Are you a fan of boybands from the 1990s and 2000s? Have you ever wondered where the genre really began?
To understand the lineage of the genre, you’ll have to take a look at the 1980s. While boybands of this decade looked much different, they were fundamental to the genre’s later years.
The following boybands reigned supreme during the 1980s. It’s a safe bet that you know somebody who was listening to these groups during their heyday.
New Kids On The Block
Out of any other group, New Kids On The Block are perhaps the most influential boyband of the 1980s. This is the group that really made boybands into the types of groups we typically think of today.
Part of this is due to the fact that New Kids On The Block had a meteoric rise in popularity. Record labels were quick to try to cash in on the momentum by flooding the airwaves with other similar groups.
New Kids On The Block essentially started a trend, with strands that still exist in pop music today. There weren’t many teenage school girls who didn’t have a crush on one of the members of this group.
Today, New Kids On The Block still enjoys a massive following and has been quite active with releases and tours. They’re a frequent addition to any playlist that exclusively features 80s music.
Hall & Oates
You might not initially think of Hall & Oates as a boyband. However, in the 1980s, this group embraced all things pop music, and became quite successful in the process.
Some of the era’s biggest hits came from this group, which includes songs like Maneater, and, Private Eyes. Hall & Oates remain on regular rotation amongst classic hits radio stations.
Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without their tireless work and output in the 1970s. Unlike some of their contemporaries, Hall & Oates managed to stay incredibly relevant with the changing times.
Pet Shop Boys
The middle of the 1980s was dominated by electric synthesizer tones, with groups formed around the sound. It was the Pet Shop Boys, a group from the UK, that proved to be one of the most successful.
Their track, West End Girls, is an electronic pop masterpiece. Somehow, the song is able to provide an organic mysteriousness, despite being a song produced primarily with electronic instruments.
Pop groups formed around children have always been a thing, but they became more popular in the 1980s. The group, New Edition, is a classic example of this.
New Edition is perhaps known best for introducing the world to Bobby Brown. This would be the same Bobby Brown who would eventually marry Whitney Houston.
As far as hits go, Mr. Telephone Man is perhaps the biggest commercial success New Edition produced. It comes from the group’s 2nd album, which was highly acclaimed upon its release.
The sound of new jack swing started to emerge toward the end of the 1980s. This infused R&B with pop and hip-hop sensibilities, with groups like Guy at the forefront of the genre.
Guy had such an innovative sound for their time that their debut album was purchased over 1 million times. They also landed a song in the hit film centered around a pizza joint, Do The Right Thing.
A-Ha was one of the staples of the airwaves during the middle of the decade. This Norwegian pop group became extremely popular in the US, particularly because of the song, Take On Me.
This track features some fun and unforgettable synth lines coupled with some memorable vocal melodies. It’s hard not to sing along to the track’s highest pitch, even if your voice cracks in the process.
Michael Jackson wasn’t always performing as a solo artist. In fact, his entire family was in a group, which went through several name changes throughout time.
During the 1980s, The Jacksons were, more or less, a side project to Michael’s solo career. Despite this, the group had several hits, which include songs like, Can You Feel It, and, State Of Shock.
In 1983, heartbroken people were consoled with the lyrics of the Naked Eyes track, Always Something There To Remind Me. This is one of the most iconic songs of the decade, with musical stylings that would persist through the decade.
Ultimately, this would end up being the biggest hit that Naked Eyes would ever produce. However, chances are likely that the song’s success was enough to set each member up financially, for life.
Tony! Toni! Toné!
Tony! Toni! Toné! is a group that really found its stride in the early 1990s. However, their debut album in 1988 had the song, Little Walter, which propelled them to quick popularity.
Nevertheless, until the group disbanded in 1996, it remained quite popular. In fact, most consider their final album to be the greatest the group ever released.
Bell Biv DeVoe
It isn’t uncommon for members of groups to go on to form other groups within the same genre. Bell Biv DeVoe is a popular 80s boyband that features members of New Edition, including Bobby Brown.
This group helped to push the sound of new jack swing into mainstream popularity. They would eventually work with the producers of Public Enemy’s music to create their unique blend of hip-hop-infused pop.
Tears For Fears
There have been several colossal albums throughout history that involve a chair in some regard. In the 1980s, that album belonged to Tears For Fears, which contained the group’s biggest international hits.
Today, these hits, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, and, Shout, remain staples of pop culture. The group’s sound is largely associated with the synthesizer-heavy musicality and suave vocals of the era.
The 1990s pop charts experienced a massive rise in the popularity of Ricky Martin. But it was his stint in the 1980s Puerto Rican boyband, Menudo, that paved the way for his success.
Menudo was incredibly instrumental in the infusion of dance sequences mixed with group vocals. The group remained relatively popular well into the 1990s despite having multiple lineup changes.
Duran Duran is an English band that originally got its start at the tail end of the 1970s. This group probably isn’t typically considered a boyband, but they were a massive commercial success.
Songs like, Rio, and, Hungry Like The Wolf, helped to popularize the group’s sound into the era’s common genre nomenclature. The group even had the honor of producing a hit single theme song for a James Bond film in 1985.
Today, Duran Duran still enjoys a cult following and has been performing throughout 2022. They have also been recently voted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Dead Or Alive
Dead Or Alive is another group from the UK that experienced international acclaim during the mid-1980s. This boyband is usually recognized most for their track, You Spin Me Round (Like A Record).
Interestingly enough, this song is one of the few that has managed to top the charts in different decades. Thanks to reality TV, newfound popularity drove the song back on the charts in 2006.
The Jacksons weren’t the only musical family to come to popularity during the 70s and 80s. Another massively famous family is, undoubtedly, The Osmonds, who were eventually billed as the Osmond Brothers during the 80s.
There’s no debate that the group was more successful during the 1970s. However, their popularity transcended the 1980s, with members becoming pop culture celebrities in their own right.
As you can probably guess, the boyband phenomenon wasn’t limited to the United States. The end of the 1980s saw UK groups like Bros reign on the charts and gain a massive following.
Their biggest international hit was the song, When Will I Be Famous? This track allowed pandemonium to fuel a sell-out tour, with 14 shows selling out in under an hour.
While much of the decade’s songs tend to be homogenous, songs from groups like Madness really stand out. This UK group infused flavors of ska into a pop radio-friendly format.
Madness clearly tapped into the right formula because the song, Our House, remains insanely popular. A good part of this song’s success undoubtedly has to be because of its quirky and unforgettable chorus.
The 1980s saw anthemic music really come into play, and Our House greases all the right levers. Just about anybody can sing along after a minute of listening to the track.
Remember how we mentioned that it was commonplace for 80s boyband groups to consist of young children? The group, Musical Youth, is another prime example of this fact.
Musical Youth was unique in the fact that they were essentially a reggae band. Yet, the group had enough commercial power to appear to the masses as a boyband.
The song, Pass The Dutchie, is the biggest success that Musical Youth would produce, despite having a number of hits. They even received a nomination for the Grammy Award in 1985.
If you live in the US, you might not be all that familiar with the 80s boyband, Kajagoogoo. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you might have encountered their unique name somewhere out in the wild.
Kajagoogoo was actually an international success throughout much of Europe during the early 1980s. Their popularity would eventually become overshadowed by groups such as Duran Duran.
As you might guess by their name, The Boys are another popular 80s boyband with members consisting of children. This boyband of brothers began performing at a very young age, with some members having only been 5 years old.
Interestingly enough, The Boys essentially got their start by busking on the sidewalk. Word began to spread and they began performing larger gigs, eventually producing a string of mainstream hits.
It seemed as if George Michael was the heartthrob of many in the US during the 1980s. That just goes to show you how unbelievably popular Wham! was in the UK at the time.
Some accredit Wham! with bringing British music back to the US, much like The Beatles did in the 60s. The group certainly has its share of enduring hits to provide enough evidence for that kind of claim.
Ultimately, Wham! paved the way for George Michael to remain incredibly relevant throughout the 1990s. Wham! is generally considered to be one of the greatest UK music groups of all time.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Sometimes, controversy only fuels popularity, as everybody wants to figure out what is so bad about something. That very same philosophy can be applied to the massive hit, Relax, by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
The BBC banned the song upon release because they felt the song was a little too sexually suggestive. This certainly did not slow things down, as it’s one of the greatest songs of the entire decade.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood is one of the few groups to top the charts with their initial singles releases. Only the Spice Girls would take that record away from Frankie Goes To Hollywood in the 1990s.
Another group to ride the wave of the 2nd British Invasion was Thompson Twins. While they weren’t actually twins, this duo was dominating the charts in the UK during the early 80s.
Most people in the US are probably familiar with their song, Hold Me Now. The song would push the group’s album to sell millions of units worldwide, furthering their popularity.
Spandau Ballet danced onto the scene in the 1980s with their hip swagger and smooth crooner aesthetics. The 1983 song, True, is one of the most iconic songs to endure beyond the 1980s.
This track has the lush instrumental orchestration that much of the decade would come to be defined by. It’s still one of the most popular songs of all time and is frequently featured in films and TV shows.
Men At Work
Men At Work is an Australian band responsible for producing Australia’s biggest hit to date. In fact, the country has used the song as a theme song multiple times, despite its contrarian lyrics.
That song, of course, would be Down Under, which seems as popular today as it was back in 1981. Much of Men At Work’s previous catalog would then become popular on an international level after this hit.
Even if you’ve never heard a song from the 1980s, you’ve probably heard the name, Wang Chung. Those who are familiar know that the group created an anthem for going out and having a good time.
Wang Chung remains one of the greatest dance-pop boybands of the 1980s. This is another group often featured on nostalgic 80s playlists.
By far one of the biggest boybands ever is Culture Club, most readily-identified by its member, Boy George. This group is the epitome of what a pop group sounded like in the 1980s, as everyone copied their formula.
Have you ever heard Karma Chameleon for 10 seconds and gotten its lyrics stuck in your head for a week? You have Culture Club to thank for that gift, no matter how annoying it might be.
Of course, the group also produced gems such as Do You Really Want To Hurt Me. This track, while maybe a bit comical, was a smash hit when it came out in 1982.
With the androgynous features of Boy George, Culture Club created a musical movement. Upon seeing their success, other groups began to adopt the look for themselves.
Mr. Mister might have faded into obscurity, but their name remains extremely recognizable. This is one of those groups that you pull out when you need a good trivia question.
For the most part, Mr. Mister had a brief stint of radio chart dominance in the mid-1980s. Their biggest hit was Broken Wings, which was an elevating power ballad ever so fitting for the times.
Unfortunately, the band would never be able to increase their success any further. This is despite touring with some of the biggest names in pop at the time.
Ready For The World
Ready For The World is another group that became extremely obscure to today’s society. However, this group from Michigan was another pioneer of the new jack sound.
Their self-titled debut album charted quite well in both Canada and the US, with their next album following suit. Unfortunately, by the end of the decade, the group’s successes waned significantly.
The 1980s were a ripe time for musical duos, and Go West is yet another popular UK pop duo. Go West would eventually enjoy international success, with hits such as King Of Wishful Thinking.
Those in the US might be familiar with that track if they’ve seen the film featuring Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman. Believe it or not, the group also landed a track in Rocky IV (the one where Rocky fights in Russia).
Sure, you might not consider The Smiths to be a boyband. However, this pop group definitely had all of the aesthetics to push them into mainstream popularity.
With their iconic jangly guitars and suave vocals, The Smiths quickly became an international treasure. People still regard this 80s group as one of the best of all time.
Top 80s Boybands, Final Thoughts
As you can see, boybands weren’t always infusing dance routines into their performances. Much of the time, these early boybands from the 80s also played instruments, despite being a pop group.
Nevertheless, some of the music in this decade’s catalog of boybands have remained timeless. It isn’t an uncommon occurrence to hear some of these songs still being played on the radio today.
So, when you’re feeling nostalgic for the 1980s, it can’t hurt to listen to these groups. You’re bound to remember your favorite moments from the denim days of the 1980s.