before you exit the indie sd live san diego

GP of the Week: Anatomy of a Boy Band

Before You Exit, performing live in San Diego, CA. Photo by Christian Rodas.

Ah, let me tell you the problem with boy bands. Oh wait, you mean you already know the answer to that? How about instead, I tell you why the ‘age of the adolescents’ isn’t really all that bad. Don’t turn away from this article just yet – there are a lot of facts to learn about the elusive, mysterious, all-male musical machine known as the boy band, and some of these facts might actually surprise you.

For instance, one of the main issues with the typical definitive boy band is that it gives every young male musician under the legal drinking age a bad rep. We’ve always been a bit pretentious as a society when it came to music, especially when artists use their looks or their sex appeal to gain fans. And yet, this is completely acceptable in any other form of entertainment. ‘That Oscar winning actress is totally hot.’ ‘This model has a sexy body.’ ‘Let’s give Lara Croft a huge rack.’ You might need to be a gamer geek like me to get that last reference, but the point still stands – the entertainment industry as a whole has always welcomed and embraced sex appeal…at least, when it refers to women.

Male musicians have always garnered screaming, crying, panty-tossing female fans. But back in the day, those male musicians were playing instruments. Elvis Presley was “reinventing” mainstream rock ‘n roll. The Beatles were expressing their music without suffering creativity. Even 80’s hair metal groups — some of the first true boy bands, if you ask me — were rocking and rolling all night, and partying every day to the riffs of their guitars and the power of their drums. And they all had screaming, crying, no-holds-barred female fans.

That can’t really be said these days. The music industry evolved, and as a result, so did the boy band. But I’m telling you, it’s not all bad. Maybe we’re used to the age of One Directions and Justin Beibers (he counts as a boy band in my book; I think they might actually be cloning him for insurance reasons), and this reluctant acceptance has closed our minds to the idea that yes, boys can play instruments too.

We even want to ignore the typical boy band “formula” once our favorite songs are involved. Recent Grammy winners Fun. pretty much fit all the boy band criteria, and yet for some reason these guys are exempt. Is it because their music is about life instead of about love? I’m really starting to think the main factor is drinking age. And also,  once you put instruments into the mix, there’s something else that appeals to the band’s fans than just their good looks.

Take the indie band of brothers Before You Exit, for instance. The modern day boy band formula is there: attractive young dudes, sentimental pseudo-love songs, high energy performances, and photo shoots reminiscent of the 90’s, minus the 90’s fashion trends. But there’s an extra element of surprise here, and it comes in the form of many, many instruments. This is a group that is okay with being adorable as long as they also get to be amazing, well-versed musicians in the process.

If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense to persecute musicians of any gender simply because they are beautiful. A female singer is less reputable because she’s stunningly hot? A group of guys can’t be taken seriously because they’re well groomed? These kinds of theories only make sense when image is just as important as the music itself.

Here’s the kicker: regardless of what kind of music you listen to, image is always important. Would you listen to your favorite punk band if they wore polo shirts and belonged to a golf club? Would Lady Gaga, who is actually a stunning singer and multi-instrumentalist herself,  garner as many “little monsters” if she didn’t wear suits made of meat? There’s a direct correlation between a musician and his or her image, whether you want to admit it or not. It’s simply up to each individual artist to decide if that image is going to be used for good (such as, The Beatles walking Abby Road), or evil (whatever this is.)

And while I’m not ready to put One Direction on repeat anytime soon — unlike a preteen adolescent girl, I know what makes me beautiful and I’d prefer not to hear it from a boy I can’t legally date–, I would listen to Before You Exit. Maybe I’ll also give latest X Factor finalists Emblem 3 a chance, too. Because there are male musicians all around us who play well, learn their trade, entertain us on stage, and happen to look really great while they’re doing that. I’m not saying they aren’t that media definition of a “boy band”. But I am saying we can at least toss image aside and judge a musician on their abilities, just this once, right?

If you’re still pretty upset with boy bands in general, don’t stone me! Instead, tell me what you think about bands like Before You Exit, Emblem 3, and even pop rockers like Fun. being considered a “boy band”. Comment below with what you think!

Check out these photos of Before You Exit, from their San Diego show at the Epicenter. Photos by Christian Rodas, Soul Venture Productions.

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