Loving a boy band, though one of the most natural sensations in the world, requires acknowledgment and dismissal of public perception that degrades such obsession. Outside of individual fandoms, boy bands are often derided for their “manufactured” nature, for their “formulaic” love songs, for their “hysterical” young and female audience. It’s fucked up. It also means that when those beautiful boys croon about dry-humping or actually doing the deed (One Direction fans know what’s up), boy band ballads are written off as sexless. One listen to songs like the Wanted’s “Glad You Came” or O-Town’s “Liquid Dreams,” though, proves that boy bands have always had an interest in sex. *NSYNC’s “Digital Get Down,” a b-side from the group’s No Strings Attached—one of the best selling albums of all time—took Y2K-era cybersex head-on. There are countless other examples, all of which are worthy of your candle-lit bath time.
In writing my first book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS, out today, I quickly realized that the boy band story requires filling in a lot of gaps in popular music canon. Music history hasn’t been very kind to the interests of young women, which are more often than not written off as being foolish and feminine as if those words are synonymous with one another. When it comes to conversations about sex—beyond the dated image of the Beatlemaniac tossing her pants on stage—you can forget about it! It doesn’t make a lot of sense, because boy bands make horny tunes just like the rest of pop music, and it’s high time to give credit where credit is due.
Below is a very lustful boy band playlist, with songs ranging from sweet crush anthems (so, coded carnality) to outright horned-up hits. If you’re interested in learning about the evolution of boy band music, it’s structured mostly chronologically, spanning the last 50 years. It’s sexy and educational, which is my preferred way of learning. (Also, if you’re interested in learning more, this playlist doubles as supplemental listening for my book.) Happy listening!