Boy band invasion! how The Wanted became America's most wanted


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The Independent Culture

For all their scream-inducing skills, British boy bands such as Take That consistently failed to colonise the bedroom walls of America's teenage girls.

But now a dearth of US musical heart-throbs has finally opened the door to the UK's pop sensations, as One Direction and The Wanted storm America.

When the US had vocal talents like Boyz II Men, why would they need Boyzone? Westlife had the ballads but they were no match for the slick dance moves of the Backstreet Boys.

Yet the perception that British boy bands lack the vocal harmonies and buff appeal of their US counterparts is changing. This week One Direction's single "What Makes You Beautiful" charted at 28, scoring the highest first-week position by a British act debuting on the Hot 100 since 1998 when The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" reached 13.

Simon Cowell's quintet of 17- to 20-year-olds who finished third on The X Factor, are chasing The Wanted up the US charts, who rose to No 23 with "Glad You Came". The latter act, a British and Irish five-piece formed through auditions, also reached No 5 on the US iTunes chart after the cast of the TV series Glee performed their song this week.

With the Canadian Justin Bieber currently the biggest teen star in North America, the trade magazine Billboard has been forced to re-examine Britain's boy band contributions. "Could The Wanted usher in a new wave of British pop to American shores?" the publication asked after Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, signed The Wanted. X Factor alumni JLS and even McFly are tipped to follow in the new "British invasion".

The success of British boy bands is credited to a new standard of presentation in their music and videos. Partnered with top songwriters and producers from Sony and Universal, their sleek songs ape the R&B/rap sound predominant on US radio. Their dance steps are sharp and their glossy videos no longer look second-rate.

YouTube and social media are helping power the British boy bands. When One Direction released the video for "One Thing" in January, it received more than five million views within five days.

British boy bands are also tapping into a large young, gay US audience. The Wanted have just completed a tour of US gay nightclubs, venues that some American teen performers are reluctant to be seen endorsing. And, unlike their rebellious rock counterparts, British pop acts, knocked into shape by The X Factor, are more amenable to performing the promotional chores.

The Misses: The stars that didn't travel


The Simon Cowell-promoted band sold 7 million records in the late 90s. Their 1998 album Five peaked at No 27 on the US Billboard 100 but two years later Invincible scraped in at 108

Take That

"Back For Good" became the biggest-selling boy-band single ever and reached No 7 in the US. But the song was their only single or album chart entry in the US.


The twin-led trio dominated the UK charts in the late 80s. Despite a big push by their record company, "When Will I Be Famous?" peaked at No 83 and was their sole US chart entry.

Bay City Rollers

America briefly submitted to the "new Beatles", left, in 1976 with "Saturday Night" topping the Hot 100. Rollermania subsided after one gold-selling album.