What started as a trickle soon became a flood of singing, dancing, co-ordinated outfit-wearing pop groups.
It started with New Kids On The Block. The American pop group’s breakthrough in 1989 kick-started the modern era of boy bands, which, of course, had been around for decades in one form or another. But five years after “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” reached number 1 in Australia, the floodgates had well and truly opened, and every time you looked, another boy band was climbing the chart.
Launched in 1992, the British bad boys of pop were quickly welcomed into the hearts of Australian teenagers, with debut single “House Of Love” reaching the ARIA top 5 in early 1993. But it was in 1994 that Tony Mortimer, Brian Harvey, Terry Coldwell and John Hendy really made their presence felt with chart-topper “It’s Alright”. The half-sung, half-rapped tune might not have ended up as the year’s best seller (that honour went to Wet Wet Wet’s “Love Is All Around”), but it did spend the longest stretch at number 1 all year: seven weeks.
Even bigger in the UK than East 17, Take That had yet to really take off in Australia at the start of 1994. That changed following a promotional visit down under that year by Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Howard Donald and Jason Orange, and the re-release of their first British number 1, 1993’s “Pray”, which became their first Australian top 10 hit as a result. In 1995, they would reach the top with “Back For Good” and lose a member, with Robbie eventually becoming one of Australia’s favourite international male solo artists.
Boyz II Men
Funnily enough, given its title, 1992’s “End Of The Road” had opened things right up for Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman and Michael McCary, who became America’s premier vocal harmony group in a very crowded market. The quartet with a penchant for matching sweaters became next level popular as a result of that epic ballad from Eddie Murphy film Boomerang and in 1994, Boyz II Men doubled down with dramatic wail-fests “I’ll Make Love To You” and “On Bended Knee” from the album II.
Where Boyz II Men led, others like Riff, Hi-Five and pun-tastically named four-piece Alll-4-One followed. Comprised of Tony Borowiak, Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy and Alfred Nevarez, All-4-One scored their three US top 5 hits thanks to remakes. In Australia, it was their cover of country song “I Swear” (originally performed by John Michael Montgomery) that brought them attention and the second highest-selling single of 1994. They dipped into the same well the following year, also remaking John Michael Montgomery’s “I Can Love You Like That”.
Sure sign that boy bands were big business in 1994, Australia welcomed local vocal group Kulcha into the top 10 with their debut single, “Shaka Jam”. From Sydney, the four-piece formed by Joe Fidow, Richard Matila, Eric Palu and Jay Whitmore ended up with seven top 40 hits between 1994 and 1997, and opened the door for other homegrown boy bands CDB and Human Nature.
Now mostly forgotten by the world at large, American trio E.Y.C. (it stood for Express Yourself Clearly) found zero success at home but did quite well in Australia and the UK in 1994. Locally, the biggest single for Damon Butler, Dave Loeffler and Trey Parker was “Feelin’ Alright”, a relentless crowd participation jam (“If you’re feelin’ real good say hey/Hey!”) which was basically four minutes of being yelled at.
Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart & Sting
OK, not actually a boy band, but you can’t tell me superstar collaboration “All For Love” from The Three Musketeers isn’t the perfect boy band song.