Music History

What Happens When a Boy Bander Isn’t a Boy Anymore?

Great question. Wondering Sound takes a look:

For most celebrities — hell, most people — the fear (or the realization) that you’ve peaked is relatively easy to avoid. It’s healthy, at least, to operate under the illusion that you are still moving uphill: There are horizons left, and green lights, and more money, and the sex of your dreams. But the very nature of the boy bander seems to indicate a certain priority — fame, adoration — and also preclude an upwards trajectory after the age of, say, 20. What happens when the New Kids become the old kids? What happened to everyone else in *NSYNC?

Boy banders don’t transcend their beginnings except in the cases of spectacular instinct (Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake) or total change of market (Ricky Martin), and by definition they can never have second acts as boy banders: baby-faced ciphers luxuriating in the glow of whitewashed, nonthreatening masculinity and hamming it up through a choreographed routine. And, by nature of their category, these guys have been super fucking famous by the time they’re old enough to vote. They’ve had hundreds of stalkers, their faces covered in cutout letters and pink kisses; today they get whole oeuvres of fanfic, typed with the non-masturbating hand.

Boy banders peak early, and they peak obviously, and they peak hard. So what are they supposed to do on the downswing? Why are we so sure that they will fail?

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38519 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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