2017 saw the rise of two very different groups who, when viewed together, perfectly capture the current state of synchronized, harmony-rich, all-dude singing cadres. First up is PRETTYMUCH, a who described themselves to MTV News as "a dance crew and vocal harmony group" when they hit the VMA red carpet last August. In their video for first single, "Would You Mind," the quintet flex their knowledge of (and love for) the late-'90s golden era of boy bands via a rain machine and plenty of hazy shots in the California sun.
The other key act, Why Don't We, don't really dance, and instead opt for sparse electronic pop that allows each member to shine a bit more singularly. When they do unite for the harmonies, though, it's to deliver the hooks — and there are a lot of them.
As 2018 kicks off, it's worth noting that PRETTYMUCH and Why Don't We are only two of an emerging crop of boy bands and boy band-adjacent musical acts spinning to life. Not every group here looks or sounds like the Backstreet Boys, but as One Direction taught us all, a boy band doesn't have to. Check out the new up-and-comers below.
Who: Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, Jungkook
Their deal: Seoul's most dynamic export, BTS (a.k.a. Bangtan Boys, a.k.a. Bulletproof Boy Scouts, a.k.a. Beyond the Scene) are the biggest K-pop band in the world and one that's followed the boy-band playbook to international superstardom. They've been around since 2013, but last year saw their American TV debut via the American Music Awards in November and subsequent appearances on talk shows. Utter chart domination may be next.
2018 plans: Two BTS songs — "DNA" and "Mic Drop (Steve Aoki Remix)," featuring Desiigner — hit the Billboard Hot 100 in late 2017, so it's just a matter of time before they crack the top 10. Out of the dozens of successful K-pop boy (and girl) bands blazing their own paths, BTS' star seems sure to keep rising highest.
Key song: "DNA"
In Real Life
Who: Brady, Chance, Drew, Sergio, Michael
Their deal: As the winners of the 2017 TV competition Boy Band, In Real Life have the unique distinction of being called "the Boy Band boy band." That's just what happens when Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter, Spice Girls' Emma Bunton, and Timbaland are the architects of your sound.
2018 plans: IRL concluded 2017 by dropping two Christmas songs, so they're due for another hit to follow their nocturnal debut, "Eyes Closed" — and it looks like that just might be the easy-to-choreograph "Tattoo."
Key song: "Eyes Closed"
Who: Christopher, Richard, Joel, Erick, Zabadiel
Their deal: This Spanish-language Miami quintet was assembled with help from both Simon Cowell and Ricky Martin after they won the La Banda TV competition in 2015. They've toured with Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Ariana Grande, and their debut album, Primera Cita, dropped in 2016.
2018 plans: After crucial wins at 2017's Billboard Latin Music Awards and the iHeartRadio Music Awards — and after the quaking success of "Despacito" — this could be the year CNCO's Spanish-language stylings land them their first Hot 100 hit.
Key song: "Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos)"
Who: Austin, Carson, Conner, Mikey
Their deal: Imagine NSYNC updated for the 2010s, singing golden-voiced odes over clubby EDM instead of R&B. That's Citizen Four, who even have a song titled "Want You Back," though they prefer a different comparison. "We're like if The Weeknd was a boy band," Austin told Teen Vogue in 2017. (This Citizen Four is not to be confused with the 2014 Edward Snowden biographical film Citizenfour, by the way.)
2018 plans: In October 2017, the guys released their Destiny's Child-interpolating, Beyoncé-approved "My Name (Say It)." Unfortunately, their social feeds have been dark since. We'll see what happens next.
Key song: "My Name (Say It)"
New Hope Club
Who: Blake, George, Reece
Their deal: Originating in the U.K., New Hope Club are an actual boy band, meaning they play instruments and lean heavily into rock and folk. Their first big bit of exposure came in 2015 via a faithful Vamps cover; they later opened for them.
2018 plans: Their 2017 debut EP, Welcome to the Club, is decidedly much dancier than their acoustic covers, but it reveals that they could be trying to walk a musical mile in One Direction's Chelsea boots.
Key song: "Fixed"
Who: Khaden, Kye, Kavah
Their deal: Three brothers from South Chicago whose infectious, slightly edgy dance pop makes them the type to jump up and down from behind their instruments instead of the sort who wow you with synchronized choreography. Even though they were all born after 2000, there's more than a bit of Linkin Park in the heavy, electronics-kissed "Twenty 1."
2018 plans: In addition to finishing up a new practice space and soliciting fans' help to name it, they got some national exposure on Today via a nod from Elvis Duran. That's certainly not the last of it.
Key song: "Million Reasons"
Forever In Your Mind
Who: Emery, Ricky, Liam
Their deal: Veritable veterans at this point, Emery and Ricky linked up as contestants on The X Factor in 2013 (through Cowell, naturally), and Liam joined the following year. Their debut EP, FIYM, dropped in the middle of 2016. Since their inception, they've gone on tour with artists like Demi Lovato and Fifth Harmony.
2018 plans: After debuting the whistle- and falsetto-heavy new song "Rabbit Hole" at the end of 2017, FIYM released their glossy new Euphoric EP at the top of the year. You can stream that right here.
Key song: "Enough About Me"
Who: Matt, Cole, Hayden, Matisse, Nick
Their deal: A trop-pop quintet in the tradition of Maroon 5, these guys don't dance at all, but they do wear bright colors and play bright, funk- and reggae-inspired pop songs. They're like a YouTube generation update of the Beach Boys' "Kokomo,", or maybe the 311 "Amber" video. If they don't end up covering either of those songs — and they've covered a lot of songs at this point — consider it a missed opportunity.
2018 plans: Singles "Intoxicated" and "HMU (Hit Me Up)" closed out their 2017, so it's only a matter of time before this quintet unleashes a full album of post-"Slide" cuts on us. Until then, it looks like their future is, well, undecided.
Key song: "Intoxicated"