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The Boy Band Expiration Date: Why One Direction is on Borrowed Time

by Culture Team
31 Jul 2017 | 2:10 PM

Boy bands. You either love them or hate them, and if you're anything other than a teenage girl, it's probably the latter. The combination of sappy love songs, synchronized dancing, and ambiguous sexuality usually alienates most male listeners. Still, there is definitely no denying that their albums sell. 

One Direction is undoubtedly the most popular example of the genre these days, and few music groups have enjoyed as much critical and financial success as they have. No matter what you think of them, these young lads have earned more than most of us ever will.

You have to keep in mind, though, that they won't be around for much longer. Their time is ticking, and soon there will be some new kids on the block to dethrone them. What makes us so sure? History, of course.

The rise and fall of giants
Let's take a trip back to the late 90s and early 2000s, when the boy band craze was at its peak. Who could forget the massive popularity of New Kids on the Block, or the rivalry between Backstreet Boys and NSYNC? For better or worse, those groups would completely revolutionize the pop music industry. Their albums topped the charts, set incredible sales records, and made them world famous. 

Now let's go back to 2014. Despite their success, when was the last time you heard about those bands, or listened to any of their songs? Probably years.  The music world and the public have all but forgotten them; I doubt anyone would recognize Brian Littrell or Lance Bass on the streets these days.

The same goes for the smaller players on the scene, who also enjoyed a few years of fame during the "Golden Age" of boy bands. Just mentioning Westlife, F4, and the Jonas Brothers can make many people nostalgic, despite them being household names not long ago.

Why boy bands fade after several years
Beneath the innocent image of the genre, there lies a surprisingly dark truth. Whether or not they actually make good music, boy bands will fade into obscurity as time goes on. It's something inevitable; they have a built-in expiration date. This is because of what they build their fame and image on, and how temporary it is.

First, the demographic; teenage girls don't stay young forever. Their tastes mature, and sooner or later they tend to outgrow their old favorites. They stop lining up to buy the latest albums, and are too busy studying for college exams to attend concerts. Eventually, they lose interest altogether, and move on to other genres.

Second, the band members age, too. This might not be an issue in other genres if you can still make great songs, but in boy bands, it's a death sentence. The band's appeal comes mostly from their boyish looks and charms, which is a serious problem when everyone is pushing thirty.

Finally, there are always favorites. Some members are always more popular than the others, and these guys will eventually want to do something different than the same old tired love songs. NSYNC gave us Justin Timberlake, who is much more famous these days for his solo work than his past.

What will happen to One Direction?
They might have a few more years to go, but soon enough, even One Direction won't be immune to the ravaging effects of time. All it takes is for a fresh, new group to catch the public's attention, and they will rapidly fall out of favor. It's the cruel reality of the industry, and one they are probably well aware of.

Perhaps Harry or Zayn will take a page out of Justin Timberlake's book and go solo, taking advantage of their popularity. Regardless, it is unlikely that One Direction will keep topping the charts for much longer.