Saturday, November 6, 2021

Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS by Maria Sherman


LARGER THAN LIFE has been on my radar since it came out but I only just got around to reading it. I'm a huge fan of books that I like to call "nostalgic retrospectives," especially if they look at pop-culture through a more feminine-centric lens as pop-culture is often gate-kept by men. One of my favorite pop-culture retrospectives is PAPERBACK CRUSH by Gabrielle Moss, which is an ode to girly kid-lit.

LARGE THAN LIFE is the pop music equivalent of that, looking at boy bands from the 70s (well, technically the author starts with Franz Liszt, the pretty boy composer who ended up becoming such a phenom that the term Lisztomania was coined), all the way to more modern hits like BTS and One Direction.

I think the author might be a little younger than me, because there was less emphasis on the 80s and more emphasis on the early to mid 2000s artists, especially the Jonas Brothers and 1D. My favorite parts of the book were the 90s and 2000s singers, because that was when I was in the middle of my own pop group obsession, and I loved learning about the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC (*NSYNC is the best, don't @ me). I stopped listening to pop music in high school, so I didn't actually know much about the Jonas Brothers or 1D, and I know zero about BTS, even though I have friends who are die-hard stans.

It seems like a lot of the critical reviews are from people who are mad that this is both too biased and not thorough enough (LOL, what), but, you know, it's just a lighthearted history book. Not a textbook. I also feel like when you're writing about pop-culture, you're going to be writing it from your lens, and you're going to focus on the things that you loved when you are growing up. So it seems a tad bit unfair to complain about the author not featuring bands that she might not have been wild about, although I was surprised that Japanese visual kei groups didn't make it in here, as they were definitely boy bands with performers who had different roles within their groups and boy, did fans have their faves!

Overall, I would say that this book is probably growing to resonate with you most if you grew up in the late 90s/mid-2000s, because those are the timelines that are the most fleshed out. She does touch on other bands, like Boys II Men, Menudo, and even the Temptations, but those aren't really "boy bands" as we think of them, which were largely a late-90s phenomenon. I personally thought it was really fun and I'd love to see this author do a girl bands follow-up some day. IT WOULD BE LIT.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

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