Happy Friday! Welcome to a special edition of an occasional segment I’m putting together called The Friday Forty. Consider it a definitive list on all sorts of music-related topics (and much better than those VH1 lists!)
With newer boy bands all over the charts and older boy bands reuniting one after the other, I give you the list of the top 40 boy bands of the past 25 years as tabulated by myself. You may call them man bands or R&B groups, but in the end, these youngsters all comprised boy bands that we listened to on the radio or saw in concert. Rankings were based off of CHR airplay peaks from Radio & Records and Mediabase 24/7, and additional points were added in for #1 songs and main-credited solo or duo hits. Entries were not counted prior to January 1988, so some groups may not have their entire chart life counted. Also, worldwide success is not factored into this list; it’s solely U.S.-based data. With all that said, let’s get the chart started.
Just missing the top 40 are 3T, Boyzone, Brother Beyond, Dru Hill and Immature.
40. THE BOYS (One entry)
(Biggest hit: “Dial My Heart”, #16 in 1989)
39. H-TOWN (One entry)
(Biggest hit: “Knockin’ Da Boots”, #15 in 1993)
38. PERFECT GENTLEMEN (One entry)
(Biggest hit: “Ooh La La (I Can’t Get Over You)”, #13 in 1990)
37. WESTLIFE (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Swear It Again”, #21 in 2000)
36. THE CLICK FIVE (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Just The Girl”, #17 in 2005)
35. 5IVE (Three entries)
(Biggest hit: “When The Lights Go Out”, #15 in 1998)
34. 112 (Three entries)
(Biggest hit: “Peaches And Cream”, #15 in 2001)
33. TAKE THAT (One entry, plus two solo by Robbie Williams and one by Gary Barlow)
(Biggest hit: “Back For Good”, #9 in 1995)
32. SOUL FOR REAL (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Candy Rain”, #21 in 1995)
31. JAGGED EDGE (Three entries)
(Biggest hit: “Where The Party At?” [featuring Nelly], #11 in 2001)
30. ANOTHER BAD CREATION (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Iesha”, #21 in 1991)
29. MINT CONDITION (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)”, #10 in 1992)
28. BIG TIME RUSH (Three entries)
(Biggest hit: “Music Sounds Better With You” [featuring Mann], #26 in 2012)
27. JOE PUBLIC (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Live And Learn”, #2 in 1992)
26. NEXT (Three entries)
(Biggest hit: “Too Close”, #6 in 1998)
25. SOULDECISION (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Faded”, #6 in 2000)
24. SILK (Two entries)
(Biggest hit: “Freak Me”, #3 in 1993)
23. B2K (Four entries, plus two solo by Omarion)
(Biggest hit: “Bump, Bump, Bump” [featuring P. Diddy], #3 in 2003)
22. THE WANTED (Three entries)
(Biggest hit: “Glad You Came”, #1 in 2012)
21. NO MERCY (Three entries)
(Biggest hit: “Where Do You Go?”, #3 in 1996)
Out of New York City, this quintet scored a #12 hit in early 1997 with “No Diggity”, which featured Dr. Dre. They remained hot on the R&B scene and scored two other top-40 hits on the pop survey, the last of them in 1999. They disbanded shortly afterwards, then came back for an album in 2003 before calling it quits again. Several members went onto solo success and hit records as a member of other groups.
19. NEW EDITION
After parting ways with Bobby Brown, the group managed a #8 peak with “If It Isn’t Love” in 1988 and three charting singles from a reunion in 1996. Solo efforts by Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant were included in the total, though Brown’s solo efforts were not since he had left. If the countdown encompassed all of their releases, the group would’ve ranked much higher.
18. BELL BIV DEVOE
Speaking of New Edition, this side project by Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe was an instant success in 1990, with back-to-back top tens “Poison” and “Do Me!” Two other minor singles followed before the three took a break, eventually reuniting with their old band in 1996. They still perform together as a trio.
From Boston, the Lyte Funky Ones scored a big summer single with 1999’s appropriately titled “Summer Girls”. Of their six singles to make the airplay chart, “Every Other Time” was their biggest, reaching #10 in 2001. Though they attempted a comeback in 2009, it fizzled quickly. Lead singer Rich Cronin passed away in 2010.
These three Brits had a breakthrough in 2000 when they reached #8 with their first and biggest single, “Back Here”. Three other top-40 hits followed, the last one coming in 2002. All three members pursued music in some form after the band’s breakup, most notably Christian Burns, who took a solo dance route and Stephen McNally, who fronts a band called 10 Reasons To Live.
15. JONAS BROTHERS
With Disney aiding their career, these three brothers from New Jersey took the charts by storm in 2007 and accumulated four top-40 hits within a year. “Burnin’ Up” remains their biggest song, hitting #12 during the summer of 2008. Their last entry to date in 2009 brought their total to five, but the band is planning to release a new album this year. One minor solo single for brother Joe Jonas, “See No More”, is added into their total.
The four men of this group all went to college together in Washington, D.C. and after passing on a demo tape to a local disc jockey who got it on air, their song blew up and became one of the only all a cappella singles to make the top 40: “If I Ever Fall In Love”, from 1992, reaching #3. Another single, “Baby I’m Yours”, hit the same position in 1993. After four pop hits, they charted several other songs on the R&B chart until 1996.
Hey, hey, they’re not The Monkees, but this quintet formed on ABC’s Making The Band in 2000. Their first of five singles, “Liquid Dreams”, became a minor entry in early 2001, but it was their follow-up, a big ballad called “All Or Nothing”, that launched them into the #1 spot at CHR radio. They last hit the top 50 in 2003. One solo release by Ashley Parker Angel, “Let U Go” from 2006, is included in their total.
Hailing from California, this quintet has the distinction of releasing three covers in a row, which all went top three: in chronological order, the #2 “So Much In Love” (The Tymes) from 1994, followed by the #1 “I Swear” later that year and the #3 “I Can Love You Like That” in 1995 (both by John Michael Montgomery.) After an original song tanked in 1996, they were done on pop radio, and were dropped a few years later. They’ve been between labels since, with some small AC and R&B singles every few years.
When two groups of brothers got together in North Carolina, their soulful sound gave them a string of pop and R&B hits. Taken under the wing of then-executive P. Diddy, the quartet put three singles from their debut album, Forever My Lady, into the top 40. It wasn’t until 1993 that they attained their only top ten hit, a live version of “Lately” from MTV Unplugged. It peaked at #6. After one more top-20 single in 1994, the group’s crossover success was done, but brothers K-Ci & JoJo made their mark several years later with songs like 1998’s “All My Life” (#2). Four of their singles were mixed into the total.
…and now, for the top ten boy bands on the chart.
10. TONY! TONI! TONÉ!
Oakland’s finest had been working on records for several years before they finally made it onto the pop survey in 1990 with the #15 “Feels Good”, from their album, The Revival. The trio had their greatest success in 1993 when they mixed new jack swing and soul on their #2 hit, “If I Had No Loot”, which was a followed by a slower song, “Anniversary”, which topped out at #5. After one more top-40 hit in 1994 and a minor entry in 1996, Raphael Saadiq left the group, but they still continue on today with a replacement singer. He’s seen some minor R&B hits, but a whole lot of critical success. He’s even currently appearing in a car commercial. The group hasn’t recorded any new material since the 90’s.
Five friends from Texas came together in 1989, got signed to Jive Records, and I’m sure there were high-fives all around. The group only managed to place four songs onto the airplay chart, the fewest of any act in the top tier of this list, but the first three all went top ten: 1991’s “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)” (#2) and “I Can’t Wait Another Minute” (#9), plus 1992’s “She’s Playing Hard To Get” (#4). After an additional top-20 single the next year, the quintet scored several other moderate R&B hits before disbanding shortly afterwards. Lead singer Tony Thompson died in 2007. They band returned in 2012 with new members and a self-released single, but it failed to chart.
08. ONE DIRECTION
Surprised to see them so high? The five boys who came together on the U.K. version of The X Factor in 2010 have a made a significant mark on the charts in just under a year in the States. Both their debut album Up All Night and second release Take Me Home entered at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart last year. Only one of their radio releases has gone top ten, however: “What Makes You Beautiful”, which peaked at #4 last June. Yet, each of their four followup releases have gone top twenty, and this has all happened within ten or eleven months. They’re huge. They just released a Comic Relief cover of Blondie‘s “One Way Or Another” this week. Unsurprisingly, it’s a smash. They’ll be around for a while.
Take three brothers from Texas, given them six letters to play around with, and what do you get? A blockbuster hit. “Mmmbop”. It spent nine weeks at #1 from May to July 1997, and though radio wanted to get rid of it as quickly as they DJs put it on the air, you can’t help but recognize it as one of the key tracks that led to the growth of bubblegum pop in the late 90’s. The group had four top-40 hits following it, but not one matched the peaks that their biggest single rose to. (“Where’s The Love?” did hit the top ten, however.) After seven airplay entries ending in 2004, the boys are still together today recording on their own independent label.
06. 98 DEGREES
Things were just heating up with this four-man group from Ohio when their first single, “Invisible Man”, went to #10 in 1997. It wasn’t until 1999 that the group did considerably well on the teen circuit with songs like the #4 “The Hardest Thing” and the #5 “I Do (Cherish You)”. They reached their commercial peak by 2000 with Revelation and their last top ten, “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” (#7) before their airplay and sales fell off quickly the next year. After the band broke up, Nick Lachey famously married Jessica Simpson, did a reality show, divorced, and wrote a whole album of breakup songs called What’s Left Of Me in 2006. The title track went to #5 and a followup to #25, both included in their total. The quartet is back together and releasing 2.0 in May on eOne Records.
05. COLOR ME BADD
Discovered by Robert Bell of Kool & The Gang, the quartet based out of Oklahoma made a name for themselves beginning in 1991 with the #2 single “I Wanna Sex You Up”, featured in the film New Jack City. The group has eight top ten singles to their credit, including one #1, “I Adore Mi Amor”, and another #2, “All 4 Love” (1992). After a failed album in 1998 that gave them their last of ten airplay charters, the group disbanded, but most went onto solo projects. The most successful of them, Sam Watters, produced and wrote/co-wrote singles for Anastacia, Jessica Simpson and Natasha Bedingfield. The three other members recently reunited and are looking to put out new music this year.
04. NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
After his success with New Edition, producer Maurice Starr decided to try his luck with a caucasian version of the band, originally signed as Nynuk before changing their name. Sales were slow to start, but after 1988’s “Please Don’t Go Girl” became a national top ten hit, the group hit superstardom. In 1989, they placed six songs into the top 40, including #1’s “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” and “Hangin’ Tough”. Step By Step and its title track soon followed in 1990, but after a backlash and accusations of lip syncing, the five members parted in 1994 after ten hits. After a reunion in 2008 which brought in two other top-40 entries, the New Kids plan on releasing an album in April called 10 before going on tour. Two solo singles apiece by Joey McIntyre and Jordan Knight also boosted their ranking.
Formed by Lou Pearlman in the mid-1990’s, they invaded Europe before capturing the hearts of millions of girls in the United States in 1998 with songs like “I Want You Back” and “Tearin’ Up My Heart”, both #5 hits. By 2000, they had hit their full potential with a huge #1 single for ten weeks, “Bye Bye Bye”, followed by “It’s Gonna Be Me”, which spent six weeks at the top. It propelled parent album No Strings Attached to 2.4 million copies in sales in its first week alone, a record which will likely never be beaten. Celebrity followed in 2001 with three additional top ten hits, bringing their total of top-40 hits to 11 before they broke apart in 2002. JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake pursued solo careers; the former has two top-40 singles to his credit, and the latter has eleven main credits (which are all included in the group’s total.) Timberlake’s also acted in several movies, including The Social Network.
02. BOYZ II MEN
After looking up to New Edition all their lives, this quartet from Philadelphia got their big break in 1989 when the members of Bell Biv Devoe heard them at a local tour stop and were impressed. Michael Bivans eventually agreed to manage the group, leading to their 1991 debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, and the #5 smash “Motownphilly”. They were an overnight success, scoring three other top five singles by the end of 1992. They were perhaps best known for their songs that struck around for a while at the peak of the pop chart, even when the overall speed of the survey had a quick turnover. “End Of The Road” was #1 for six weeks in 1992, the same amount of time “On Bended Knee” stayed at the top in 1994 and into 1995. However, it was their duet with Mariah Carey, “One Sweet Day”, that managed the longest run at the top spot: eight weeks, from December 1995 to February 1996. Their last minor charting single came in 2000 and after a run of thirteen top-40 hits, they were finally done. They group downsized to a trio several years ago and made a few albums of cover songs. Their last original studio album, Twenty, came out in 2011.
01. BACKSTREET BOYS
Well, we’ve come to the cream of the pop, the top-ranking boy band of the latest twenty-five years based on airplay data. Another of Lou Pearlman’s acts, the quintet based out of Florida officially began their journey in 1993 and released their first single in the U.S., “We’ve Got It Goin’ On”, in the fall of 1995. It just dented the CHR top 40. After finding incredible success in Europe, the Boys gave it a second go in the States and produced a #2 hit in 1997’s “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”, the first of ten consecutive top ten hits from the group. In that impressive chain, two number one singles: 1999’s “I Want It That Way” and 2000’s “Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely”. Parent album Millenium sold 1.1 million copies its first week, a record at the time, and 9.5 million in its first year alone. Black & Blue opened with 1.6 million first week in the fall of 2000, but the singles had less of an impact on the charts and the album eventually sold less than half of what Millenium did. After going on a hiatus for several years, the band has put out several studio albums since 2005, but they clearly haven’t matched up in airplay or sales compared to their efforts at their peak. Nevertheless, they’ve been going strong as a group for twenty years now and have a total of 18 top-40 hits, and that’s something to be respected. They recently went the independent route for a Christmas single and plan to release new music in 2013. However, their legacy will always be their late 90’s hits, the videos, the TRL appearances, the pandemonium, etc. They truly deserve the #1 spot on the this list.
That’s going to do it for this Friday Forty. Hope you enjoyed this look back in boy band history, and let me know if I missed any along the way! Or, suggest a topic for the next Friday Forty! Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.