Return of the Boybands! Meet the New Wave of Swoon-Worthy Guy Groups
From banding together on social media to meeting during a singing competition show, today's rising boybands are quickly making their mark on the industry
The fresh, handsome faces, gooey lyrics and synchronized dance moves of boybands have caused heart palpations among generations for more than half a century.
Following in the footsteps of The Jackson 5 in the ’60s, New Kids On The Block in the ’80s, and The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC who dominated the ’90s, One Direction picked up right where they all left off in 2010 kicking off the revival of boyband popularity. But with their hiatus in 2016, the phenomena seemed to wane again, until now.
While boybands tend to be known for their hit music and rollercoaster relationships with both love interests and one another, there’s one thing that remains true: a group of young guys who can harmonize and look good doing it is almost always a recipe for success.
Here’s everything to know about the newest crop of boybands rising to the top:
Why Don’t We
Comprised of Daniel Seavey, 19, Corbyn Besson, 19, Jonah Marais, 20, Zach Herron, 17, and Jack Avery, 19, Why Don’t We may look like your typical all-American boyband but don’t call them that. “We prefer man-band,” Seavey recently joked to PEOPLE. While Seavey earned early recognition as a top 10 finalist on American Idol season 14, the other four got their starts covering popular songs on YouTube. “I started going on the internet and singing because I had a lot of free time on my hands,” Marais previously told PEOPLE. “Then the numbers started taking off.”
Since finding each other and forming a band in September 2016, the quintet has released five EPs, five singles and their debut album 8 Letters and got their first award nomination for Best Push Act at the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards.
Their biggest influence has been Ed Sheeran. From emulating his performance techniques to respecting him as a person, the guys of Why Don’t We unanimously admire the superstar. “He’s the one that made me want to pick up guitar and just start going for it,” Avery admitted. And Sheeran even inspired their choreography and harmonized their hallmark vocals.
But that’s not to say he’s their only role model. “It’s kind of cliché but when I was 12 years old I saw Justin Bieber,” Marais remembered. “He was probably 15 and he performed in front of a whole arena. That’s when I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.'”
BTS took the world by storm long before they made their debut performance at the 2017 American Music Awards.
The seven-member South Korean boyband consisting of members Jin, 25, Suga, 25, J-Hope, 24, Rap Monster (or RM), 23, Jimin, 23, V, 22, and JungKook, 21 — who get their band’s name from the acronym for the Korean term “Bangtan Sonyeondan,” or “bulletproof boy scouts” in English — have been global superstars since the release of their June 2013 single "No More Dream."
With more than 14 million followers on Instagram, the band, who sing and rap in Korean, rightfully won Top Social Artist Award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, beating out top contenders like Bieber, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes, and becoming the first Korean group to win a BBMA after racking in over 300 million votes. They then won the award for the second year in a row in 2018.
With three albums under their belt, their third studio album Love Yourself: Tear debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, becoming the first K-pop album to top the US albums chart and the highest-charting album by an Asian act.
BTS makes sure the songs they put out have a strong message — often pushing back on the social norms of conservative society. From takes on bullying, mental health, and the pursuit of happiness, the band’s music often stress the importance of rejecting society’s ideals. The band just released their first-ever English-language song with Steve Aoki titled ‘Waste It on Me’ that shot up the charts and features a video starring an all Asian-American cast of stars.
In Real Life (IRL)
Fresh off their Tonight Belongs To You headlining tour, In Real Life (also known as IRL) is an American pop five-member boy band comprised of Brady Tutton, 16, Chance Perez, 21, Drew Ramos, 21, Sergio Calderon, 18, and Michael Conor, 19.
The heartthrobs got their start on ABC’s reality music competition Boy Bandin 2017, and quickly released their first single “Eyes Closed.”
“I think for this generation, obviously the band that we all look up to is One Direction,” Conor previously told PEOPLE Now of the group’s music inspiration, who also got their start on reality television’s The X Factor.
“They were the biggest,” continues Conor. “They were known globally and they sold so many records and I think that their impact on this generation is something that we admire and want to emulate with our music.”
But they plan to make their own path to success when it comes to music. “I feel like we are trying to be ourselves,” explains Tutton. “We’re not really trying to be like One Direction per se. They’re all really just nice guys in general. So I think that just them as people would be something to model after.”
With no album out yet, IRL has six successful singles under their belt and have performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Good Morning America and MTV’s Total Request Live.
If there’s one thing they’re hopeful for, it’s making friends with Mendes.
“Sergio and I, we were at the AMA radio round-off walking around, and we walked in on Shawn doing an interview, and I was like, ‘We can’t look at him, dude. He’s going to know that we’re fans!” Conor told TigerBeat about their biggest “pinch me” moment. “I’m just trying to be his friend!” Tutton jokingly added.
Simon Cowell has a new boyband in town!
In the wake of the One Direction’s exit, the hit-making music mogul hopes to fill the void with teen heartthrobs PrettyMuch. The five-member American-Canadian pop group consisting of Brandon Arreaga, 18, Edwin Honoret, 19, Austin Porter, 21, Nick Mara, 21, and Zion Kuwonu, 19, were first formed by the famed producer in 2016 while they were pursuing solo careers. Ever since, they’ve been filling their social feed with dance and song covers, performing everything from Drake’s “Passionfruit” to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”
“Well, we all have similar interests,” said Kuwonu. “We all love Michael Jackson, and old school like Bell Biv Devoe and Boyz II Men…just that stuff. And then we all have our tastes. I like PartyNextDoor. I know Nick likes the Notorious B.I.G..”
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2018 has been quite the successful year for the group. In addition to releasing their self-titled debut EP in April, the band was nominated for three awards: Best Boyband at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, Push Artist of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards and Best Push at the MTV Europe Music Awards. Earlier in the year, they also toured with Khalid and released more recent singles, including the Ed Sheeran-penned "Summer on You" and “Solita” featuring Rich the Kid.
“The fans are the best,” Porter said about the group’s worldwide success. “The funniest thing was when we were leaving TRL. All the girls were at the barriers, and as soon as we got into the van the security guards were like, ‘All right, cool,’ and started moving the barriers. They just flood the van. They were pushing it.”
Most recently, PrettyMuch released their ninth single "Real Friends" to promote their upcoming Funktion Tour, which will span throughout North America in October and November. And hopefully they’re all on time for the shows.
“I missed our bus, and then I almost missed Jack & Jack’s too, but I made it,” Kuwonu told Billboard about a time he almost got stranded out on the road during their tour with Jack & Jack. “I cut off the bus with my Uber.”
CNCO is truly el major!
The five-member Latin-American boy band, which emerged in 2015 after winning Univision’s reality show La Banda, were mentored by coaches Ricky Martin, Alejandro Sanz and Laura Pausini and make young fans swoon with romantic ballads. Members Erick Colon, 17, Zabdiel De Jesus, 20, Christopher Velez, 22, Joel Pimentel, 19, and Richard Camacho, 21, sing in Spanish and fuse bachata, reggaeton and pop into their tracks.
“This new album is very different from our first one. It’s more mature,” Cuban singer Colón says of their self-titled sophomore effort, which dropped in April. “We are working really hard on it.” The band also hopes to record more in English and launch careers as actors in television and film.
Then self-titled CNCO, as well as their first album, Primera Cita (2016) debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums and the top 40 on the Billboard 200.
Having Ricky Martin as a mentor and being the opening act of his One World Tour in 2016 was crucial to their success. “Ricky has always been there. We are so grateful to him for believing in us,” Colón adds. “Thanks to Ricky and our fans we are where we are.”
The band recently announced their 2019 world tour, which kicks off on Jan. 24 in McAllen, Texas and travels through more than a dozen other cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Miami, before wrapping Mar. 2 in Orlando, FL.
But Colón says that their success has come with sacrifices: “There is a lot of hard work behind an artist’s life,” Colón has said. “It wasn’t all like we thought it would be.”
Still, their fans’ love knows no limits — some even hid in an air vent above their dressing room during a concert in Mexico City! — but the pressures of fame won’t break them. “You can do anything you want,” says Puerto Rican singer De Jesús, “you just have to be more careful doing it.”
Yet another boyband success story out of ABC’s Boy Band is four-piece pop-R&B group 4th Ave. Comprised of Mikey Jimenez, 19, Jaden Gray, 17, Camry Jackson, 20, and Marcus Pendleton, 18, 4th Ave came together as one after competing individually on the hit reality singing competition show.
“Fast forwarding to the end, once we found out we didn’t make that show’s band, Timbaland which is one of the Architects for the show came up to us four and said, ‘You guys need to be in a band, this is what the world needs,'” the boys told PEOPLE.
“We never thought that not making the show’s band would instantly lead right in to another opportunity,” they continued. “We literally travel the world together now, as brothers.”
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Shortly after the group launched officially in Jan. 2018, they instantly gained popularity after releasing their first single "XOXO," and then performed the song live at the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game.
“We are very much humbled and honored to be in the place that we are in today!” said the members of 4th Ave, who just wrapped up their first headlining tour, The Initiation Tour.
Jimenez is known as the “Heart Throb,” while Jackson is “Father,” Pendleton is “the Goofy One” and Gray “the Hilarious One.”
“The main thing that we do while being together, traveling, singing to fans and so much more is HAVING FUN TOGETHER!” They said. “We have love for each other and no one will ever be able to break our bond!”
And much like their peers, their fans are rabid!
“We were all in New York for the VMA’s, and one of the days off this young lady found out the hotel we were at,” the band recalls of their craziest fan encounter. “She went to the front desk and told them that she was our sister and we were locked in our room and she needed to get in ASAP. Luckily they already knew who we were so they didn’t believe her and told her that they would call our room to make sure!”
Next Town Down
Oh, the power of social media!
The formation of R&B boyband Next Town Down is as modern-day as it gets.
Chris Louis, 21, Leon Outlaw Jr.,16, Terence Thomas, 23, Malik Knighten, 19, and Tre’Von Waters, 22, banded together through social media after following one another and liking each other’s photos. After finding out they had a mutual love for legendary bands like New Edition and Boys II Men, they decided to share their collective talents with the world. Many FaceTimes, HousePartys, Skypes and text messages later, all five members moved to Los Angeles and hopped right into the studio.
“We met and once we met each other in person, finally, rather than FaceTime, we knew like off rip,” Louis reminisced to BET.
With over 500K subscribers on their channel to date, the group’s YouTube video “Evolution of Boybands” went viral, generating millions of views on social media, and gained them a star-studded fanbase from Smokey Robinson and Boys II Men to *NSYNC and Mariah Carey. After Carey heard their rendition of her hit “Hero,” she invited them to perform during one of her Las Vegas shows.
“It’s been crazy and awesome,” Thomas previously told Jackson State University’s newspaper. “I always knew at a young age I would be doing something dealing with music. So this process has been amazing. It’s humbling.”