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50 Greatest Boy Band Songs of All Time

From the Monkees to 1D: pre-fab pop’s most scream-worthy songs

'N Sync, The Osmonds and Backstreet Boys

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Irresistibly catchy, unapologetically inauthentic, sexy and they know it — the boy band is the most fabulously pre-fab of all musical outfits. From the scripted TV shenanigans of the Monkees to the surprisingly grown One Direction, as long as there are junior high school notebooks to deface, there will be outfits providing pop spectacle in its purist, least filtered form.

In deciding the right stuff for a list of the 50 greatest boy band songs, we had to exclude bands that weren’t sufficiently svengali’d (apologies to Hanson and 5 Seconds of Summer — you kept it too real) and avoided acts too close to the Motown vocal group tradition (Boyz II Men, All-4-One and even Color Me Badd just seemed too much like our old 45s). What remains is a plethora of sugary delights from Eighties malls, Nineties Total Request Live playlists, contemporary X-Factor seasons, our Korean pop future and more. Check out the list below, and click here to listen to a playlist of all the songs.

Seo Taiji & Boys

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 20: Seo Tai-Ji attends his 9th album "Quiet Night" press conference at Grand Intercontinental on October 20, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by ilgan Sports/Multi-Bits via Getty Images)

ilgan Sports/Multi-Bits via Getty Images)

36

Seo Taiji and Boys, “Nan Arayo (I Know)” (1992)

Seo Taiji and Boys are credited for helming the shiny, explosive, fabulously pre-fab Korean pop scene that we know today, kicking everything off with their game-changing 1992 debut single, "Nan Arayo (I Know)." The track blended then-trendy American new jack swing with Korean lyrics to tremendous success, spawning a wave of similarly sounding boy bands and girl groups and establishing the scene's still-strong affection for multi-member outfits as opposed to solo acts.

Another Bad Creation

Motown Records

35

Another Bad Creation, “Iesha” (1990)

New Edition's Michael Bivins graduated from boy-band star to boy-band impresario when he discovered the Atlanta-based preteen quintet Another Bad Creation. "Iesha," the group's debut single, told the story of a playground attraction that turned into a Nintendo-and-cereal date. A pumping new jack swing beat, an awesomely meta sample of "Cool It Now" from Bivins' old band and an in-song moment of hype from Biv himself work alongside boastful raps and sugar-spun chorus.

LFO

LFO at the Macy's in New York, New York (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

34

LFO, “Summer Girls” (1999)

One of the biggest boy band accidents occurred with the massive success of "Summer Girls" by LFO, a.k.a. Lyte Funkie Ones. The song sounds like an Adam Sandler parody of pop hits: a bunch of nonsensical phrases strung together with only Abercrombie & Fitch as its through-line. "'Summer Girls' was all about a summer on the cape," now-deceased member Rich Cronin revealed of the song's origins back in 2005. "Inside jokes. I never thought that anyone besides my close friends would ever hear it." The silly single hit the Top 10 on the Billboard charts and led their debut album to double-platinum status. Though they didn't get the chance to "have a bunch of hits" like New Kids on the Block, "Summer Girls" is still one of the quirkiest flukes in the genre's history.

Bros

Bros At Radio One, London 01/01/1989 (Photo by Mark Baker/Sony Music Archive/Getty Images)

Mark Baker/Sony Music Archive/Getty Images

33

Bros, “When Will I Be Famous?” (1987)

The Surrey, England trio Bros epitomized the late Eighties Young Conservative air of steely determination: money, power and success at any cost. Twins Matt and Luke Goss, along with schoolmate Craig Logan, prioritized fame and fashion over brotherly bonhomie (the increasingly sidelined Logan quit, then sued the brothers). The mean streak in their lyrics, their distinctive crewcuts and bomber jackets, and their penchant for wearing Grolsch bottlecaps on their shoes made them ripe for parody and vitriol in the press. Former Pet Shop Boys manager Tom Watkins carefully ensured that this publicity didn't go to waste, and Bros became popular enough to acquire their own enormous army of teenage fans, the "Brosettes." Britain had seen nothing like it since the Bay City Rollers. "When Will I Be Famous?" is Matt's best attempt at emulating the squeals and grunts of his idol, Michael Jackson, but it's the Casio cowbell that serves as the instant timewarp back to 1987.

Menudo

CIRCA MID 1980s: Puerto Rican teen quintet "Menudo" pose in a hotel room for a mid 1980's portrait. Ricky Martin (bottom right) was a member from 1984-1989. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

32

Menudo, “Hold Me” (1985)

The Puerto Rican boy band infamous for their ever-rotating cast, Menudo was already on their 17th album (and second self-titled offering) by the time "Hold Me" crossed over to American audiences. The fizzy, infatuated track, with lead vocals by Robi Rosa, peaked at Number 62 on the Hot 100 in 1985, and its video — featuring Roba and his bandmates, including a young Ricky Martin — was briefly a staple on afterschool music video blocks like Nickelodeon's Nick Rocks. Rosa left the band in 1987, but he reunited with Martin in the late Nineties, co-writing Martin megahits "Livin' La Vida Loca" and "She Bangs."

TVXQ!

SAITAMA, JAPAN - MAY 26: TVXQ pose with the award at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2007 at the Saitama Super Arena on May 26, 2007 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

31

TVXQ!, “Mirotic” (2008)

"Mirotic" was one of the earliest singles from veteran K-pop act TVXQ! that established them as critically lauded recording artists in addition an existing role as a massive chart force. The fizzy electro-pop cut topped the charts in Japan, and helped the band's Mirotic LP win at that year's Golden Disc Awards, Korea's closest equivalent to the Grammys. The song also had its share of controversy: The Korean Commission of Youth Protection initially deemed the "I got you under my skin" hook as "lewd," requiring its accompanying EP to have parental advisory stickers; and the single couldn't be aired on television earlier than 10 p.m. The band's label, SM Entertainment, filed an injunction lawsuit and won.