Up and coming teen group Westside... but can they get to the top side?|
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Music vets offer hints on boy band survival
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Thursday, February 18, 1999 5:13:48 PM EST
From Brooke Alexander
CNN WorldBeat Correspondent
(CNN) -- From Britney to Brandy, and Backstreet Boys to Boyzone, young fans on both sides of the Atlantic are in synch with what's become known as the teen sensation. But when the bubble gum bursts and the facial hair fills out, how many of these adolescent acts survive to musical maturity?
The number of teen idols who succeed in growing up, musically, are few -- think Donny Osmond, George Michael, David Cassidy, Michael Jackson. They had the talent and appeal needed to outgrow their teenage fan base and reach musical maturity. A flood of other young pop stars were alluring, but less enduring.
The first challenge of today's fresh young faces is to grab a share of the spotlight in a fiercely competitive market -- the goal is to find a niche which sets your group apart from the seemingly endless production line of clone-a-tones.
Right now, a melange of acts are trying to do just that. For example, singer Salvatore of the Boyz -- a five-man band -- says of his group, "We're five boys, five guys, so we're a boy band but we are not a typical boy band."
Meanwhile, Scott Robinson of the two-year-old band 5ive says his group is trying to break a typical sophomore boy-band pattern. "Second-year boy band, you automatically think, same suits ... ballads for every single. We don't do that," he says.
The odds may be against these new groups simply because they missed a wide-open niche a couple of years ago, says Tracy Pepper of Spin magazine. "I think the Spice Girls hit at a time when they were the first group to actually -- they were a girl group marketed for girls. And here was the first time that girls could look on TV or on the records and say, 'That could be me,'" she says.
"Then you started to get All Saints," she adds, mentioning a newer all-girl group that maintains its own pop-music sound is nothing like that of the Spice Girls, "and groups like that. So I think for record companies, once they see one, then they say, 'Ha, there's money to be made there.' And that's normal, that's the business."
Steps are unique... at least because of the fact that both genders are represented in their group
Co-ed line dancers
More successful, Pepper says, might be the marketing ploy of a British group called Steps, "which are androids -- I mean, they're very scary," she says. "But they've been really popular in the U.K. because it's a co-ed group of line-dancing freaks, basically. There's, I think, three women and two guys, and I think the co-ed angle hasn't been tried before."
After entering the spotlight, the next -- and harder -- challenge is to stand the test of time, when the focus moves on to the next bright young thing.
"This industry's very fickle, you're only as big as your last record, you know?" observes Ronan Keating of Boyzone, another boy band topping the charts internationally right now. "And we intend on releasing some good records yet, so we don't intend on going anywhere."
The latest bright young thing to emerge in the United States is former Mickey Mouse Club girl Britney Spears, whose first album and single have just debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. She's on course to follow the success of boy band heart throbs like 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, both among the top-five-selling artists in the U.S. last year.
Joey McIntyre, former New Kid on the Block
Former New Kid gives picks
"Of all of them, I just -- maybe because I know them, but I think 'N Sync has -- can maybe transcend that whole boy band thing, you know, because they got a good attitude and a good spirit, and they're talented guys," says Joey McIntyre, a former member of the '80s boy-band sensation New Kids on the Block.
"The New Kids took some hits for, you know, not writing their own music. But on a songwriting standpoint, I mean, I'd never written music before when I was in the group," McIntyre continues. Now pursuing his own solo career, he says, "Now the music is my music, so it's kind of like my baby, and that was a whole different experience."
Meanwhile, Brian Harvey of current band East 17 had this to say: "Everyone grows up and changes ... like George Michael when he was in Wham and things like that, he's older now, and he's portraying himself a lot different. So everyone changes."
From Wham to wisdom, Michael's is a lesson in musical maturity many of today's teen idols would do well to follow.