Boy bands: style over substance or musical masters?

The Backstreet Boys.
The Backstreet Boys. Contributed

BOY bands are becoming increasingly popular, begging the question: is it about the music or the image?

With multimedia playing a huge part in musicians' promotions, shows such as X Factor, Australia's Got Talent, The Voice and Australian Idol also give talented individuals an advantage in the music industry.

Up-and-coming Adelaide band At Sunset has boomed in popularity since forming nine months ago.

The group consists of three boys - Harrison Kantarias, 20, (vocals and guitar), his brother Andrew Kantarias, 18, (vocals and keys), and best mate Jae Curtis, 20, (guitar and drums).

Andrew said he did not believe boy bands had changed much in the past 10-20 years.

"I think the concept's still the same,' he said.

"I think you put five (or however many) guys together and you sing as a group."

But the boys agreed that publicists put a lot into a band's image in today's culture.  

At Sunset band members Andrew Kantarias, Jae Curtis and Harrison Kantarias.
At Sunset band members Andrew Kantarias, Jae Curtis and Harrison Kantarias. Tom Huntley

"I think now the same target market applies to everyone," Harrison said.

"Whether you are classed as a boy band or guys in a band, I think image does say a lot.

"You need to keep up with the latest trends but at the same time you have to have your signature.

"There's no point going out there and trying to copy One Direction - I think it's more about going alongside them and providing something a little bit different."

Jae said image had always been important, but bands did put a lot of emphasis on image these days.

"You think back to the 80s and all those crazy outfits and stylists and stuff," he said. "Then you go 90s and there's freaky styling."

Since its first YouTube video clip, At Sunset has about 32,000 subscribers.

Local Gladstone resident, band lover and mother of two Andrea Kingsbury, 40, said definitely thought bands had an advantage today to promote their music through technology.

"Buying their music is also cheaper and easier with iTunes," she said.

"I suppose we would have had to save for a record when we were younger."

So does this say something about the quality of bands today?

"I think so," Mrs Kingsbury said.

"For the bands, when I was younger, I think for them to be able to make it, they really had to be talented and I think it took them a lot longer to get a bigger following. But I'm sure those bands today would disagree."

Mrs Kingsbury said kids' listening to music is great but she would like to see it not quite so prolific with swearing.

Her eight-year-old son Ronan said he loved boy bands but was careful when downloading certain songs.

"I know not to download the ones with the E (for explicit) next to it," he said.

Andrea Kingsbury with a good old fashioned CD.
Andrea Kingsbury with a good old fashioned CD. Tom Huntley

Boy bands' music has changed from manly to "love songs to girls"

BACK in her day, Young Talent Time was basically the only opportunity to showcase everyday talent across Australia.

Andrea Kingsbury, 40, grew up with a love of boy bands, rock bands and massive concerts in Brisbane.

Her love for Brian McFadden inevitably led her to follow Westlife for many years, along with Boyzone and similar bands.

The mum of two said Westlife had been one of her favourites growing up.

"Probably as they were able to dance," she said. "And the fact they were good-looking. Every girl's dream, I suppose."

Nothing much has changed in that regard, and Mrs Kingsbury believed a boy band's image was similar to what it was 10-15 years ago.

"They still like them to be attractive, young and fit," she said. "It just doesn't seem to fit the image if they're not."

In other aspects, though, Mrs Kingsbury has seen drastic changes within boy bands.

"Even if they were classed as a boy band, it was sort of a manly kind of group and heavy metal," she said.

"Whereas now, it's sort of love songs to girls. The sound is a little bit different. It's probably more computerised than what it used to be."

Also, the opportunities open to boy bands and musicians have today are more widespread, Mrs Kingsbury said.

For the bands, when I was younger, I think for them to be able to make it, they really had to be talented and I think it took them a lot longer to get a bigger following. But I'm sure those bands today would disagree.

"I think there's much more opportunity for kids these days. Just in the fact that they've got shows like The Voice, Australia's Got Talent and X Factor to get that sort of exposure.

"I think only Young Talent Time would have done that sort of thing back in our day."

The big question is: are these shows too much?

"I think there's some that probably would have found it hard," Mrs Kingsbury said.

"Like Susan Boyle - going from being a nobody to being all over YouTube and having this almost cult following.

"It's overnight and everything changes for them and if they're not able to deal with that, it must be really hard for them."

Despite that, she believes today's young bands have an advantage with the technology now available.

"They are much easier to follow now with all the technology.

"You've got Twitter and all those kind of things, whereas we just didn't have that back then."

Mrs Kingsbury's 20th-century kids are big fans of iTunes and have never had to save their pocket money to purchase a record, like she did as a child.

"I did get my records out to show the kids," she said.

At which point, her eight-year-old son commented: "That's a large DVD."

Tian Kingsbury listens to music on her iPod.
Tian Kingsbury listens to music on her iPod. Tom Huntley

Records? What are they?

ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Tian Kingsbury is a genuine boy band and pop artist fan.

And although the genre may have changed since her mum's days, Tian still has a fair idea of what makes a band successful.

The young teenager recently attended the Reece Mastin concert at the Gladstone Marina marquee and said it had been fabulous.

"It was so well done," she said. "He performed so well."

But deep down, Tian has a love of boy bands.

"I like boy bands because they're all jumping up and down and doing hearts to the crowds," she said.

Her favourite is Mastin's support act, At Sunset.

"I'd never heard of At Sunset before the concert but now I love them," she said. "They were so good. They sang really well. I did a heart and I got a heart back."

The next thing you might expect Tian to do is go out and buy their single on CD, but technology offers a faster, more effective solution.

"I've already bought them on iTunes," she said.  

Ronan Kingsbury checks out band photos on his iPad.
Ronan Kingsbury checks out band photos on his iPad. Tom Huntley

With iTunes, Tian can download all her favourite songs, depending on their rating. She now has "60 or 70" songs on iTunes.

"I had to delete some cause I got heaps," she said.

Tian thinks there has been a change in boy bands to the ones favoured by her mum.

"From having to buy CDs to just downloading them. Though their enthusiasm hasn't changed - they're still amazing to watch."

Without iTunes, Tian said she would buy CDs but without CDs, she seemed lost.

"The only way I know what a tape is, is from a movie."

Youtube and iTunes

  • YouTube and iTunes offer easy access for kids to download or watch all the latest video clips and top songs.
  • According to You Tube guidelines if people find something that offends them and violates the terms and use, the option to 'flag' the video is available.


Topics:  boy band entertainment music

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