There was a time (and I’m not sure that time has completely eclipsed us) when boy bands ruled the world. When I was a tween, identifying as a Backstreet fan or an NSYNC fan was grounds for immediate frenemization. But the Big Two weren’t the only frost-tipped, leather-clad group in every twelve-year-old’s orbit. Here is my (highly researched, completely anecdotal) list of tween-worshipped boy bands circa 1993-2002, and what it (probably) says about you if you were their number one fan.
The Backstreet Boys were the quintessential boy band, or so I’ve been told. Fans of this band like to remind everybody else how BSB was the first boy band on the 90s scene, or how they’re the best selling boy band in history, or how they’re really a “vocal harmony group” and not really a boy band. Backstreet fans are the “I liked them before they were cool and still playing at SeaWorld in Orlando” of boy band fans. Despite being insufferable know-it-alls, Backstreet fans were the first to really appreciate a group of dudes in matching all-white attire, so major props for that.
Full disclosure with this one (“ethics in boy band journalism”): I was Team NSYNC. They were my first concert, I had a poster of Joey Fatone in my bedroom, and I still sing at least one NSYNC song any time I find myself in a karaoke room with a mic in my hands. So because of this, I can feel like I can confidently say this about NYSNC fans: we are petty stans that will never hesitate to remind you that even if NSYNC didn’t do it first, they did it the best (and by it, I mean “singing and dancing their way into the hearts and minds of sensitive weirdos everywhere”).
Boys II Men
Boys II Men got their start in the 80s but really hit their stride in the 90s, hence their inclusion in this list. Boys II Men was really for more mature listeners though — your older sister’s cool friend listened to Boys II Men, and you were scandalized (but intrigued!) that they were singing about ~*~making love~*~. If you were a Boys II Men fan, you were probably the first person in your friend group to kiss a boy and forever after became the person that everybody went to for romantic advice. God bless you.
I always thought of 98 Degrees as the chiller side of the boy band spectrum, and I assume their fans are the same way. Their videos are sappier, the dance moves are really more about gentle swaying than coordinated hip thrusts, and there’s a lot of direct eye contact and earnest crooning in 98 Degrees videos. If you were a 98 Degrees fan, then I’m going to guess you were the emotional anchor of your friend group and that nobody really appreciated the emotional labor you did (or still do!) to support the people you care about. Well, I’m here for you, 98 Degrees fan! You keep being your emotionally-centered self. The world needs more of you.
Blackstreet busted onto the scene with their debut album in 1996, immediately working with big hitters like Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and Janet Jackson. If Blackstreet was your boy band of choice, I’ll posit that you were/are a fan of artist mash-ups and also of wearing overalls where only one of the clasps is connected. Blackstreet fans are also probably used to some level of heartache — with the on-again-off-again status of your favorite group lingering all the way through the 2000s, you probably deal with stress super well.
Hanson was a band made of 3 literal children and they stole our hearts in the late 90s with their catchy pop punk tunes and their long golden hair. They sang nonsense words and lived in a land of rainbows and chocolate cookies, and the world didn’t deserve the joy and light that the Hanson brothers brought into it. If Hanson was your band, then you’re a sweet baby angel and I also bet you’re somehow able to keep your plants alive by the sheer warmth of your disposition. Never change, Hanson fan!
There you have it! This is by no means an exhaustive list, either of boy bands or of personality types. In reality, we are all myriad things and it’s silly to try to pinpoint the essence of a person based on the musical preference they ascribed to during their youth. But if I DID nail it, then I knew it all along and I’ll never doubt myself again.
Wrapping up, I leave you with the ultimate fictional boy band, your friends and mine — DU JOUR. They weren’t the boy band we needed, they were the boy band we deserved.