I want to start out this article by saying that there’s nothing wrong with boy bands. They’re fun and they make good, fun music. I love a good boy band. My issue is with the term “boy band.”
Once a group has been deemed a boy band, it’s almost impossible to break away from that label. There’s just something about the word “boy band” that has such a negative stigma around it. When you think of boy bands you think of cute boys in skinny jeans with pretty faces singing poorly written songs about love. And while sure, those are great too, sometimes these groups don’t want to be considered boy bands anymore.
Unfortunately, it really isn’t that simple. A band can’t just declare that they are no longer a boy band and go on with their musical career. If this were the case, One Direction would have done this long before they went on a hiatus.
To be completely fair, when One Direction was first formed, they were indeed a boy band; there’s no denying it. However, I firmly believe that they stopped being a boy band when they released Midnight Memories. The band’s cutesy-fun vibe completely changed, and so did their music. Before it’s release, the band sang about love, partying and having fun. Their audience got older and matured, and so did they.
After Midnight Memories, their whole dynamic switched. Their songs became more mature and raw, which can be credited to the fact that as the members got older they began to write their own music. Essentially, One Direction’s entire image and target audience changed, but the media still referred to the group as a boy band. While there are definitely worse things to be called, a musical group of men ranging from 21-24 is not a boy band, they are simply a band (drop the boy).
The issue here is that there’s no room for growth. One of the great things about music is that it changes with you. As you mature, your taste in music matures alongside you. For example, take Maroon 5 or Fall Out Boy who have been together for a substantial amount of time. They are not the same artists as they were when they first started, and that’s okay. Their fan base “grew up” with them and embraced the change. When One Direction, along with their fanbase, began to mature they were ridiculed by the media for their provocative lyrics when, in reality, the lyrics were not provocative at all, they were just for a different, more mature audience. Maroon 5 and Fall Out Boy were able to go through this change because they simply viewed themselves as a musical group, rather than a boy band. As soon as a band is coined as a boy band, they are immediately inhibited from any further growth.
There is a simple solution at hand; we simply stop calling musical groups boy bands. There are tons of alternatives: band, group, musical group, ensemble, etc. That way, these boy band-esque groups can still produce their music for their target audience, but they’re not trapped under the boy band narrative.