Why all the hate on boy bands?

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Inevitably, whenever a new pop band emerges, they generate nasty backlash, and at times, it seems their only fans are the screaming, pubescent girls who flaunt their merchandise and would give anything just to sit in the nosebleed sections of one of their concerts. Meanwhile, the rest of the population responds in a variety of ways, mostly negative, with common insults taunting the band’s lack of talent, alleged gayness, and overall terrible quality.

Photo Credit: http://stardomreport.com/2012/04/29/kevin-richardson-announces-return-to-backstreet-boys/

Why the resistance? We all know that music, just like religion and politics, induces ground for controversy. Even though the majority of individuals claim to “like anything,” most are attracted to specific genres. This, of course, varies depending on many factors, such as one’s upbringing, geographic location, and lifestyle. Still, the psychology behind this is both intriguing and necessary, seeing as boy band music influences much of the 8-17 year-old female population, no matter what the generation.

Proposed theories of boy band resistance

1. Jealousy: Most of this backlash comes from males, and as much as they may criticize the band, the scrutiny probably stems from a deeper level. Most of these musicians acquire enormous fame within a very short time frame. Whereas women tend to compare their appearances to other women, men tend to compare based on perceived power and status. Members of a successful boy band, no matter how temporary their fortune may be, enjoy the perks of immense wealth and an abundance of women, two elements of extremely high importance to men. Both teenage boys and young males can feel insecure about their own appearance and body image, especially when girls their openly admit and gush about their “celebrity crushes,” as they commonly do. Likewise, we envy those more successful than us. If a young boy band acquires quick fame and fortune, older people may feel “they have not earned it” or they “just got lucky,” thus provoking more jealousy.

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2. Pretentiousness: In the scope of art and creative expression, people are quick to offer biased opinions about the definition of talent. Although most individuals claim to like “all kinds of music,” the truth is, most of us are attracted to some genres over others. For example, heavy metal fans may shudder at the sound of hoedown country music, just as rock and roll fans may grumble about the mainstream infusion of rap and hip-hop. Even more specific than genres, fans can be picky in reference to the kind of music they consider worthy. For example, some refuse to listen to music that isn’t original or doesn’t feature instruments. Some appreciate strong song lyrics, while others seek impressive instrumental solos. Boy bands, unfortunately, are a target of artistic bullying, because by nature, they tend to target their music  to a younger, less mature crowd, and most of their pop music relies only on audio, rather than instrumental talent. Moreover, many boy bands rely on maintaining a specific image or appearance for success, which can cause a stir in opponents.

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3. Homophobia: Unfortunately, many boy bands still suffer from the negative reputation of “being gay.” Oftentimes, opponents (typically being males), will exacerbate  any slight sensory cue, such as a haircut, outfit, or even a high-pitched voice, and deem either the band or a specific member as “gay.” Just like an all-or-nothing, if-then statement, some people actually believe that if a man likes a boy band, then he or she must either be gay or must like gay music. Homophobia still represents a major problem, and young people are especially sensitive to what others think. Therefore, they may be afraid to admit in liking boy bands, given their knowledge of its harsh stereotyping.

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4. Bitterness: To take it one step further than jealousy, people may dislike boy bands simply because of personal failure to succeed in the creative arts. We often see this adversity with struggling musicians, lyricists, actresses, dancers, etc. They may resent this band, because they believe the members did not have to put in the time or effort to achieve fame. After all, behind every signed artist is a thousand more individuals vying to write their own success story. Bitterness can be detected in the outright nasty comments; these individuals often use terms such as, this band is an insult to music or they are just another sell-out.

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5. THEY’RE LYING: Ever heard of the term, guilty pleasure? How many people indulge in lousy reality television shows or trashy paperback beach reads, yet when engaging in a conversation about media or literature, never elaborate on the current People magazine scandal or Jersey Shore episode? The same applies with music. Certain coveted bands bring credibility and widespread acceptance. Most Americans can mutually agree on the talent of “classic” musicians, such as The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Johnny Cash. When asked about their favorite musicians, people often report popular bands or singers, knowing that it increases their social desirability, because others will identify and relate. Boy band fame, on the other hand, is often short-lived, and therefore, constantly evolving. Yet, whenever a new band emerges, they tend to sell out concert tours, flood the radio stations, top the Billboard charts, and enjoy a deafening audience of adoring fans. Most people will claim to dislike the band, simply because they believe they should. In reality, most everyone knows a few songs they would be ashamed to admit they enjoy.

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4 responses to “Why all the hate on boy bands?

  1. A defense of boy bands…. Interesting! I must admit, I do enjoy some songs. But I don’t think I dislike them in general because of the above mentioned reasons. My general distaste for their music is more in line with the production of the music. Many (not all) of the bands were corporately put together which I find a bit inauthentic. Also, other reasons I have heard people giving for disliking them is that the lyrics of nearly all (not all) of the boy bands is produced by “real artists” and not by them. Now, I understand that was a dig, but I was just trying to explain the reasons as I have heard them.

    One last thought; the reason that many might dislike them in general but like a few songs could be a product of the media. Sometimes if you here something enough times it starts to grow on you. I think this is the case with all pop music and not just boy bands (the same with the other two criticisms I raised). With that said, I think I’ll get back to work (as I press play on my Beatles playlist, arguably the first boy band) :)

  2. I don’t actually actively go out of my way to listen to music. Strange as that may sound it often leaves me unable to differentiate between music and which artist said music belongs to. What I find strange though is that I’ll often find myself able to enjoy some of the music boy bands produce whilst simultaneously feeling a sense of distaste when I see them, I think in all likelihood due to the jealousy you mentioned above.

  3. I clicked on this site as I was interested in the psychology of the names of boy bands. However, I found this discussion of hate/dislike very enlightening. i am a Baby- Boomer, much, much older than most people who might respond to this article. However it interested me quite a bit, probably because I’m a retired therapist and am interested in all things of an emotional nature. I have to confess that I don’t follow the boy bands, although I’m aware of most of them, as I watch many morning programs, talk shows, late night shows, etc. I really don’t follow much pop music, nor country, nor much of any other type. Somewhere around the ’80s, my ears began to be assaulted, as well as my sense of well-being as I tried listening to the screeching, too loud, rather discordant, and filled-with-angst music. I just could not understand why the young kids were in such pain in their lyrics and the hate/rebellion-filled names of their bands. After all, they were the most pampered and spoiled group of kids ever. (And now they have children who are even MORE pampered and spoiled!). Most had lived with their parents, didn’t hold jobs until their “gig” came along. What did they have to cry and yell about in their lyrics? I guess I just got tired of seeing pampered youngsters…who became very, very rich…singing “poor me/ my parents don’t understand me (well, whose parents did?)/ I hate authority” lyrics. Sadly boy bands have deteriorated from that…now it’s “all about me” lyrics. I suppose you can classify me under the “they just haven’t earned it” category, as well as “no talent” for some. However, if you can sing a song with a strong melody, say like “Moon River”…and sing it a cappella, THEN you have my respect as a singer, famous or not, rich or not. What percentage of boy band members, or popular young singers (like J. Bieber) do you think would be able to do this? In other words, how many of them can REALLY sing?

    P.S. I really do understand why they were “in angst” and are even worse today. I worked with many ordinary youngsters who held those very same feelings, just for different reasons. I was just trying to make a point.

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