Topping charts and stealing hearts one song at a time, boy bands have steadily carved out their niche in pop culture by defining our adolescent soundtracks. Their songs are on our favorite throwback playlists, and many of us are desperately grasping onto tickets of postponed concerts for dear life. To tide you over, check out our top picks for the most impactful or promising boy bands of the 2010s!
- Why Don’t We
Pop boy band Why Don’t We definitely has big plans. The carefree quintet has released five EPs since its formation in 2016, spawning memorable hits such as “Trust Fund Baby” and “These Girls.” The band made waves with its 2018 debut studio album 8 Letters, which debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200. The group scored its first Billboard Hot 100 hit this October when “Fallin’ (Adrenaline)” debuted at No. 37, and with its sophomore album geared for release in January, it looks like Why Don’t We will be starting off the new year strong.
- Big Time Rush
“Boyfriend,” “Worldwide,” “Big Time Rush” — let’s be honest, this Nickelodeon masterpiece shaped an entire generation. Dramatics aside, Big Time Rush led one of the most popular tween television series of the 2000s, with the band’s most iconic singles releasing at the start of the decade on BTR. The boy band holds several Billboard 100 hits and a 2012 Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Music Group — if any reference to the KCAs doesn’t spark some kind of treasured memory within your psyche, then you truly missed out on culture’s peak. Ah ah uh-ah oh, sorry.
- Jonas Brothers
Few moments in music history are more iconic than the Jonas Brothers’ 2019 comeback. After embarking on adventurous solo careers, the beloved brothers finally reunited in 2019 with their upbeat No. 1 hit “Sucker” from their album Happiness Begins. But long before entering the mainstream music headlines, the trio starred as Connect 3 in the iconic “Camp Rock” movie series more than 10 years ago. The brothers began releasing music and touring following their Disney Channel fame, earning a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2009. Over a decade later, one thing is still true: We’ll always be suckers for the Jonas Brothers.
- The Vamps
After posting a cover of One Direction’s “Live While We’re Young” on YouTube in 2012, the four teenagers now known as The Vamps found themselves rocketing to fame. Soon opening for stars such as Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, R5 and Little Mix on tour, the charismatic British pop rock boy band climbed the charts with ease. The Vamps are perhaps best known for their popular 2014 Demi Lovato collaboration “Somebody to You,” but five studio albums later, The Vamps have truly proven what they’re capable of. With their latest work Cherry Blossom excelling as easily their best yet, The Vamps are continuing to pave the way for pop.
This R&B/hip-hop collective, self-titling as a boy band, seemed to disappear at the end of 2019 — bar a Ginger revival due to “Sugar” gaining quick popularity on TikTok. Attempting to redefine the boy band template, Brockhampton spent a fleeting moment of the latter 2010s exploring modern R&B while developing individual personalities for fans to swoon over and steal fashion inspo from. The group has had its grave missteps, particularly surrounding the expulsion of a former member following sexual misconduct allegations. Since said member’s departure, Brockhampton has released some of its most honest, laid-back tracks to date; fans can only look forward to what tricks the group might pull out next.
- 5 Seconds of Summer
Australia’s 5 Seconds of Summer took the world by storm around 2013, when the band opened for One Direction’s Take Me Home tour. Starting off as more of a radio-friendly pop punk group, 5SOS truly began to make us question what a boy band looks like. The members play their own instruments and aren’t particularly choreographed, but their punky boyish charm stole the hearts of fangirls everywhere looking for something different. Now, the band has established a pop rock sound of its own, distancing more from the traditional boy band definition but nonetheless keeping fans tethered to its suave aesthetics.
BTS is undeniably one of the biggest boy bands today. Always in tune and in sync, the genre-bending South Korean septet rose to prominence in the early 2010s with its polished style and unmatched stage presence. The group’s well-deserved global recognition has earned it eight hits on the Billboard Global 200 in 2020 alone, and the band has also earned an incredible four U.S. No. 1 albums in less than two years — the fastest group to do so since The Beatles. Also known for its philanthropy and open discussion of social injustice and mental health, BTS has proven that it’s far more than your standard boy band.
- One Direction
Being a fan of One Direction while the group was on “The X Factor” was like watching Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel — that goes without explanation. From “What Makes You Beautiful” to “Perfect,” One Direction, or 1D, kept fans heart-eyed with music that matured at seemingly the same rate as teenage listeners’ tastes. But it wasn’t just the music that drew fans in: The spectacle surrounding the boys’ quirks, international appearances and anti-boy band aesthetics broke barriers for early pop music. And like most any fandom, 1D fans built a community around these silly but nonetheless talented frontmen.
These memories, dear reader, are what keep boy band veterans tethered to those cherished throwback playlists, tour T-shirts and the occasional full-sized cardboard cutout. No further questions.
Honorable mentions: The Wanted, Mindless Behavior, JLS, Rixton, PRETTYMUCH, CNCO
Contact Taila Lee at [email protected].