What is a boy band? It clearly has to do with age. The Rolling Stones were in their early 20s when they recorded their first songs. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were each under 20. If the Motown-originated band does not qualify, what band does?
The original boy band in the modern sense might well have been the Beatles, who were aged 17 to 20 when they got together. Their success inspired the emergence of the first “manufactured” boy band, the Monkees, who were created for a TV sitcom, though they went on to have hit records of their own. Many of the boy bands that followed were created and packaged by a manager or music business executive.
The Monkees were preceded by a few years by the Jackson 5, out of which came one of the 20th century’s biggest music stars, Michael Jackson. They were soon followed by the Osmonds, which began as a family barbershop quartet. Both were undeniably boy bands, though nobody called them that in that era.
To determine the most popular boy band of all time, 24/7 Tempo began by defining a boy band as a group consisting of three or more male members who were teenaged when the band formed and primarily vocalists, and the band’s creation and development were largely guided by a manager or music business executive.
Next, we developed an index based on lifetime Billboard chart performance and certified record sales. A custom score representing a band’s total time on the Billboard Hot 100 and 200 charts was calculated through January 15, 2022, wherein a week at number one on the Hot 100 is worth 100 points, a week at number two worth 99 points and so on, up to a week at number 100 worth one point. Certified U.S. album sales come from the Recording Industry Association of America. Both measures were equally weighted. Data on each group’s biggest song comes from Billboard.
The most popular boy band of all time was Backstreet Boys. Here are the details:
- Certified U.S. album sales: 37 million
- Billboard Hot 100 performance: 18 songs (318 weeks total)
- Biggest song: “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” (number two for two weeks)