They always look ridiculous in retrospect: the twitching hips and the shiny jumpsuits, thethemed photoshoots, the matching sweater sets, the coordinated rainbow of skintight pants, Nick Carter’s bowl cut, Justin Timberlake’s curly cut, the various dye-and-gel jobs. But into every generation, a boy band must descend from heaven to act as an object of adoration for a legion of screaming teenage girls before further descending into minor scandal, revelations of talentlessness, and the general scourge of passing the age of 25.
You might think that they’d weave consistent, candy-coated visions of all-consuming love. Certainly, that’d seem to be the case if one judged solely on the basis of the wave of boy bands conquering today’s teenage girls. But the truth is stranger. The current contenders for the hearts and dollars of American girldom, One Direction and The Wanted, espouse a love-beats-all philosophy that’s actually squeakier, cleaner, and simpler than that of the generation of manufactured, male teen idols that preceded them a decade or so ago. […]
One Direction’s and The Wanted’s lyrical commitment to commitment makes sense as a response to the deep, weird pessimism that defined the previous golden age of boy bands: the late ’90s. Yes, that era provided a deep bench of earnest-seeming, swoon-inducing posses, from the big two—Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync—to the second tier of No Mercy, 98 Degrees, Hanson, LFO, and Westlife. But amid the glossy hooks were darker trends.
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