTORY: ............................................................................ 9 THE 1960's & THE BIRTH OF THE PROTO-BOYBAND: ..................................................... 10 THE 1970's KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY: ............................................................................ 11 THE 1980's, ME FIRST MUSIC FOR THE ME FIRST DECADE: .......................................... 12 THE 1990's, THE DECADE OF THE BOY BAND: .................................................................. 13 2000 AND BEYOND, A BRAVE NEW MILLENIUM: ............................................................ 14 2.1 2.2 2.3 3.0 Boy Bands ........................................................................................................................... 16 Girl Bands ........................................................................................................................... 16 Mixed Bands ....................................................................................................................... 16 Abridged History - Key Events by Decade ............................................................................. 17
1960s............................................................................................................................................... 17 1970s............................................................................................................................................... 17 1980s............................................................................................................................................... 17 1990s and beyond ........................................................................................................................... 17 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 How to Spot a Manufactured Band ......................................................................................... 18 How to Spot a Boy Band ......................................................................................................... 18 Basic Anatomy of a boy band ................................................................................................. 19 Basic Anatomy of a Girl Band ................................................................................................ 19
8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 9.0 10.0 11.0
The Death of a Manufactured Band ........................................................................................ 20 How to avoid Manufactured Bands ..................................................................................... 20 Should music organisations have a social responsibility? ................................................... 21 Problems and good example of typical Band issues- Destiny‟s Child ................................. 22 Typical problems in boy bands ............................................................................................... 25 Conclusions about Boy-bands ................................................................................................. 30 Bibliography and material used ............................................................................................... 34
Manufactured bands have been the way recording and music management organisations make money. Boys and girls have dreams of becoming pop stars overnight and this arrangement seems to be mutually beneficial. Several types of business models have been used to marry these two camps. The most common one is where members of a recording team scout for raw talent and introduce the idea of fame, money, bright lights and Cinderella type of conclusion to future dealings with starved music enthusiast who might not necessarily have talent but have looks, sex appeal and seemingly marketable. These young boys and girls are offered social advantages that only dreams are made off and in no time at all, they are co-opted into music groups called “bands” and recording contracts are handed out. For a period of approximately 12 months, these young enthusiasts are made famous, rich and of course have their lives changed forever. Those youths who have talent and continue being commercially viable will have everlasting benefits that can lead to impossible heights of importance in the community. Unfortunately, those youths who tend to address the new-found-fame with unsettledness lose their innocence and collapse socially leading to depressions, psychological and mental depravity. These simply become by-products of manufacturing process of the music industry. They are forgotten and left to find redress elsewhere whilst the recording companies move on to select and manufacture new future music icons. The music industry today is primarily for creating wealth and power for those who know the powerpoints of the industry, leaving the weak and unassuming damaged for life. Centuries ago, music was meant for entertainment and was a cultural asset for different civilisations when applied in the correct sequence. This has now been lost and there are serious repercussions in today‟s communities, thus requiring serious attention to recapture the magic that music once provided for the world. Stakeholders and the artists alike have an obligation to become socially responsible to arrest the current trend by repositioning and redefining the impact of this industry on society. Organisations resident in the industry have recently commenced to address this phenomenon through corporate social responsibility as seen in the various programmes and operations employed.
Introduction to Manufactured boy bands
In the 1990s boy band fever took the United Kingdom by storm as group after group of young men danced and sang their way into the hearts of millions of teenage girls and more than a few boys! Entertainment took on a different definition as millions of pounds were spent in manufacturing the new commodity that was selling as hot cakes: The boy-band.
The 1980s saw the rise of the manufactured boy band and the man that started it all, Maurice Starr aka „The General, the emancipator, creator, dominator, the innovator and the originator of the boy band.‟ Maurice formed New Kids on the Block, a band widely acclaimed as the first ever manufactured boy band. Taking his inspiration from three highly successful bands from the 1960s and 70s - The Monkees, The Jacksons and The Osmonds, Maurice drew magic elements from the three bands to form the unstoppable New Kids on the Block, taking the boy band to another dimension. Prolific dancers combined with edgy lyrics, made a cocktail that quenched the thirst of the new MTV generation and made house-wives and those in unemployment have something to look for when turning the small tube on. Moving away from the innocence of The Osmonds and The Jacksons to produce what he described as „definitely, the hugest boy band of all time‟, New Kids On The Block captivated girls worldwide, paving the way for the boy bands of the future. That was the birth of the current furore that is the concentration of the entertainment industry in the world. Across the pond in Blighty, Mancunian Nigel Martin-Smith cottoned on to the idea discovering five guys whose anonymous faces soon became a band known to the world as Take That. Nigel believed in finding that something special:
“These days it‟s all about, can you sing a couple of bars in tune, what‟s that got to do with finding the next big thing? Most people can sing to some degree and there‟s this button that they have in studios these days called auto tune. The most important thing is that they have got star quality.” Nigel Martin-Smith It is without doubt that Take That emerged to become the first British manufactured boy band and the most successful British band since the Beatles, selling over 19 million records to
date. With amazing charisma and chemistry on stage, music mogul Pete Waterman describes them as „One of the greatest boy bands of all time‟. Take That ticked the boxes when it came to personality and looks, a combination that caused obsessive hysteria among the fans. They were the all-important “pound generating” factory that was unstoppable as they evaded even the most conservative homes in the United Kingdom. Similarly, East 17 became the perfect antidote, attracting those fans who were tired of Take That’s squeaky clean façade and fancied a bit of rough. This was facilitated by four very cheeky, sexy young men from East London who joined forces creating great pop rivalry in the new era of the manufactured boy band. Antony Costa from boy band Blue remembers the days well: “I was East 17 at school because it was the cool band but I used to listen to Take That at home.” Antony Costa from Blue. Much of the rivalry was between the managers rather than the band members but despite the success of East 17, nothing could eclipse what Take That had achieved. By 1993 Take That were the blue print for all the elements of “how to construct the perfect boy band” manual for all would-be boy-band owners. Their success goaded US bands who thought they could show UK bands a thing or two. Slick American boy bands, N Sync and Backstreet Boys were able to bust out a capella with their hot dance moves at the drop of a hat and started a ripple affect forcing existing groups to step up or step out. Music manager Louis Walsh said: “American bands have better production but I think Irish and English boy bands have better looks and personalities, and better managers!” Louis Walsh In 1996 Walsh followed suit with Boyzone and admits when it came to creating them he basically copied Take That. A boy for every type, with the added touch of some Irish charm, Boyzone became the most popular Irish boy band of the 1990s. It is ironical that here we are today; almost 20 years post Take That…………or are we?
So just what happened to all the boy band superstars that fell by the wayside? Where are they now? Did being in a boy band live up to all they imagined? Management companies have realised that it is not enough to simply “manufacture” a band and hope it will out-last competing bands in the arena without the introduction of a social responsibility aspect to the arrangement. A look at the evolution of the “boy-band” concept would help to bring into perspective the issues that surround boy-bands.
Evolution of boy-bands
By simple definition, a “manufactured band” is a group of people who are put together by a record company in order to make a profit. These people have almost certainly never met before, have good looks and unfortunately musical talent is very often not a serious concern. They are usually selected on looks over talent, as this seems to be the only way to tap into a young market that has little musical interest. It seems to be a case of “who cares about music, we can sell records with sex!” and this has gripped the industry like a vice. With the dawn of the industrial age the skills of the individual craftsman became obsolete in the face as mechanisation and mass-production. The invention of the television nearly wiped out the ancient institution of the theatre and the dominant studios of Hollywood smothered their independent competition to flood the nascent cinema halls with their formulaic tales of materialism, a concept glossed over by the generals in the entertainment industry! In the disorienting cyclone of change that was the twentieth century it seemed that the one cultural pillar that would withstand the relentless march of capitalist progress was that of music. Perhaps the oldest of human achievements, music had been lauded as the language of love and the bodily expulsions of the gods themselves. This was a concept well imbibed by all entertainment organisations that control the selling of these ideas. Some examples of boybands that came to prominence but disappeared as fast as they came are as follows: After 7 – can‟t stop The band had slightly girly vocals, but they were a quality group that reigned briefly and then disappeared into peak darkness. They never quite bettered this, their first hit. There is a really funny old skool bootleg of this that speeds the vocals up to helium balloon proportions, called “cooking with delia”.
Damage – love to love Young British band from the mid-90s who were intermittently successful. Everyone fancied bad boy coree, who has since been in prison. Lead singer jade jones has been going out with spice girl Emma Bunton for about ten years, and they recently had a new baby. Dru hill – you are everything I never really got the whole “Dru hill thing and sisqo”, to me, is not attractive and i don‟t even think he can sing. That whole thong song thing was ridiculous but did rule the summer of 2000, especially the garage remix. Intro – let me be the one Fairly successful band in the early 90s, but not as successful as blackstreet, not as sugary as boyz ii men and just kind of…. which was a problem for pretty much all of the groups on this list. They just did not have what it takes to continue being a selling label. Next – butta love They did the whole “bad boy” thing far more convincingly than Dru hill. „too close‟ was of course huge, and then… not sure if they still record or where they are. Shai – if i ever They were hailed as the new boyz ii men, when they came out with this track. Volume of material appeared to be a problem as this was remixed and released many times. Silk – hooked on you One wonders how these groups feel when British boy-bands like another level take their signature tune (freak me, in this case) and have the hit they never could? i hope they get paid well, but i fear the only person who laughs all the way to the bank is the songwriter. Soul for real – every little thing After candy rain, many people sat back and waited for a dismal sequel. To be fair, this did almost as well, perhaps better in the UK, and they squeezed out a few more hits form their debut and as far as recorded history knows, they only did one album.
Today – him or me They rode the new jack swing wave in the very early 90s, but never quite challenged Teddy riley supergroup guy or are ever discussed in music circles any more. Troop – sweet November They only did one album, but this is a sweet cover version. Little is known about the group and commentaries have no idea how successful it may or may not have been in the US, but in the UK, Troop did squat for a while. It is sad to mention the demise of most of these boy-bands in this manner but there seems a need to explore situations and circumstances that prevailed in the years when they reigned to understand the pit-falls that could have been avoided. Presumably, a brief history on music and the several issues that made success its own vanquisher would be necessary. A BRIEF LESSON IN MUSICAL HISTORY: In the earliest days mankind had occupied his tiny pre-historic mind by banding the bones of the animals that he hunted and gathered against rocks, trees and the heads of his fellow cavemen much to the delight of all. In later times man discovered that various materials produced more pleasing sounds than others and began to fashion crude musical instruments such as the first drum by stretching animal skin over a vessel such as an animal skull and striking it repeatedly with an animal bone (the animal motif being big at the time). Armed with his drum, prehistoric man amused his fellows as they dodged glaciers to his dull and incessant beating of the primitive instrument. We know this from evidence in the form of a hunter-gatherer male found preserved in glacial ice high in the Alps clutching just such a drum and bearing evidence that his skull was caved in from behind, most likely by one of his companions (possibly the world's first music critic!). Things had changed a great deal by the time of the Middle Ages and Europe in particular resounded to the tune of minstrels who travelled the land spreading songs of courtly love and devotion towards the female gender and bloody death and retribution for the male (provided they were not white and/or Christian, that is) in a most chivalric of ways. In this age the musical instrument had evolved a great deal also. Gone were the days of instruments crudely fashioned from animals in place of ones crafted by the most skilled artisans of the day from the finest animal products that could be procured.
Leaping on to the age of reason the world of music had changed once more. Gone were our religious chants and odes to the ampleness of one's lady and her bosom. These had been replaced by sweeping works of staggering magnificence and subtle emotional power. Composers such as Motzart and Beethoven composed works for the huge orchestras of the time and their music fired passions, even sparking riots in the streets of some European capitals at their premiere performances. The idea or conceptualisation was forming accurately and preparing the masses for what would become the greatest movement of all times. Incidentally, innovation and genius was not the only path to be followed in Europe by any means. Some years later the fashionable upper-class parasites of London town were enchanted by the retro-chic of the Scottish highlands made popular by Sir Walter Scott and his pot-boiler novels. It was quite the attractive and accomplished thing for the foppish Londoner of the time (most of whom had been no further north than Watford Gap at any time in their lives) to gad about in tartans to the sounds of the highland bagpipes in the manner of the Scottish clansman. This fashion was made all the more convenient as there were no actual Scots in the highlands at the time due the highland clearances and thus the Londoners had no problem obtaining whiskey, shortbread and porridge whilst wearing other people's tartans and pretending to understand the poetry of Robbie Burns. THE 1960's & THE BIRTH OF THE PROTO-BOYBAND: There is little literature to cover this period and not much happened in terms of music until the mid-part of the twentieth century when an American redneck wrote a popular song about doing a contemporary dance around a timepiece in the late evening and invented rock and roll in the process. Invariably it was notable that most prominent entertainment was still in the form of the solo artist at this time was with the masses adoring such names as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and his hypnotic dancing pelvis and Bobby Darin (whoever he was). It was left to the stalwart British to really kick-start the Boy Band revolution and show their American cousins how it should be done without qualms. With the advent of the 1960's the British staged an invasion of the American musical mainland to which they were not offered much resistance. The Beatles wowed US audiences with their upbeat tunes, rhythmic swaying and amusing accents to such an extent that a group of record-label executives (being the devout capitalists that they were) put their heads together and came up with the Monkees in response to the drawing power of the lads from Liverpool.
In the past record labels had experienced problems from artists who came from a "traditional" musical background and demonstrated problematic tendencies such as independent thought and moral or artistic integrity. The Monkees did away with these problems by virtue of the fact that they were wannabe actors rather than musicians in the strictest sense of the term (i.e. being capable of playing a musical instrument of some kind) and rather than wasting time and money in giving them musical training the "band" mimed along to their songs whilst pretending to play their instruments. So even as far back as the 60s, it is remarkable that there were manufactured bands with no real musical talent or ability, but there were still stumbling blocks along the way. The bands of the time were predominantly boys and some were even more fake than Pamela Anderson's assets (No proper description of the assets in question!). Incidentally, some still played their own instruments and wrote their own material (or at least kept up the illusion that they did), over the next thirty years things would have no significant changes. THE 1970's KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY: The byword of the seventies was experimentation and invention. People dropped acid to expand their minds, explored the mysticism of the East and generally committed crimes against fashion that still make you wince to this day. Music was in no way exempt from this impetus towards freaking out and going psychedelic on a regular basis. Bands of the time championed the counter-culture and lifestyle of the day in a decade that revelled in Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells at one end and rebelled with Punk Rock and the Sex Pistols at the other. Many events and mystic inventions transpired with little restraint. Surprisingly all that was happening in the UK and little notice elsewhere as recorded history entails. The US was another story altogether as a band of goofy-toothed brothers emerged from the musical wilderness and into the shining city of pop stardom. The Osmonds, as they were known to the inhabitants of the planet Earth, were as far away from the drop-outs and loved-up hippies of the time as they could be and served up a wholesome array of musical delights. Not to be outdone by Mormon Middle-America, the R&'B scene also thrust upon the world a band of brothers who stole the hearts and minds of their audience. The Jackson Five (an ingenious name seeing as how each member was called Jackson and there were exactly five of them), as they were known, were so popular in their native land that they were given their
own cartoon series which was also a hit despite allegations in the tabloid press that it was in fact a sinister attempt on the part of their record label to replace the group with celluloid duplicates which would never age, need to be fed or give them back lip in contract negotiations. Luckily these allegations proved not to be true and the Jackson Five made a mint and launched the youngest member Micheal, on his quest to transform himself from a young and talented black guy into a middle-aged white guy with a habit of self-immolation. All in all while it might be true that the seventies set the cause of the manufactured boy bands back a step due to the prevalence of groups that consisted of siblings and the amount of teeth involved in anything concerning the Osmond family, the fact remained that bland music had been pushed to the fore and legions of teenage girls had vowed to take their own lives in the event of their idols in these bands even hinting that they were involved in a serious relationship with a member of the opposite sex. THE 1980's, ME FIRST MUSIC FOR THE ME FIRST DECADE: The eighties were in many ways a knee-jerk reaction to the seventies. Free love and grooviness were out as capitalism reared its pug-ugly head and materialism and personal greed became the buzz-words of the new generation. Always quick to move with the times, the music industry dropped the wholesome bands of brothers like a bad habit and invested in the beautiful people to shift records. The UK airwaves resounded to the strains of Wham in the early eighties, who while not strictly a boy band in the purest sense as there were only two of them, they wrote original material and had some facial hair, were camp enough to fill the gap for a while. Later in the decade the country would be treated to the wonder that was Bros who bent the rules by having two members who were brothers and one that was no relation to the others whatsoever. Bros were perhaps the first boy band to cash in on the "bad boy" image with leather jackets and ripped jeans. Their songs asked probing philosophical questions of an uncaring world such as "when will I be famous? Or when will I see my picture in the paper?" (answer to the former: not for any great length of time, answer to the latter: nowadays only under the headline "guess who's flipping cowparts at McDonalds for a living"). Meanwhile the US had hit on what seemed like the perfect formula when New Kids on the Block were unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. They were young, they were good looking (apparently) and they were "street" (even though they looked like nice white boys
from an upper-class neighbourhood) and not one of them was seen to play a musical instrument of any kind...ever. They sang songs with titles like "Hanging Tough" and wore baggy clothes even though they hardly conjured the image of a hard-bitten street gang from downtown Los Angeles. Not that it mattered to the masses of young girls that bought their records. THE 1990's, THE DECADE OF THE BOY BAND: Now the industry had the formula refined the formula and placed the boy band firmly in the collective unconscious, the time had come for complete saturation with the ultimate goal of global domination. The first crack squad of boy band commando's to be parachuted dropped into action was Take That who stormed to success in the UK and were headed up by Gary Barlow. After a few years at the top the group imploded and the various members pursued solo careers with varying degrees of success (i.e. Robbie Williams became a Superstar while most other members faded into relative obscurity). But even though the formula had been established, there was still the odd boy band that broke the mould. Take for example East 17. East 17 boy band composed of young men from the Walthamstow area of London (in the E17 postal area, hence the name of the band) who looked like nothing more than a bunch of ruffians and “ne'er-do-wells” rather than the clean cut image that most other groups cultivated. It can be postulated that East 17 tapped into the same vein of danger that had fuelled the appeal of Bros before them, and it has to be said that they would have encountered great adversity had they attempted to present the image of a group of intellectuals and dilettantes. Apart from their rough image, East 17 also exemplified another strange element of the typical boy band in that they had around five members but only two of this number were really ever noted to actually sing without the other four to provide vocal harmony. Whether or not these human spare parts could actually sing (or even talk) was never revealed and led to the contemporary joke: "How many members of East 17 does it take to change a light bulb? Five. One to hold the ladder, one to screw in the bulb and three to point at them while they do it." This in-fact exemplified the fact that the people that were gaining from the arrangement were the recording companies with little regard for the development of the boys within the band. Through the course of the nineties many boy bands came and went, but things became really interesting when the Irish decided to get in on the act. Having many times won the Eurovision Song Contest, the Irish music industry had a great deal of experience when it
came to producing music that was bland and palatable only to the stone deaf. The first Irish boy band to make it big was Boyzone whom many claim inherited the position once held by Take That at the top of the pile. Louie Walsh is credited for its manufacturing quality. Once more the group had five members who were unable to play an instrument, write a song or sing on their own. But then Boyzone could always fall back on their secret weapon; their romantic Irish accents. While staggeringly non-descript in all other ways, Boyzone always turned on the blarney and drawled away in interviews much to their own benefit. But much like Take That before them it soon became apparent that certain members were destined for greater things and that others were little more than chaff in the wind and the group dwindled and finally disbanded at the turn of the century. Manufacturing had once again left its mark an industry that thrived on what was an unknown quantity in the market: interest. 2000 AND BEYOND, A BRAVE NEW MILLENIUM: The more things change, the more banal and annoying boy bands get. As the rest of the world looked forward to the promise of the first new millennium in a thousand years the music industry was busy hatching out a whole new brood of boy bands to torment the music-buying public. The US was treated to the delights of NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys and O-Town and had a wonderful time playing a game where the aim was to tell the three boy bands apart. They all looked alike with similar dressing and magazine cover appearances. Meanwhile the demise of Boyzone had far from spelled the end of the Irish boy band and soon the music charts were filled with the sound of a group with one of the strangest names yet: “Westlife.” managed by Irish pop-supremo Louie Walsh, Westlife came to embody the hallmarks of the stereotypical boy-band that it had taken so many decades to refine and perfect. This time Louie Walsh, who enjoys “fun” rather “substance” decided to look carefully at what would last. He decided to “manufacture” a band that would have in its concept a lasting effect on the music industry due to both “brand” and “substance”. Westlife was an attempt to include quality in both image and material. They sang what others told them to and did a line in cheesy covers. They appealed to teenage girls and mostly gay men. They demonstrated no apparent intelligence when interviewed and when performing sat on stools, the climax of their performance being the moment when they stood up in unison for the final chorus of one of their banal tunes. Louie Walsh had arrived on the Music scene with a difference in providing what the masses wanted.
Louie Walsh was acting as a market entrepreneur who saw a gap in the market and provided just what was needed. The principle was simple: “What do the people want? Check in the top drawer and throw it at them..” While the general public seemed by this time to be perfectly aware of the fact that the boy band was a totally manufactured and throw-away phenomenon of modern consumer-driven society, this did little to dim the appetite that they exhibited for the groups and their music. In the early years of the twenty-first century a new idea was hit upon in the light of the fact that television-viewers at the time were lapping up the "docu-soap" format of “fly-on-the-wall” documentary where the film-makers followed the trials and tribulations of various individuals as they went about their daily lives. The warts and all style of these programmes were used to great effect when a show with the imaginative title of "Pop-stars" was commissioned that followed the process of creating a manufactured band from scratch. These shows spared nothing from the eyes of the viewer, taking them from the initial auditioning of countless (and often hilariously hopeless) wannabes right through to the final band's battle to take the "coveted" Christmas number one slot in the music charts. While Hear Say, the band that was put together, was a mixed band, the show was important as it laid bare the entire process and presented a group that from its very genesis was nothing more than a product of the selection process. It came as no great surprise to many commentators that the band fell apart recently after less than a year together due to the fact that they had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Louie Walsh was on the search for the “next product” on the conveyor belt. This unfortunately has been the nature of the music industry in recent years as bands have been used as “use-by date” type of products and completely constricts the development of talent and creativity in the industry. X-factor, a British talent competition has become the recluse of family entertainment. Simon Cowell, in full Simon Phillip Cowell (b. Oct. 7, 1959, Brighton, East Sussex, Eng.), English entrepreneur, recording executive, and television producer and personality, known for his harsh criticism of contestants on the show Pop Idol and its American spin-off, American Idol is the founder of this television program. After leaving school at age 16, Cowell was hired to work in the mail room at EMI Music Publishing and was eventually given the chance, in 1979, to discover performers to sing newly published songs. In 1985 he and a partner formed Fanfare Records, which enjoyed some success before folding in 1989.
In 2004, with Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, Cowell was a judge on the first series of the British talent show The X Factor, which he created using his production company, Syco. The X Factor was an instant success with the viewers and finished its sixth series in 2009. In 2006, he was voted the tenth most terrifying celebrity on television in a Radio Times poll consisting of 3,000 people. Simon Cowell continues to have a hold on the television music industry and has evolved to become celebrity in his rights in creating/manufacturing groups whilst promoting solo artist careers like those of Leona Lewis, his sole protégé. The American version of Simon‟s The X-factor, American Idol has equally taken the music industry in the US by storm. The US group O-Town were the subject of the show "Making the Band" that saw syndication around the world. But a new series of Pop stars dubbed "The Rivals" is to follow the first where there will be two bands created rather than one. One band will be composed of "girls" and the other of "boys" chosen from a shortlist of ten by telephone vote. The ultimate aim is for the two bands to then compete for the Christmas number one (rather arrogantly ignoring the fact that they will certainly not be the only artists to release tracks to this same end). Whether or not the viewing public will respond to the same old tricks for a second year running remains to be seen, but then they have been lapping up the same formulaic and rehashed musical format for the best part of the past forty years without qualm or complaint. The more things change the more they stay the same. Manufactured bands can be split into three distinct types: 2.1 Boy Bands
These are the original - but not necessarily the best - type of manufactured band. 2.2 Girl Bands
These are like boy bands, but set to appeal to an older audience, or a younger audience consisting purely of girls. 2.3 Mixed Bands
These consist of members of both sexes who can interact suggestively, giving wider market appeal. The mega-dollar spinning US industry has imbibed in this type of bands in the form of S-club seven, a UK pop group that came to prominence in 1999 when they starred in their own BBC programme Miami 7. This concept and brand of the group was created by Simon Fuller, who was also their manager through 19 Entertainment; they were signed to Polydor Records.
Their television series went on to last four series, seeing the group travel across the United States and eventually ending up in Barcelona, Spain. It became popular in 100 different countries where the show was watched by over 90 million viewers
Abridged History - Key Events by Decade
Manufactured bands have actually been around for quite a long time - although in the last few decades they have become far more common. The main periods of development are: 1960s The Monkees were formed. This band was created for a television series that was intended to be an American version of A Hard Day's Night. There were a couple of songs per episode, which were often quite good, and the actors were all shown singing and playing instruments. However, it was soon revealed that the band didn't really perform - at least on their early records - as only a couple of the members were actually musicians. Exceptions: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. 1970s The Bay City Rollers, stars of their own television series, were hugely popular, and became the latest target for screaming teenage girls. Exceptions: The Police, The Buzzcocks, The Clash. 1980s This was possibly the start of the true era of manufactured music. In this decade, there was a plethora of manufactured bands, one of the biggest being the insufferable Bros. Exceptions: The Smiths, Pixies. 1990s and beyond New Kids on the Block, Take That, Boyzone, Backstreet Boys and many more sold millions of records to young girls. Girl groups such as the Spice Girls became increasingly common. Westlife were the first band to have all their first five singles enter the charts at numbers one. Manufactured bands have now begun to dominate the charts and changed the perception of the term 'pop'.
Exceptions: Anything non-manufactured - examples include Green Day, Radiohead, Idlewild, and Nirvana.
How to Spot a Manufactured Band
There are several clear indications that show whether a band can be classified as 'manufactured': (a) Are there no actual instrumentalists among the band members? (b) Can they dance much better than they can sing? (c) Does one sing while the others sing 'harmonies' in the background? (d) Do they always mime when performing 'live'? (e) Do they appear a lot on children's TV? (A manufactured band's target audience is often children, as they are the world's most gullible consumer market.) (f) Do their singles constantly enter the charts at number one, and then drop down to a lower position the next week, almost invariably replaced by a near-identical song by another group? (g) Do they always get other people to write their songs for them? (h) Does every one of their songs have a pointless key change, usually just before the final chorus? (i) Does the name of their band have a misplaced number or letter in it? (U2, Blink-182, Alabama 3 or the sadly departed Ben Folds Five don't count, but 5ive, N'sync, Hear'Say, A1 and children's entertainers S Club 7 definitely do.) (j) Do they have their own children's TV series? (This is a surprisingly common one.) (k) If you answered 'yes' to four or more of these questions, you have probably discovered a manufactured band.
How to Spot a Boy Band
Boy bands have a few extra identifying markers, which the following questions will quickly reveal: (a) Do the members all wear identical clothing? (b) Are they constantly followed by screaming girls who have nothing better to do with their lives? (c) Does the band have the word 'Boy' in its name? (Eg Boyzone, Backstreet Boys.)
Basic Anatomy of a boy band
A boy band usually has four or more members that are usually very similar from band to band: The floppy-haired one - usually blond. This is often the only one who can actually sing. The one with the body piercings - this is the one who is 'slightly wacky'. The 'rapper' - he can't really rap. The gay one - most boy bands have a gay member who invariably comes out after a year or two in the band, despite everyone knowing already. The 'other one'. This is the one who never does anything and is most likely to end up crashed out on drugs and forced to leave the band in a media scandal.
Basic Anatomy of a Girl Band
A girl band usually has three members, although this can increase to five. The band members can be a little more varied than in a boy band, but are usually very similar: The singer - this is the one who can sing. She is a bit like the floppy-haired one in the boy band. The media target - this is the one who is constantly picked on by the tabloid press for being too fat, too thin, or having a relationship with anyone, ever. The one with the pierced tongue/nose - this is this member's only distinguishing mark. A bit like the 'other one' in a boy band. The marketing is firstly aimed at children between the ages of six and 12, and when the short attention span of these youngsters starts to waver, the girl band will start aiming at men between the ages of 16 and 28. When kids lose interest, there's always a herd of sex-obsessed men to sell to.
The Death of a Manufactured Band
Thankfully, manufactured bands - especially boy bands - usually have a shelf life of about 12 months. You can hope that after this time they will do one of the following: (a) Become so successful that they stop working at all, only emerging for so-called 'live' dates and charity functions (eg Boyzone). (b) Split up. This is not always better than the band descending into dormancy, as the members may be able to pursue a solo career, which is almost as bad. Thankfully, not all solo careers are successful - but some are, so be careful. (Eg Robbie Williams, Geri Halliwell). (c) Get dropped by their record label. Manufactured bands exist solely to make profit for their managers and their record label. If they start to lose popularity, they will often simply cease to exist. If this happens to a manufactured band, laugh loudly and buy yourself a celebratory drink. Watch TV and look in the local TV listings for the next one in line. Hilarious as it may seem, these are the facts of the music industry. 8.1 How to avoid Manufactured Bands
It is possible to avoid manufactured pop groups. The easiest way is never to buy any of their records, and never let everyone doubt how much you hate them. Simply follow these easy steps to ensure that your life is relatively free of manufactured pop: Never watch children's TV (even if you have children) or 'public entertainment programmes' such as the National Lottery Show (in the UK). Manufactured bands rely more on their visual image than their music for their success, and so often make such appearances, miming all the time, of course. Do not listen to drive-time radio, especially the charts, and if you have to, keep your finger close to the 'off' switch. It is safer to listen to CDs, or radio shows by DJs that never play manufactured music, such as BBC Radio One's Steve Lamacq or John Peel. Unfortunately, you may still come across manufactured bands. Be careful! Always have a CD, cassette, minidisc or mp3 player to hand, with some good music in it ready to play.
Should music organisations have a social responsibility?
This research into manufactured bands has shown that there are very few management and recording companies that have suddenly realised that social responsibility is an important and integral aspect of entertainment. Corporate Social Responsibility is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations. Communities world-wide have an in-born desire to follow bands and groups that present a social responsibility front. There are management organisations like HanDE, Mike Fisher productions and big organisations like Sony, EMI etc who have seen the need to include education and corporate social responsibility in running and promoting bands. They have deliberately taken on the responsibility of promoting unsigned bands that already exist as a bonded unit but have no access to the likes of Ex-factor gurus like Simon Cowel and Loui Walsh. These bands are taken up within their setting and locality. The bond that exists in the bands is seen as a positive and “to be imbibed” in concept of “family and fun” and instead of having a “manufactured” outlook, a more socially responsible quality is emphasised. Education and family life is seen as being more important than the music being produced. These bands are then allowed to flourish together on a prolonged period ranging from four to eight years, providing a mutually beneficial arrangement for the organisations as the band members alike. The longer the contract is allowed to blossom, the more appreciative of each other is the resulting product. The above mentioned music organisations deliberately work with creative artists and promote media programs that have a positive effect on so many people and constantly contribute in many ways to communities all around the world. As responsible organisations, HandE, Mike Fisher productions, Sony, EMI and their associates employ activities that have positive impact through the way they manage their business and the wider role they play in society. Within their organisation‟s operations, they work hard to understand the expectations of different stakeholders and demonstrate responsible business practices. They take serious empathetic positions on issues that affect their employees and their families, their local communities and these organisations in the industry drive a culture of charitable couples with community involvement.
Their business units around the world are free to make their own community investment decisions so that company resources are appropriately matched with the local need. In the UK, they encourage employees to participate in volunteer roles with charity partners on the ground, whilst also making in-kind donations, often in form of merchandise, when and where appropriate. We are already seeing the possible future of manufactured music appear in Japan. Computergenerated pop stars have been created, and many more are on the way. As much as we may want to deny it, manufactured bands are here to stay. Once the model of entertainment that Justine Maynard of HandE productions (ie signing on “unsigned bands” and allowing them to blossom over a prolonged period) catches the interest of the entertainment industry, this will be the future of properly orchestrated entertainment bands, solo artists or groups that will impact the community in a positive way. 8.3 Problems and good example of typical Band issues- Destiny’s Child
Destiny's Child rose to become one of the most popular female R&B groups of the late '90s, eventually rivalling even TLC in terms of blockbuster commercial success. Their accomplishments came in spite of several abrupt personnel changes, which were accompanied by heated, well-publicized feuds in the media and the courts. In fact, for a time, Destiny's Child were known for that drama just as much as their music. Once the group stabilized again, though, they emerged with even more hit-making power than ever before. Destiny's Child were formed in Houston, TX, in 1990, when original members Beyoncé Knowles and LaTavia Roberson were just nine years old; the two met at an audition and became friends, and Knowles' father Mathew set about developing an act based on their singing and rapping, taking their name from a passage in the Book of Isaiah. Beyoncé's cousin Kelendria "Kelly" Rowland joined the group in 1992, and shortly thereafter they landed an appearance on Star Search, where they performed a rap song. The quartet's lineup was finalized (for the time being) when LeToya Luckett joined in 1993, and they spent the next few years working their way up from the Houston club scene, eventually opening for artists like SWV, Dru Hill, and Immature. Finally, in 1997, Destiny's Child was offered a recording contract by Columbia.
The group made its recorded debut on 1997's "Killing Time," a song included on the soundtrack of the blockbuster Men in Black. Their self-titled debut album was released in early 1998, featuring production by Wyclef Jean and Jermaine Dupri, among others. Its lead single, the Jean-produced "No No No," was a smash hit, selling over a million copies and topping the R&B charts. The follow-up singles -- "With Me" and "Get on the Bus," the latter of which was taken from the soundtrack of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? -- didn't quite duplicate the success of "No No No," although Destiny's Child would eventually go platinum (after the group's later success). Destiny's Child re-entered the studio quickly, bringing in producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs to handle the majority of their next record. Lead single "Bills, Bills, Bills" became the group's first number one pop hit (and second R&B number one) in the summer of 1999, and paced by its success, the accompanying album, The Writing's on the Wall, entered the charts at number six upon its release. That was just the beginning of the group's breakout success. The second single, "Bug a Boo," didn't perform as well, but the third single, "Say My Name," was another massive hit, their biggest so far; it hit number one on both the pop and R&B charts for three weeks apiece in early 2000, and made Destiny's Child a pop-cultural phenomenon. However, at the peak of "Say My Name"'s popularity, the group splintered. In December 1999, Roberson and Luckett attempted to split with manager Mathew Knowles, charging that he kept a disproportionate share of the band's profits, attempted to exert too much control, and unfairly favoured his daughter and niece. While they never intended to leave the group, relations naturally grew strained, and when the video for "Say My Name" premiered in February 2000, many fans (not to mention Roberson and Luckett) were surprised to find two new members -- Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin -- joining Knowles and Rowland. Infuriated, Roberson and Luckett took legal action in March, suing both Knowles and their former band mates for breach of partnership and fiduciary duties. A war of words followed in the press; meanwhile, the next Destiny's Child single, "Jumpin' Jumpin'," hit the Top Ten, and The Writing's on the Wall went on to sell a whopping eight million copies. The personnel-turnover drama still wasn't over; in July 2000, just five months after joining, Farrah Franklin split with the group. The official reason was that Franklin missed several promotional appearances and concert gigs, although in later interviews she spoke of too much negativity and too little control in the group environment. Now reduced to a trio, Destiny's Child was tapped to record the theme song for the film version of Charlie's Angels; released as a single in October, "Independent Women, Pt. 1" raced up the charts and spent an
astounding 11 weeks at number one. Destiny's Child were now indisputable superstars, the biggest female R&B group on the scene, and they quickly began work on a new album to capitalize. In the meantime, toward the end of 2000, Roberson and Luckett dropped the portion of their lawsuit aimed at Rowland and Knowles in exchange for a settlement, though they continued to pursue action against Knowles' father; as part of the agreement, both sides were prohibited from ripping each other publicly. Beyoncé had long since emerged as the group's focal point, and on the third Destiny's Child album, she assumed more control than ever before, taking a greater hand in writing the material and even producing some of the record herself. While recording sessions were going on, Rowland released the first Destiny's Child solo track; "Angel" appeared on the soundtrack of Chris Rock's Down to Earth. Former members Roberson and Luckett also announced the formation of a trio called, coincidentally, Angel, and Farrah Franklin set about starting a solo career. Survivor - whose title was reportedly inspired by a DJ's crack about Destiny's Child members voting one another off the island, much like the popular CBS reality series -- hit stores in the spring of 2001, and entered the charts at number one. The first two singles, "Survivor" and "Bootylicious," were predictably huge hits, with the latter becoming the group's fourth number one pop single. A cover of Andy Gibb's "Emotion" was also successful, albeit less so, and Survivor sold well -- over four million copies -- but not as well as its predecessor. Toward the end of the year, the group released a holiday album, 8 Days of Christmas, and announced plans for a series of side projects, including solo albums from all three members (to be staggered over the next year and a half, so as to avoid competition). In early 2002, shortly after This Is the Remix was released to tide fans over, Roberson and Luckett sued the group again, claiming that some of the lyrics in "Survivor" made reference to them (in violation of the earlier lawsuit settlement). The first Destiny's Child solo album, Michelle Williams' all-gospel project Heart to Yours, was released in April and featured a duet with gospel legend Shirley Caesar. Meanwhile, Beyoncé won a leading role opposite Mike Myers in the third Austin Powers film, Goldmember, playing blaxploitation-style heroine Foxy Cleopatra; her first solo single, the Neptunes-produced "Work It Out," appeared on the soundtrack, and her full solo album, Dangerously in Love, became a huge hit upon release in mid-2003. Despite much critical speculation, the trio reunited the following year and released Destiny Fulfilled in November
2004. In October 2005, the No 1's compilation was issued, followed by the Live in Atlanta DVD and CD sets in 2006 and 2007. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
Typical problems in boy bands
When boy bands are formed, there are typical dent marks like tattoos that accompany their existence. There are the usual issues that will always be national anthem no matter where they are based. The fans, the fame, the flops, the fall-outs, the cash, the comebacks, the catastrophes etc. ! Below are five boy band stars talk about the highs and lows of life in the spotlight and the effects on their lives and family situations. These accounts are based on true stories derived from interviews factually held with the stars. Something strange happened to pop in 2009: (a) the boyband bounced back. (b) Take That's summer tour became the fastest-selling ever, and last year's X Factor runners-up, (c) JLS, became the first British male group in years to incite countrywide pre-teen rampages. (d) New Kids On the Block and Blue reformed, while stalwarts like Westlife and the (e) Backstreet Boys chose not to simply wallow in their riches and promoted new records instead. And there are rumours of new acts being launched next year. One would wonder what really happens in a boy-band and the accounts below attempts to answer the questions, “But what's it like to be in a boy-band?” “How do these young men cope with the adulation, the pressure, the temptations, the knocks?” “What happens when the screaming teens move on to the next hot thing?” Below are actual comments from five boy-band stars who reveal all . . .
'Girls started turning up at my front door. I was nice to them,' Nicky Byrne, Weatlife formed 1998
I was 18 and my girlfriend's auntie heard an advert on the radio for a boy-band audition. I loved singing, but rarely did it – except on the karaoke after a few Guinnesses. But she badgered me about it, so I went, and there was Louis Walsh, who had put Boyzone together.
After I sang, I thought he said: "You'd be good in a pub band." I was like, thanks, you cheeky sod! Then I realised he'd said: "You'd be good in a pop band." I was shocked. People don't realise that Westlife didn't have a deal for ages. We went to Sligo to rehearse, then Louis got us a deal with Levi's to kit us out in jackets and jeans, and we'd go round local radio stations singing acapella. Girls started turning up at my front door. It was very strange, especially as I'd been with my girlfriend, Georgina, since I was 15. Still, I was nice to them, signing autographs and stuff, while Georgina kept me sane and stuck by me. We got married in 2003 and have twin boys. Louis always said he wanted hard workers rather than heart-throbs (or even talented singers). He even sacked us twice for messing around; once, very early on, for throwing bread rolls at each other, while strolling in late for meetings. I remember him losing it, shouting: "You've let it all go to your heads. I don't work with people like that." Thankfully, he listened when we begged him to take us back. Boy-bands have really changed in the last 10 years. It's less about girls' fantasies and getting your top off than about fans coming together, looking out for you, singing along. When Mark (Feehily, Byrne's band mate) came out in 2001, the fans were supportive, which meant the world to us. I remember Louis laughing and saying: "Well, you know, in boy-bands there's always one gay boy!!!." “If it all ended tomorrow, I'd miss being on stage the most. It doesn't matter if the NME say your music is farcical or rubbish – that's just life. These are songs that lots of people love. When you're up there and you know what song's coming next, and you hear the fans scream when they recognise it – that's the best feeling in the world.”
'We've got a whole security team: a 24-hour bodyguard each' Kevin Jonas, Jonas Brothers, formed 2005
“You never get used to this life. At the start, we had to play every event we could, absolutely anything. So much has changed. We've got a whole security team now. Each of us has a personal bodyguard 24 hours a day. We need them, too: sometimes you can be in a bad situation with fans getting over-excited. My man's Big Rob, who used to be with Janet Jackson and Britney Spears. We hang around talking, watching movies, playing computer games on the bus. To outsiders, it's strange, but it's like gaining a new family.”
Boy-bands are different today. Fans won't just accept singing groups who dance like this, dance like that, any more. They'll still argue over who's their favourite. I love that, it makes me laugh, but they want more out of you musically. That's good, because we're getting older as well, and getting into stuff like the Zutons, Johnny Cash and Elvis Costello. I love it when we write songs influenced by other groups, and our fans start to listen to them as well. My advice to boy-bands would to be to keep level-headed, but think about how you can branch out. Your fans will grow with you, but you've got to move with them, too .
'When it all went wrong, it felt like the world was ending ' Tony Mortimer, East 17, 1991-1998, reunion 2006, now solo
“I still remember the day I had the idea to form a working-class boy-band. I was 19 and obsessed, but I didn't tell my mates straightaway, because I didn't want a kicking. This was Walthamstow in east London, and there was crime and crap everywhere. You could deal drugs, do sport or try music. I had always had performing around me: my father was a builder who played the guitar; my mother worked as a cleaner and had won awards for Irish dancing. So music it was.” I met the other boys hanging out around town, outside the electric shop, in the park, talking shit, listening to rap and hip-hop. I'd check out the boys quietly and think: "Oh, they'd be good in a band." I plotted in my head, wrote songs and hustled Tom Watkins, the manager who had looked after the Pet Shop Boys and Bros, just sending him tapes, doing his head in. He said I was rubbish so many times, but as he'd taken the time to reply, I stuck at it. One day I sent him a song called Deep. Bingo, he loved it – and it all went mental from there.” He got us in Smash Hits before we had got a record deal, and suddenly we were on road shows and TV, like some amazing, weird dream. It had been a strange year for me before all that anyway. My brother had died – he killed himself – so that was all in my head, and my girlfriend Tracy, who I'm still with, had got pregnant with our first little girl. And there I was running off to have pictures taken with my top off. “Drugs messed it up for us! When it all went wrong, it felt like the world was ending. You'd been wanted and then, nothing. And my friends didn't want to know me, especially Brian [Harvey], who I'd fallen out with long before that radio interview [in 1997, Harvey told the
BBC he had taken 12 ecstasy tablets in one night; he was sacked from East 17 the following day]. How frightening it is to be unwanted due to something as bad as DRUGS! “The boy-band” had been my baby and now it wasn't. The boys still tour as E-17, singing my old songs. I was angry with them for a long time, especially when we tried to reform and it didn't work out [the reunion ended with Mortimer punching Harvey]. Now I say good luck to them. I've got my own life, I've played good gigs recently, and I'm writing new music, which will be released next year. It's hard seeing bands like TakeThat get big again, though, especially when they're releasing singles with bloody ukuleles all over them. We were a big deal in the 1990s. We made great records. It makes me sad that people don't remember us anymore, just because we dared to touch DRUGS (Harvey in particular) and the whole E-17 looked crooked, leprosed and maligned for one man‟s foolish act! What would I say to a new boy-band? Enjoy the days when you're starting out. They're the best times: coming up, getting known, when it's all still new. I can still feel that excitement in my legs when I was young – running home to work on an idea, to dream something up. I felt like a magician. I felt like I was controlling the world. It does not last if you are foolish! I live with immense regrets as we should have known what was allowed and what taboo is! PLEASE DON‟T DO DRUGS!!!”
'I thought: Spend the money, because you don't deserve it' Simon Webbe, Blue, 2001-2005, and
reformed 2009 “I was never a singer. I'd trained to be a footballer, kicking a ball from dawn to dusk, so I missed Top of the Pops, Going Live, all that stuff. Then I had a bad injury, so I became a model. Some managers came to me and said: "You've got a great look, can you sing?" Singing seemed an odd thing to do, so I was like: "No, not at all." Then I did an audition with the boys who became Blue, and we became friends, stuck together. “Not long after, my granddad died, and I thought: "Man, life's too short. Let's just practise, see where this goes." And suddenly there I was, experiencing pop music for the very first time. Still, I'm in the band because my face fitted. I know that. At first, I was like a rabbit in the headlights. I was brought up in Manchester's Moss Side, by a single mum who had holes in her shoes, in a place where drugs were a way of life. Suddenly I was in my early 20s with a
million in the bank. What I remember vividly is thinking, "Spend the money, because you don't deserve it.” “You shouldn't, you know. You should leave it where it is. Forget Selfridges and going to Mahiki every night. Just remember what it feels like to be sitting in a pub on a Sunday, dreading work, or queuing to sign on. That should bring you round.” “When we became famous, I met my daughter for the first time. She was born when I was 17. I'd wanted to meet her, but it was complicated. When I finally did, when it was all happening for the band, something happened to me. It gave me a kick, made me realise what a privileged position I was in. We've been close ever since, me and Alanah.” I don't think an all-black boy-band like JLS would have been signed in the days when we were starting out. The X Factor's great in that way: it shows the record companies what people really want – especially as most labels are run by old guys who have no idea what's going on in clubs or on the streets. When we went our separate ways in 2005, it was like my comfort zone had been taken away. We'd gone from selling 1.5m to 700,000. I wanted us to fight our way back, but pop doesn't work like that. By then, every A&R was obsessed with indie bands anyway. Although I've had a solo career that's gone pretty well, to my amazement, I can't believe we've now got a second chance to be together as a band. “I don't forget the bad days. I still go along to my daughter's school – it's not a private one, and never would be, because that's not real life – and get involved in little ways, giving certificates, telling these kids there is hope. My advice to boy-bands would be: remember how the world really works, and never forget where you came from.”
'We didn't like being called a boy-band. We were a bit old' Richie Wermerling, Let Loose, 1993-
1996, reformed 2008 “If anyone tells you that being in a boy-band doesn't screw you up, they're a liar. How can it not? You're in your 20s and suddenly someone tells you, "Hey! You're great!" Here's an interview, a magazine cover, everything you ever wanted. To have that, and then not have it – it's like being in one very strange world, then another.”
“We didn't like being called a boy-band. We were a bit old for bloody starters. I was in my mid-20s. Also, I actually wrote my songs. And when we had our first big hit, Crazy for You, it was a word-of-mouth thing: it took its time climbing the charts. But once you're thought of in a certain way – as a bunch of boys singing love songs, wearing nice clothes – then that's that. You've got to fight to be thought of differently. We even had a hit with a Bread track, Make It With You, a proper LA soft-rock song, but people had made up their minds.” I released an album last year with a new Let Loose line-up. I didn't do it to jump on the comeback trail, though. I'll be making music until I'm old and grey, partly because I don't know what else I'd do, partly because I've known what it's like to stand before a huge audience and feel that incredible rush. My advice to new boy-bands today? Mmmm,,,, Enjoy every moment. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Conclusions about Boy-bands
Taking a nostalgic look back over the years and giving you a chance to listen again to some of those classic hits, this documentary exclusively speaks to a selection of the boys themselves and also some of the key managers who masterminded their success. Boy-band fever had taken the UK by storm in the 1990‟s, boy bands were living the pop dream but it wasn‟t all harmless fun, drug scandals began to hit the headlines and the lifestyle began to take it‟s toll. 1996 saw the first major casualty in the boy band world – the split of Take That. “I was at school when Take That split and I remember people in the hallways crying and help lines were set up” laughs Dane Bowers “For Smash Hits it was a dark day because, ok, we‟ve now just lost our best-selling group just what do you do?!” remembers Mark Frith. The problem now was that everyone wanted to jump on the boy band wagon and fill the gap in the market. “Everybody thought – we can do this, we are five boys, we can‟t sing, we can‟t write songs but there is gonna be a bunch of guys over there that can do all that for us” says Tom Watkins.
Suddenly the market was flooded with boy bands. The Stage newspaper was inundated with auditions for boys. “you get the dodgy ones and then you‟d get the good ones, but you have to go to all of them just to take a chance” remembers Antony Costa. For the boys who made it all the hard work and time on the road began to take its toll and suddenly by the end of the 1990‟s some of the bands were on the very edge of their own downfall. Self-destructive behaviour has always gone hand in hand with rock and roll – but now it was hitting the boy bands. “They did go out, they screwed as many girls as they could, they took copious amounts of drugs, they drunk loads of alcohol and they partied” Tom Watkins remembers managing E17. “Behind closed doors when they go to hotels at night, they get drunk, they take drugs, they let in groupies – they‟re boys” Louis Walsh. “I‟d wake up, get on the soup, have a few bevies throughout the day, end up going to the TV‟s gargled up, not drunk, but trying to enlighten the day because it was so monotonous, everyday it was an interview, every day was a TV, talking the same stuff I spoke for the last few weeks about the same record, the same tour, I was trying to make it exciting again” Shane Lynch from Boyzone recalls Shane‟s destructive behaviour and issues came to a head in 1999 at the MTV awards in Dublin where he famously had a public outburst that shocked his fans. “I didn‟t want to be in a boy band anymore. I didn‟t want to be called a faggot walking down the street anymore. I wanted to be a hard nut, I wanted to be credible and not in a boy band and I think that‟s where my downfall was because I started to disrespect what I was in” explain Shane. Another lifestyle pressure placed on the boy band was the idea they had to remain single to keep their female fans interested. This is as unnatural as it is incredible to the normal mind of a hot-blooded teenage young man. This unfortunately is one of the terms and conditions of baptism into a boy-band life style spelt out in boy-band bibles. This is as impossible as a man falling pregnant and usually becomes the greatest commandment that is impossible to keep. “When we first started we weren‟t supposed to say we had a girlfriend” AJ from The Backstreet Boys.
Nigel Martin Smith famously told Take That they couldn‟t have girlfriends and had it stipulated in their contracts. The fear that a girlfriend would ruin the band was rife, we were scared the press would find out we had girlfriends” remembers Shane. “I worried about the fans reaction when I got married” recalls Rowan Keating. But sometimes it was too hard to keep your life under wraps. “the Sun called to say we have some pictures of you and another guy, if you don‟t want to do the interview that‟s fine, but if you don‟t he‟s going to go to another newspaper” say Stephen. Although the revelation of his sexuality did Stephen no harm, some boys felt they had to hide their sexuality and keep up the pretence,” Stephen Gatley remembers The worst thing that can happen to a boy band member is to fall from grace, as Brian Harvey from East 17 found out. Brian disclosed in an interview that he had taken 12 ecstasy pills in one night and referred to them as safe. “by 5.30 in the morning I was public enemy number one, The press just went for me… the amount of pressure them press can put on a person I can‟t begin to tell you what that done to me, that‟s when my life went wonky”. Recalls Brian Harvey The life of boy-bands can be short lived and turbulent. Long days on the road and constant performances can lead to excessive behaviour. Although all of the boy-bands dream of making a comeback – it is unlikely to happen, unless you are Take That, who in 2006 had the biggest resurrection the boy band community have ever seen. Take that keep coming back again and again. This is 2010 and they are again on the come-back trail with Robbie Williams in the saddle again! There is need for new laws and regulations for the formation of boy-bands and entertainment organisation in the UK to gain control of the amoebic expansion of the industry. The lack of corporate social responsibility and monitoring of the psychological effects of the industry on families and the members of the boy-band causes immense pressure on social services, education and government departments. With the recession taking place at the moment demands for responsible social activities emanating from the entertainment industry has become a frictional element that has influenced management organisations to recognise social responsibility as an important integral of the music management organisations. Educational and social wings have been introduced in management organisations and new models of
managing bands are emerging. There is a new dawn in the industry as the promotion of the new model of social responsibility takes shape in the industry. The next time one enters a music mega-store, one will be met with the notion that bands are no longer being manufactured but are being allowed to blossom with social responsibility as the driving fuel rather than the lust for profit, sex and glamour. The new dawn of social responsibility in the music /entertainment industry is almost upon the community.
Bibliography and material used
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