I Don't Know Why I Hated Boy Bands So Much as a Teen

I can't remember the moment I decided to quit liking Hanson, but I remember it was a decision I made in an effort to be "cool."
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Claire Lower
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I can't remember the moment I decided to quit liking Hanson, but I remember it was a decision I made in an effort to be "cool."

I'm ashamed to say it, but as a young, awkward, not-very-cool teen, I was a complete dick about music, particularly when it came to the subject of "boy bands." I partially blame High Fidelity, but I mostly blame my father who — in addition to being the person who introduced me to High Fidelity — has always been a complete snob.

In fact, if I could go back in time, I would go back to the mid-nineties, find snotty pre-teen Claire, and tell her to let Melissa and Tiffany listen to N*SYNC without the insufferable commentary. I would also tell larval-me that there is nothing inherently wrong with being a teenage girl with teenage girl likes and interests, and maybe show her that "cool girl" passage from Gone Girl, because holy heck, baby Claire would have really benefited from that.

I don't remember the moment I decided to quit liking Hanson, but I remember it was a decision I made in an effort to be "cool." I remember being unabashedly excited to buy their cover issue of Seventeen magazine, and then I remember being disappointed that I "couldn't like them anymore." I'm not sure what happened in between, but some boy probably made a comment about how they were "just a boy band" and that their music was "for girls," with "for girls" being code for "silly and inferior in quality." (Though I quit listening to most of Hanson's music, I never quite listening to their Christmas album, Snowed In, as it is quite possibly the best Christmas album ever produced.)

In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of a boy band, it is loosely defined as "a vocal group consisting of young male singers, usually in their teenage years or in their twenties at the time of formation, singing love songs marketed towards young females. Being vocal groups, most boy band members do not play musical instruments, either in recording sessions or on stage, making the term something of a misnomer. However, exceptions do exist. Many boy bands dance as well as sing, usually giving highly choreographed performances."

Nothing in that definition is inherently bad or worthy of contempt — though some would argue that you can't be a "real, serious band" without musical instruments — but it's the "love songs marketed to young females" that people seem to stick on. Drawing the love of teenage girl seems to devalue the music somehow, even though most rock and popular music seems to be about acquiring, keeping, or losing the love of a young woman.

I've often said that I have "the musical taste of a grumpy 50-year-old man," but I don't. I have the music taste of horny teenage girl, just a teenage girl living in the 60's and 70's. Time changes how we view cultural phenomena, and people seem to forget that me the most enthusiastic early adopters and die-hard fans of the two most influential rock bands to ever exist (The Beatles and The Rolling Stones) were teenage girls. If you do a Google image search for "Beatlemania," you don't find photos of men or boys calmly and coolly enjoying this Very Serious and Important Music, but images of young women losing their ever-loving minds because they are experiencing magic on a visceral level. (The Jackson 5 is another boy band teenage girls adored. Seriously, teenage girls know what's up.)

The truth is, besides intense love of '60s and '70s rock, there was nothing remarkable or remotely cool about my pre-teen/teenage taste in music. For example, I loved Matchbox 20's first album and also went through a very intense Barenaked Ladies phase.

I thought preferring Third Eye Blind to N*SYNC made me much cooler than my contemporaries, but it's safe to say that Justin Timberlake's cultural influence greatly outshines that of Stephan Jenkins. (I'm still obsessed with 3eb's self-titled, though, and will be until the day I die.) Not liking N*SYNC, or the Backstreet Boys, or Hanson didn't make me "cool." 

In fact, I'm not even sure if I ever gave them a fair chance. I remember watching the Backstreet Boys perform "I Want it That Way" on SNL with my mother, and she turned to me and said "I don't know why you hate them so much. They're just cute boys who sing well." I couldn't think of a reason then, and I can't really think of a reason now. They were just cute boys who sang well, and cute boys that sing well are a wonderful thing.  

Who were your favorite "boy bands" growing up? Do you still listen to them now? Were you a snotty little snob as a kid or was that just me? Have you heard Snowed In?