Pop icons: The social impact of boy bands
Hate ‘em or love ‘em, the boy bands of the late 1990s left a lasting legacy that resonates long after their records disappeared from the charts. Music student Craig Jennex argues that groups such as N’Sync to the Backstreet Boys broke down traditional constructs of masculinity and influenced the rise of the “metrosexual” movement.
Craig Jennex is researching the social impact of boy bands for his honours thesis.
Groups like the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync worked within a long line of black, masculine genre performances (R&B, barbershop, hip hop)
At the same time, they were performing dance routines and call-and-response vocal lines that not only recall feminine musical forms but also suggest an undercurrent of homoeroticism.
Mr. Jennex’s research, part of his honours thesis, will also be presented at the 2010 Canadian Conference for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music this June – a rare opportunity for an undergrad.
"I think they really did some good for our society's understanding of gender and sexuality, whether people like to accept it or not. For example, it really wasn't acceptable for guys to be seen dancing aside from hip hop, where it's balanced out with other masculine crutches. Now you've got Zac Efron and High School Musical being held up as a new masculinity. I can't help but feel that the boy bands were a part of that." - Craig Jennex, music student
"There's this one Backstreet Boys song, Anywhere for You, where Nick and Brian sing back-and-forth at each other in alternating lines, describing a relationship that could easily be understood as their own. I was fascinated: if this was a male and female vocalist, it would be treated as this romantic love song ever, but it's two guys and because of that we don't read it in that way." - Craig Jennex, music student.
"I have to admit, it's pretty awesome to get to tell people that I research things like boy bands. It gets some funny looks, for sure." - Craig Jennex, music student.
- Ryan McNutt, email@example.com, 902.494.6035