Cheerio! I’m Sam Lansky, failed male model (JK)-turned-music writer, and this is Pop Think, literally the most important thing on the Internet. Hey, you know what my favorite thing is? Being right! Unfortunately for me, It doesn’t happen very often, but I’d like to say that I was right about The Wanted, when I wrote in this very column way back in November that the British boy band was set to invade U.S. shores with their modern, eminently listenable dance-pop, and look! A few months later, their single “Glad You Came” is a certifiable stateside hit.
The secret to their success is no mystery, since “Glad You Came” is quite a tune, but the story of their ascension has been even more strategic than that: Canny public appearances, a club tour and recruiting an A-list manager have helped them crack the Stateside market. The British are coming (as the revolutionary music critic Paul Revere once said), but I have no complaints.
Boy bands are officially back thanks in large part to U.K.’s The Wanted.
So, have you guys heard about The Wanted? Lately, it seems like you can’t turn on the TV or read the internet (is “reading the internet” even a thing? OK, great) without seeing their handsome faces — not like that’s bad. The group has been going hard for U.S. listeners, and it should come as no surprise that they’ve met with meteoric success pretty quickly.
In case you aren’t one of those people who obsessively follows emerging boy bands, here’s what you’ve missed: The Wanted’s single “Glad You Came” was released in the band’s native U.K. and Ireland in July 2011 (and debuted at No. 1 in both countries, obvs), and then saw its official U.S. release in January 2011. Since then, it’s hit No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, currently (at the time of this writing) sits at No. 6 on the iTunes Singles Chart and was covered this week on “Glee,” which pretty much cements an artist’s place in U.S. pop culture history. The Wanted has also performed on “Ellen,” appeared on “Chelsea Lately” and just wrapped up a U.S. club tour. (Their Los Angeles show sold out so quickly that the band had to move to a larger venue at the last minute.)
Read more about The Wanted’s U.S. invasion after the jump.
But just how has The Wanted accomplished this rapid-fire success in such short order? Part of their secret to stardom must be signing with Scott “Scooter” Braun, who famously discovered Justin Bieber in 2008 and has played an instrumental role in shaping his career; Scooter has been tweeting furiously in support of The Wanted and helping to guide their Stateside launch with well-chosen appearances. Industry expert Keith Caulfield, associate director of charts for Billboard, agreed that Scooter’s role in the band’s success has been significant: “When you have Justin Bieber’s manager on your team, it’s a huge deal. I would imagine that without Scooter, the opportunities that they’ve had would not have been as expansive,” he told me. “At the same time, if the song wasn’t actually good and working on the radio and selling well, it doesn’t matter how great you are — they wouldn’t have had a shot. Great single that’s selling well, they’re charismatic and you happen to have one of the most powerful managers in the world on your side.”
And indeed, strategy is nothing without strong songs to back it up, and both of The Wanted’s U.K. albums — 2010’s The Wanted and 2011’s Battleground — are dense with tightly wrapped radio candy. This is modern pop that integrates the dance and house influences that dominate the airwaves today with a classic boy band sensibility, all crooning harmonies, shimmering production and big choruses. Their U.S. debut, also titled The Wanted, is due out later this year, and should contain the strongest tracks from each of their international releases as well as a few new songs. “Glad You Came” is continuing to grow on the charts, but their rumored next U.S. single, “Invincible,” is every bit as good: ravey dance-pop with euphoric synths that could easily become another radio smash.
But if the return of the boy band really is upon us, it has to be bigger than one group, and indeed, The Wanted is facing chart competition from One Direction, a slightly younger group formed on the British version of “The X Factor.” One Direction’s debut U.S. single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” just scored the highest debut for a U.K. act in the U.S. singles chart in almost 14 years. If The Wanted’s aesthetic and sound is a little darker, edgier and more rugged, One Direction’s is fresh-faced, squeaky-clean and optimistic. Their single is an irresistibly sweet uptempo piece of self-empowerment pop. Both groups are making a significant U.S. impact, though, and it seems that one mogul is going to continue capitalizing upon the success: Simon Cowell, who launched One Direction, announced via Just Jared that he is putting together a new American boy band.
So is this a sign of the times? Keith Caulfield thinks so. “Pop music is so current, thanks to Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Kelly Clarkson — pure pop, uptempo music and harmonies and good production,” he explained. But there’s a woeful lack of young male pop stars who aren’t considered hip-hop or R&B, which makes an opportunity for groups like The Wanted and One Direction, which are pop, but not really R&B. It’s a wide-open playing field.” It’s true that our reigning divas have been dominating pop for the last several years, but The Wanted brings a new hope for male-fronted pop that could actually make a major U.S. impact — and I, for one, really am glad they came.