I don’t know how many of you know this, but UK-based boy band One Direction is scheduled to release their sophomore album, “Take Me Home,” on November 13. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t just listened to the free preview. Guys, the songs are poppy, catchy, and downright fun. iTunes describes the album as “a jubilant celebration of youth and good times,” and who’s going to reject an album with that kind of review?
Maybe new music from One Direction isn’t newsworthy to most ladies in their mid-twenties, but I have a soft place in my heart for the musical stylings of boy bands. Other than the crush I had on Jonathan Taylor Thomas in third grade, boy bands were kinda my first love.
Technically, boy bands aren’t actually bands, as the guys typically don’t play instruments. Instead, the group members sing, harmonize and occasionally dance their way into the hearts of teenage girls everywhere. When a new group shows up on the music scene, the media is quick to shuffle the guys into some tidy category: the heartthrob, the cute one, the shy one, the bad boy, the older brother—actually, those might be the exact titles given to the members of spoof boy band, 2ge+her.
My boy band of choice was NSYNC. (I had a brief interest in the Backstreet Boys, but I switched my allegiance when I could no longer tolerate Nick Carter’s status as “the cute one” in that group.) Though they had the same types of guys as BSB, NSYNC also had a zany, fun attitude, killer harmonies and significantly better choreography. Plus I had a raging crush on JC Chasez and could reluctantly agree that Justin Timberlake was equally as cute.
When you’re twelve-, thirteen-, fourteen-years old, and you’ve developed an irrational crush on a celebrity, the only thing that could further cement that dude as a genuine heartthrob is his ability to sing semi-corny-yet-heartfelt pop ballads. Eventually, you realize a relationship would never work out between you and JC, what with him touring internationally and you having a fairly busy seventh-grade volleyball schedule, but you still want to believe the promises he and his fellow NSYNCers made in their lyrics. But what, exactly, were they promising? Let’s break it down:
Song: “I Want You Back” from the album “NSYNC”
Sample Lyric: You’re all I ever wanted / You’re all I ever needed / So tell me what to do now / When I want you back
Reaction: All he ever wanted? All he EVER needed? Those are some pretty big claims, J. Timberlake! But that’s the kind of devotion a girl needs, especially if it’s the result of a guy coming to his senses after a ridiculous break-up. Even if, in real life, a guy won’t sing those proclamations in five-part harmonies on a daily basis, it’s important for a guy to let you know how much you mean to him.
Song: “This I Promise You” from the album “No Strings Attached”
Sample Lyric: And I will take you in my arms / And hold you right where you belong / ‘Til the day my life is through / This I promise you
Reaction: It’s clichéd to use the whole “hold you in my arms” lyric, yet it’s a crucial claim to make in pop ballads. This is a promise of security, both physical and emotional. It symbolizes trust and closeness, and that’s a pretty nice guarantee to have in a relationship at any age.
Song: “Girlfriend” from the album “Celebrity”
Sample Lyric: Why don’t you be my girlfriend? / I’ll treat ya good / I know you hear your friends when they say you should / ‘Cause if you were my girlfriend / I’d be your shining star…
Reaction: Raise your hand if you remember the remix of this song featuring Nelly. (If your hand isn’t raised, Google that shizz!) Rap interludes aside, the boys from NSYNC want you to know this: your current boyfriend is an uncaring loser, and there’s a new guy who wants to solve that problem. He’ll treat ya good! And isn’t it nice to know that somebody has your best interests in mind? That’s love, isn’t it?
When the guys from NSYNC sang these songs, millions of girls like myself couldn’t help but to hang on to every word. The boys made it seem possible that maybe some other, more attainable guys might actually say and mean those same words about us ladies some day. Could an everyday, non-celebrity guy actually be so honest? Could those feelings truly exist? Even just the possibility seems like enough when it’s written in a pop song.
NSYNC began an indefinite hiatus in 2002 and left the music world waiting for the next megastar boy band to sing the pop songs that would make make teenage girls believe in the possibilities of young love. And that’s where One Direction comes in. I’m not a teenager, so I’m not crushing on any of these guys like I did with JC, but I can still appreciate a good boy band at my age. And while not every One Direction song has the most inspired lyrics—then again, didn’t NSYNC have a song about space cowboys?—it’s undeniable that they’re saying what tween and teen girls want to hear.
The guys of One Direction, with their strategically mussed-up hair and sharp, snappy blazers, are reassuring another generation of girls that boys love the idea of love as much as girls do. These British boys may not have the killer dance moves of NSYNC, but their message is similar: you’re beautiful, you deserve to be loved by a good guy, and that guy will wish he was slow-dancing with you, even if you’re with someone else. What girl—of any age—could ask for any better promise than that?
Megan S. is an associate editor at Dating & Hookup. She's a big fan of pop culture, comedy and essay collections (but just a regular fan of any sport that isn't softball or golf).
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