The 11 Best UK Boy Bands Of The Past 25 Years: From Take That To One Direction

John Hamilton | October 10, 2012 5:30 am

With a blockbuster year nearly behind them (their platinum hit “What Makes You Beautiful” hit the top four, spawning a number one album and a sold-out tour) and new single “Live While We’re Young” burning up the airwaves, British boy-band One Direction remind us of one of pop music’s most enduring truths: the most compelling all-male pop groups often hail from Ol’ Blighty.

Certainly one could make an argument for Stateside superiority on the backs of such legends as NKOTB, Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, but how do those guys stack up against the lads of The Wanted, Take That and 1D? And more importantly, which ones would win in a fight over us? Peruse our Top 10 list of the UK’s cuddliest crooners below and tell us who you think comes out on top in the game of pop!

11. Boyzone: Okay, so this boy band was Irish, but that didn’t stop them from becoming permanent fixtures in the British charts! (And sorry, Westlife — Boyzone won the coin toss here.) They hit the Top 40 there 19 times, most famously with their panty-melting ballad “No Matter What.” Just ahead of their 2000 break-up, “cute one” Stephen Gately came out of the closet, while “older one” Ronan Keating went on to a hugely successful solo career.

10. The Wanted: One Direction’s fiercest rivals overtook them on the US charts earlier this year when the energetic “Glad You Came” topped out at #3 on the Hot 100, but their summery follow-up “Chasing The Sun” didn’t fare as well when it stiffed at #50. Think their next single “I Found You” has what it takes to put them back at the top?

9. Busted: The turn of the 21st century brought a whole new kind of boy band to the fore: Busted, the UK’s answer to successful American pop-punkers like Blink 182. These bad boys hit the scene with plenty of rude attitude and some out of control eyebrows, both of which helped propel them into the upper reaches of England’s charts.

8. McFly: Picking up where their punky peers in Busted left off, McFly blew up in the mid-aughts by broadening their sound to encompass more contemporary pop styles. Eight years into their career – a veritable lifetime for boy troupes – they’re still scoring top five hits in their native country, such as the dazzling “Shine A Light” featuring Taio Cruz.

7. East 17: These dance-rap hooligans set the ‘90s afire with a string of ravey pop hits and an uncharacteristically touching Christmas ballad, “Stay Another Day.” Years after their fortunes dwindled, they reunited for a trashy reality show, but we choose to remember them this way:

5 – 6. Bros/ Big Fun: Take a bunch of blonde pretty-boys, dress ’em up in torn jeans, turn on the sex and, voila: boy band! Despite their visual similarities, Bros and Big Fun were distinctly different from each other, each with their own talents, charms, and styles. Needless to say, we could never choose a favorite.


Big Fun:

4. 5ive: These athletic blokes scored a late-’90s US hit with the slammin’ “When the Lights Go Out,” proving yet again that the Brits could take the pervasive sound of the international music scene (in this instance, the Swedish-engineered pop-funk of Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Robyn, et al.) and give it their own distinct twist.

3. JLS: aka Jack the Lad Swing, who bring a much-needed dose of real R&B to the British pop scene. With five #1s under their stylish belts, JLS stand as one of the UK’s premier pop entities, as evidenced by the bizarrely brilliant sampling of “The Sound Of Music” in their chart-topping 2010 single “The Club Is Alive.”

2. One Direction: Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis continue to ride the American charts like a sleek Aston Martin, and it’s easy to see why: their singles combine the best of electronic dance-pop with — duh — cute guys whose ridiculous haircuts and intricate dance moves make audiences swoon. With “Live While Will Young” promising to beat the success of their previous singles, it looks like 2013 could be an even bigger year for the young quintet.

1. Take That: No one could have predicted the 20-year success of Take That — or that its cheeky members Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow would blossom into elder statesmen of UK pop — but with their last three albums hitting number one and several international tours selling out, it’s safe to say they’ve proven the haters wrong. And yeah, we know they’re all classy now, but the below 1991 video will always hold a Jell– splattered place in our hearts. Nice (naked) butts, boys.

Which of these boy bands did(/do) you swoon for the most? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!