Maybe It's Time to Retire the Term "Boy Band"

Photos by Jack Gorman (unless indicated)
The real stars of last Friday's One Direction concert
One week ago today, tens of thousands of Houston's biggest One Direction fans -- most of them accompanied by their parents -- flocked to the gates of NRG Stadium, toting signs, glow sticks, and homemade T-shirts. It was strange to realize that only 13 years ago, I was on my way to watch 'NSYNC perform on their PopOdyssey Tour at the Astrodome, now run down and dwarfed by its newer neighbor.

What was even more surreal, however, was realizing that though the Dome is a monster, its capacity would have never been large enough to house the crowds hoping to catch a glimpse of the world's biggest act on their current tour. Then or now, it's not likely that any other band would have been able to pull the same size crowd.

Then again, a lot has changed for pop music in the last decade.

REWIND: One Direction at NRG Stadium, 8/22/2014

For starters, the term "boy band" seems to have disappeared right along with the popularity of millennial acts such as 'NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. Instead, the men of One Direction -- Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson -- have redefined what it means to perform alongside one another as a musical act.

In fact, they would prefer the term "boy band" not be associated with them altogether. But that would require music critics, fans and non-fans alike to truly look at One Direction from a critical standpoint and recognize the impact these five men have had on music and pop culture since their breakthrough.

Though their critics might disagree, One Direction have found a way to break the mold since forming four years ago on Britain's The X Factor, by not only surpassing their predecessors, but throwing the boy-band and pop-star rulebook out the window. And honestly, it's working quite well for them.

After witnessing how fans react to the likes of Katy Perry or Backstreet Boys, you realize just how much these acts pale in comparison. Sure, all three artists are hit factories in their own right, but girls seem to lose their proverbial shit over One Direction. Each night it seems like they're walking into a reenactment of the Beatles performing at Shea Stadium in 1965.

But despite their popularity, One Direction act so humble that it doesn't seem quite real -- not just to their fans, but as human beings in general. It's easy to brush off how many times they thank the crowd, or how they take time to address the crowd one by one, but last Friday the men of One Direction refrained from blanket statements that felt cheap and robotic.

Story continues on the next page.

Location Info


NRG Stadium

1 NRG Park, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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Jodi Andrason Zwang
Jodi Andrason Zwang

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This may be the first time I've seen someone recognize how much of One Direction's appeal lies in their direct interaction with fans. They have a massive stage that they spend nearly two exhausting hours running all over just to get close to as many fans as possible. Harry Styles makes eye contact and interacts with everyone whose eyes he can find. They make a sold out 60,000 seat stadium feel like a small venue. Not to mention their interactive social media presence and their quiet but constant work with charity groups. This is why One Direction is so beloved, not because we all think "Midnight Memories" is the new "Abbey Road".

I used to dismiss them as being just a boy band--and I have a lot of experience as a boy band fan--but being a One Direction fan is a very different experience. Their fans are smart, talented, critical people, with a wide range of demographics that surprised me. It's definitely taught me a lesson about giving something a chance before I decide it is not worth my time.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Sigh.  A little google research would've taught you that boy bands are nothing new.  The 60's had the Jackson 5 and The Monkeee's.  The 70's had The Osmond's.  80's had Menudo and New Kids on The Block...

Were you unaware of these boy bands?

Believe me, I was in High School when New Kids were all the rage.  They were awful.

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