Smart ladies love music, the best (and worst) in boybands 2012


I came of age in the last great era of boybands and couldn’t be more excited they have begun to make their rounds again. 2012 was the year of the boyband and I loved every minute of it. In the ever so poetic words of AJ McLean from the Backstreet Boys, “Boybands will never f*cking die.” Thank goodness for that because I’m hoping for only more boybands in 2013!

Before we get to 2013, though, here’s my list of the best of boybands in 2012. I’ve categorized everything by the most distinguishable elements of a boyband: their hair; their clothes; the hazards of their job; over the top performances; and the perfect boyband video.


90′s boybands were all about the butt cut and spiky triangle hair. Today it’s all about the quiff (bonus points if it’s to the side instead of straight up) and the douche swoop. I’m just thankful no one sports the Justin Timberlake ramen noodle hair anymore.


(from left to right) Danny, Zayn, Siva, and Joel

(from left to right) Danny, Zayn, Siva, and Joel

Danny Jones (McFly)

I know his hair is closer to a bouffant some days than it is a quiff, but this is my list. His hair deserves to be on a best of list considering how far it’s come from 2004.

Zayn “1 Stripe” Malik (One Direction)

I’m torn over whether or not he should be on the best of or worst of list. Best versatility, worst badger stripe.

Siva Kaneswaran (The Wanted)

There is no wind-related meteorological phenomenon that could get this guy’s hair to budge.

Joel Peat (Lawson)

Part-time quiffer, full-time hot stuff.

Most View-Obstructing Quiff of 2012: Siva Kaneswaran


(from left to right) Jay, Dougie, Louis, and James

(from left to right) Jay, Dougie, Louis, and James

Jay McGuiness (The Wanted)

Some days Jay has awesome hair, other days I think he styles it like he styles his clothes… while inebriated.

Dougie Poynter (McFly)

Dougie reverted back to a hairstyle he had nearly a decade ago and I don’t hate it.

Louis Tomlinson (One Direction)

Louis is the douchiest of the douche swoopers, but earlier this year he dropped the swoop in favor of an Elvis bouffant.

James Maslow (Big Time Rush)

I’m just glad he let his lady hair of last year go. I wasn’t sure if James was going on tour with his bandmates or getting in his minivan to pick up his kids from soccer practice.

Least Douchiest Boyband Swoop of 2012: Dougie Poynter

Most Regrettable Hair

(from left to right)

(from left to right) Kendall, Harry, Nick, Aston, and Liam

Kendall Schmidt (Big Time Rush)

Europe in the ’80′s called and they want their mullet back.

Harry Styles (One Direction)

How he pulls all of those cougars with this mess is beyond me.

Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys)

Long and greasy is not his best look. Thankfully he also cut his hair earlier this year.

Aston Merrygold (JLS)

It’s a good thing his abs are so pretty because his hair consistently needs something to distract away from it.

Liam Payne (One Direction)

A boyband member should never have locks this short unless he is Max George. He has nothing to put any hair gel in.

Most Likely to show up on a VH1 Countdown of Worst Boyband Hair in Ten Years: Harry Styles


In 1998, no boyband went on tour without their all white ensemble (and still don’t if they’re Backstreet Boys or New Kids on the Block. I think most groups are now lucky if they get everything coordinated close enough.

Leather Outfits

(from clockwise starting from top left) NKOTBSB, Tom Parker, Union J, JLS

(from clockwise starting from top left) NKOTBSB, Tom Parker, Union J, and JLS

Boybands wear leather or leather-accented outfits to show they aren’t just a bunch of pretty boys. They normally just end up looking like a bunch of pretty boys in leather, though.


Because nothing says badass like leather with rhinestones.

Tom Parker (The Wanted)

When he isn’t wearing his capri pants (and sometimes when he is) this boy will most likely be in his favorite leather jacket.

Hottest Girl In The World video (JLS)

When these guys aren’t running around scantily clad, they love to don their leather.

X-Factor Performance (Union J)

Leather-accented denim. Fun Fact: The Backstreet Boys did this look in their first video in 1995.

Most Coordinated Leather Outfits of 2012: NKOTBSB

Group Suits

(clockwise from top left) The Wanted, One Direction, JLS, Backstreet Boys, and McFly Suit Extravaganza

(clockwise from top left) The Wanted, One Direction, JLS, Backstreet Boys, and McFly Suit Extravaganza

The award show suit is essential. It should give each member a chance to express their own style while still being able to say “I belong with those boys next to me in the same color/pattern”. Unless you’re in McFly and then all of your suits match your bandmates’.

Backstreet Boys at the AMA’s

Get your sunglasses out because these are the shiniest suits in town.

The Wanted at the VMA’s

Because Nathan is in plaid, Max looks like he’s wearing cowboy boots, and Jay wore his swoopy hair with his v-neck.

McFly at every public appearance

Matching suits everywhere they go. I don’t hate it yet.

JLS as groomsmen Marvin’s wedding

Because boyband BFF’s at a wedding is precious. Bonus points because the wedding was at a palace that I have actually visited. (Also, Marvin’s wife Rochelle [of The Saturdays] announced she’s pregnant a few weeks ago and I have decided that it will be the prettiest baby ever.)

One Direction at the Brit Awards

These boys don’t go anywhere as a group without being coordinated. No one loves a color scheme more than them. And Harry Styles in a dicky bow.

Most Times Interviewed in Suits in 2012: McFly


(clockwise from top left) Big Time Rush, Brian NKOTBSB, Danny NKOTBSB, and JLS

(clockwise from top left) Big Time Rush, Brian NKOTBSB, Danny NKOTBSB, and JLS

No boyband tour is complete without the shiny ensemble. These groups have been getting creative, though. I was impressed with all of the different ways there are to make your outfit twinkle.


There wasn’t an outfit on this tour that didn’t get bedazzled.

4th Dimension Tour (JLS)

I am not even sure how to describe this get-up. Metallic football shoulder pads meet Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”.

Better With U Tour (Big Time Rush)

Hologram jackets? Bonus points for matching white pants

Best Use of Modern (bizarre shiny stuff) and Classic (matching white pants) Boyband Stagewear: Big Time Rush


(clockwise from top left) Donnie Wahlberg, JLS, Harry Judd, and Ryan Fletcher

(clockwise from top left) Donnie Wahlberg, JLS, Harry Judd, and Ryan Fletcher

It is important that at least one member of every boyband take his shirt off every chance he gets so that his fans aren’t denied his rippling abs. Any shirtless boyband member is also always sure to have the band of his designer underwear peaking out just above the top of his pants; you know just to leave something to the imagination.

Donnie Wahlberg (NKOTB)

Every night during the song “Covergirl” this man literally rips his shirt off and slings it into the audience.

All of JLS (JLS)

These boys are more about giving a sneak peek as to what they’re hiding underneath. Marvin’s wife once joked that he shows more skin on a night out than she does.

Harry Judd (McFly)

Harry was voted Attitude Magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Year which meant he had to pose on the cover in his underwear. He looked quite comfortable with it which leads me to make a few judgments I’m not quite comfortable sharing.

Ryan Fletcher (Lawson)

This boy loves a shirtless selfie.

Most Likely to be Only in Pants: Donnie Wahlberg

Hazards of the Job

Best Tabloid Story

Every member of The Wanted (The Wanted)

Tabloids - Jay McGuiness

No one loves a boozy night out more than The Wanted. Most of the pictures caught of them, though are Jay being drunkenly escorted by his friends, Tom making out with his girlfriend, and Nathan with his popstar BFF’s.

Harry Styles (One Direction)

Harry Styles & Caroline Flack

All of the lady cougars he drives around in his shaggin’ wagon.

AJ McLean (Backstreet Boys)

AJ McLean

He was caught by TMZ being pulled over by LAPD because they noticed a problem with his license plate. He tried to get out of the ticket by telling the officer he hadn’t time to renew everything because he had been on a world tour, nearly four months after he’d been home from the tour.

Max George (The Wanted)

Max George & Lindsay Lohan

All of the lovely things he says about his lady friends. Called his ex-girlfriend a prostitute. Upset with ex-fiancé who won’t give back the engagement ring. Referred to Lindsay Lohan as a “groupie” after she posted a picture of his sweatshirt that she thieved from him.

Zayn Malik (One Direction)

The Wanted and One Direction have been exchanging petty insults and banter through interviews and Twitter all year, but Zayn gave out the most original insult when he called Max “Chlamydia Boy” in a Twitter fight. When asked about it in an interview, Jay McGuiness said “I don’t think it was based on any facts, I think it’s sort of like when kids on playgrounds go ‘Poo-Breath!’ Rarely has that kid actually eaten feces.”

Most Likely to Have to Explain to His Mother That Not Everything Written About Him is True (but surely it is?): Every Member of The Wanted

Media Training

Judging by The Wanted’s interviews, (where they explain that sometimes they do actually keep the underwear thrown on stage) pictures, and videos (like when Jay made out with a fan on stage at a show as a reward for her victory in a beer chugging contest with Tom) that show up of these boys, they clearly disregard any filter boybands are typically trained to have as public figures. No one else even comes close for this nomination.

Interview Most Likely to Upset the Record Label: Perez Hilton interview with The Wanted
“I apologize for everything that’s about to happen.”


Boybands are known for their fanatical, stalkerish fanbases, but each always acknowledges that “their fanbase is the best in the world” and they love being chased by all the weirdos. For everyone’s pleasure, these fans channel all of their emotions and hormones on the internet.

Tyler Oakley – “How to Stalk One Direction

Tyler Oakley

“Oh my God. Here they all are shirtless and we’re allowed to look because they’re all 18.”

Real FanGirls – “We’re All Directionators Here”

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Louis.” “Louis who?” “Louis Tomlinson… but only in my dreams.”

Drag Direction Tumblr

A twenty-something girl who drinks rum and then photoshops the faces of One Direction onto women.

TW Cougars Twitter

“TW fans that are old enough to know better.”

NKOTB Cruise

I don’t even want to know what goes on in “DDub’s Backrub” hosted by Donnie Wahlberg.

BSB Cruise

(Yes, the last one was in 2011. It’s still my list and I do what I want.)

Butt massages with Nick Carter and beer pong with Howie D. Also, Kevin Richardson in a tux.

Most Effective Use of Fan Energy on the Internet: Drag Direction

Drag Direction

Being a Boyband

Because they were put together for their gravity-defying hair and because they fit the sparkly outfits, boybands spend a lot of time defending their music. Some, like McFly, are lucky enough to be brilliant songwriters and very talented instrument players; they accepted years ago that they were going to be considered a boyband. (Like the smart fellas they are, they agreed that Backstreet Boys should be honored as the best boyband of all time instead of them. And I’m just going to ignore the fact that Tom also suggested *NSUCK.)

Because they’re new on the scene and besties with The Wanted, Lawson spend quite a bit of time trying to explain that they are not a boyband and more like The Script or Coldplay. While they do all play their own instruments and write their own music, these boys are for sure roaming around boyband land with all of that pretty hair.

Boyband Most Likely To Be Explaining that They Are Not A Boyband: Lawson

Boy Band - Lawson



Since I started in the ’90′s boyband craze, I demand dance routines. A lot of the now manbands (BSB, NKOTB, Take That, 98 Degrees, Westlife) are still gettin’ down. If any of the boybands of today dance (with the exception of JLS and sometimes Big Time Rush), only the most minimal choreography can be performed unless they are attempting to do Gangnam

Summertime (New Kids on the Block)

If you’re not feeling the song just watch Joey dance in his knee high boots and Donnie shamelessly lift his shirt up.

Get Down (You’re The One For Me) & Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) (Backstreet Boys)

Yeah, they got two entries. The first one is because Nick dances like a Muppet. The second one is because it’s the original choreography from 1997 and it was the first performance after Kevin’s official return.

Don’t Turn Out The Lights (NKOTBSB)

Yeah, I know this makes three entries for the Backstreet Boys. Whatever. Who doesn’t love men in their 30′s and 40′s fist pumping. I’m going to be generous and not take any points away from them for not allowing Joey to wear his boots.

She Makes Me Wanna (JLS)

They win best British dancers. Not that they had any competition. They also use this dance to show off their other shiny ensemble for this tour.

Most Coordinated Snap-Kick Choreography of 2012: NKOTBSB

Overdramatic Performances

If no choreography is involved, I expect lots of air grabs, crotch grabbing, pelvic thrusting (NKOTB do ten in a row), blank stares into the back row, and plenty of air guitar playing. The performers that overdo this part best also have what the New Kids (I think) have dubbed the “sex face” or the “O Face”. When they get really into the song their faces look like… well…

Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys)

These are standard performances for this guy and I think he may have left a few of the girls impregnated during these “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” serenades based on the way he rolls around on the floor.

Nathan Sykes (The Wanted)

You can see that he puts just as much into an awards show performance as he does into a soundcheck. He apparently does the same on video shoots because he said that he is always told to stop grabbing his crotch when he sings.

Tom Fletcher (McFly)

It’s clear that Nathan went to the same performing arts school as Tom since they both feel the need to sing lying flat on their backs. Bonus points for Danny singing One Direction better than One Direction.

Jordan Knight (New Kids on the Block)

Jordan actually has a song called “O Face” so he obviously has to be included. Air grabs. Pelvic thrusts. Crotch grabs. Rolling around on the floor. Sequins. He’s had this mastered for years.

Most Likely to Be Caught Rolling Around On The Ground: Nick Carter

Music Videos

A boyband music video is at least one of the following:

  1. Slick dancing (Bonus points for the addition of water or rain effects. All the points if at least two members are shirtless.)
  2. Uber cheesy bubblegum
  3. Attempt to make the guys look super macho and manly (normally in sparkles)
  4. A major jam session
  5. A big party with all of their friends who just all happen to be pretty girls

Most Boyband Elements in One Video

JLS – Hottest Girl In The World 

JLS has managed to incorporate leather, sparkles, coordinated outfits, some sweet dance moves, and plenty of over performing all into one video. This video also wins best use of gingham check in 2012 thanks to Marvin’s wardrobe.

Best Excuse to Have Record Label Send the Group to the Beach

Big Time Rush – Windows Down

It’s a video to show they are all a bunch of just a bunch of normal guys who always party on the beach all day long with all of their good looking friends. To make sure it was a genuine boyband video, though, they’re all shirtless. Bonus points for the Blur sample on the chorus.

Most Likely to Feature Cartoon Characters More Buff Than the Singers

Backstreet Boys – It’s Christmas Time Again

Quite frankly, I was almost too embarrassed to even link to this video. The only reason I tolerate it is because it’s the first song that BSB recorded since Kevin rejoined over the summer and it gives them a reason to be doing press again (which means I get to see more of Kevin in the flesh).

Most Likely to Have Stolen the Background From A Superhero Movie

Lawson – Standing In the Dark

I like what these boys did. A major jam session in the rain and lots of over performing in leather jackets. Andy also agrees that the bedroom scenes look like they are straight out of Batman. This video leaves them no room to deny their boyband status.

Most Likely to Send the Wrong Message

One Direction – Live While We’re Young

When I first heard this song (their debut single from their second album), I gave them a little credit for getting permission from Simon Cowell to sing “suggestive” lyrics like “tonight let’s get some” and “don’t let the pictures leave your phone” and have a bit more of a mature edge to their music. Then this video showed up with them playing with rubber balls and jumping around on a giant banana. Wrong kind of edge boys. Ahem. I would have used the second single instead but the song calls the girl fat.

Most Glitter Used

McFly – Love Is Easy

You don’t get much more cheerful than a pink ukulele, confetti cannons, and giant dancing birds. This video is kind of a review of their careers over the past ten years which makes it easier to talk about “why they have the best fans in the world” when asked about it. You also get to see McFly in all of their matching suit glory.

Best Attempt to Not Look Like a Boyband

The Wanted – I Found You

This was their attempt to look as badass and un-boyband like as possible. Bar fights and making out with a girl who is all gagged and tied up. There was not a pretty little-perfectly-styled-gelled-hair out of place though at the end of the fight. Bonus points for Siva’s fur-trimmed coat. They don’t call him Siva the Diva for nothing.

Best Boyband Moments of 2012

Most Boybands in One Place in 2012

Mixtape Festival

The festival was headlined by NKOTBSB; other acts included The Wanted and 98 Degrees (and LL Cool J!). My boyband loving heart just about exploded though when I saw all four of them on stage together. The Wanted came out and performed with NKOTB and then 98 Degrees later joined everyone. Before the end of the NKOTBSB set, they gave a moving speech about how much they love boybands.

“All is well in the boyband universe right now. The state of the boyband in the Union is very f*cking strong.”

My Biggest Fangirl Moment of 2012

Official Announcement of Kevin’s Return

Kevin Richardson

I definitely fangirled hard while alone in my living room when I heard Brian from the Backstreet Boys say that Kevin Richardson was coming back for their next album, just in time for their 20th anniversary. Just so we’re clear, the rest of the Backstreet Boys never stopped when Kevin left and they made two more albums without him. Now Kevin is back and my world is whole again.

I created this for Brooke, it’s a boyband extravagnaza desktop background (click it to get fullsize! )-K



  1. Pingback: Smart Ladies choose the best and worst boybands of 2012

  2. Kevin’s return is definitely the most remarkable moment in boyband history ever. I fangirled hard too during that moment Brian announced it.

  3. Pingback: Smart ladies love YouTubers, part 2 | smart ladies love stuff

  4. Boy band moments — what about Jaymi Hensley from Union J becoming the first openly gay boyband member (during the actual original existence of the band without any hiatuses or breakups) EVER?

  5. Also, smart ladies should never laud anything Tyler Oakley does. He is an outspoken racist and misogynist.

  6. I find Jaymi to be adorable and it’s always sweet to see him discussing his boyfriend. Maybe they’ll make the 2013 list for “Best tweets between a boyband member and his significant other.” Had the internet and social media co-existed with groups like NKOTB, NSYNC, Boyzone, and Westlife during a less homophobic decade, I imagine a few group members probably would have led very different personal lives back in the ’90′s.

    Tyler Oakley has his flaws, just like the rest of us. He isn’t my favorite internet 1D-obsessor, which is why you should go say hello to the girl behind Drag Direction. She seems like an absolute peach.

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