Boy Band Battle -- Day 5: Which group has the best live performances?
Between NSYNC reuniting (however briefly) and the One Direction documentary hitting theaters this weekend, EW’s PopWatch is getting a serious wave of nostalgia—and the urge to revive one of the most important debates: What is the all-time greatest boy band?
Any good fan girl (or guy!) knows this debate is about so much more than just the hits; there’s things like group appearance, harmonies, music videos and dance moves to consider. While an EW writer will be advocating for each, the final decision is up to you. Each day a band wins the vote, they’ll receive a point. At the end of a week, whichever band has the most points will be declared EW’s Ultimate Boy Band.
Yesterday, Backstreet Boys beat out the others for Best Vocals (Harmonizing). Will it be a clean sweep for Nick, Brian, Howie, AJ and Kevin? The final category is Best Live Performance. Check back on Tuesday for the final results.
A Backstreet Boys live performance involves many things: Dancing, crowd interaction, video, jokes, those harmonies we know and love, and last but not least, the possibility of a performance from Brian’s son (Spoiler: He’s good). But the best part of any BSB performance is and always has been, quite simply, how good they sound. What you get in that recording studio is what you get on that stage, unless what you get on that stage is even better. But I’ll stop talking and start showing: “The One” features one of BSB’s best moments harmony-wise, and I’ve yet to hear them perform it poorly. It hits at 2:35 on that video, just FYI. And then, if you missed the “I Still” video from the last round, I’m promoting it again here, because it’s my favorite BSB performance probably ever. I dare you to try to find something wrong with it. And finally, because all 90’s kids know that the real measure of a good live performance was TRL, check out the video below, where the boys proved their worth with a performance of their biggest hit. –Samantha Highfill
Boyz II Men:
What can push an NKTOBSB reunion concert over the line from great to epic? A surprise performance from Boyz II Men! The smooth showstoppers have demonstrated time after time they can rock out a live show on their own but an occasional accompaniment from Babyface or Mariah Carey definitely doesn’t hurt. That makes their performance of “One Sweet Day” with Carey among the very best live moments of ‘90s music. –Maricela Gonzalez
New Kids on the Block:
I know, I know. You probably expected some “Hangin’ Tough” here. And, it’s true, the spate of late ’80s videos (including Donny’s only solo “Cover Girl”) chronicling NKOTB’s interactions with the shrieking, sobbing, bangle-clanging masses were magical indeed. But, like the song says, those videos are a little “rough.” On the other hand, “The Whisper” (which was released just this month) powerfully conveys where NKOTB has been and where the group is now. Filmed during this summer’s Package Tour (attended by yours truly!), the gigs have gotten sleeker and more spectacular over time. The video gives its due to the fans — now all grown up and still turning out for concerts (albeit with much better hair and clothes). More than any of that, though, “The Whisper” shows how gracefully the New Kids have aged, even as they maintain the same goofy spirit they had back in the ’80s. These guys, including the anxiety-prone Jonathan Knight, remain consummate pros who put on a damn good show. And, yes, there are still crotch thrusts aplenty. -Lanford Beard
It’s almost definitely 100% lip-synched, and somebody in wardrobe at Soul Train apparently decided that “hep cater-waiter” was a good look, but still! How fun is this 1988 moment? Honorable mention goes to their 2004 Temptations tribute; tell me you didn’t get happy at 0:45, and I will tell you you are not a human person. –Leah Greenblatt
Much like Stefon’s best clubs, an NSYNC live performance has everything: killer harmonies, incredible dance moves, a healthy amount of goofy charm, and usually some kind of ridiculous prop (below, it’s puppet strings and floating dancers). While these boys can break down a ballad with the best of them, their all-time great performances are high-energy showstoppers that make fans want to stand up and cheer — not to mention perform a little “Bye Bye Bye” for themselves. –Erin Strecker
To be honest, One Direction’s live performances are not their forte. Even with their repertoire of upbeat, sing-along friendly songs, the boys don’t dance, so shows usually consist of them posing or walking around in front of a flashy backdrop. That said, Harry and Liam get bonus points for trying—Harry tends to be the most energetic, and the band can alwayscount on Liam to urge the crowd to make more noise. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with a lack of choreography, because live shows, to One Direction, mean opportunities for fan interaction. They’ll do anything: respond to challenges on Twitterto rap or speak Spanish run through crowds at awards shows and offer funny faces for the parade of smartphones recording their moves. And for true Directioners, it’s those moments–the Little Things, if you will—that matter. -Shirley Li