Has there ever been a better time for girls who like to scream during pop concerts? Examine the evidence. Take That's "comeback" album, Progress, has just become the "fastest-selling album of the century", shifting 235,000 units in two days. Last week, there were new albums from Westlife and JLS. Simon Cowell's One Direction, meanwhile, appear to be building up an unstoppable head of scream with every passing week on The X Factor, while New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys, the two biggest boy bands of all time, are currently in talks for a comeback tour together. This is a golden age for boy bands in all their finite and formulaic forms.
Screaming girls, all-singing, all-dancing young men.... What's not to love? Only – and I know this seems to be stating the obvious, but bear with me – the music. "The fastest-selling album of the century" is, in fact, a cunning marketing term, meaning the fastest-selling album of the past 10 years. Westlife are all now men in their thirties who really ought to consider changing their name to Shelflife. JLS had one good song (their first, "Beat Again") and have since lent their name to condoms, a product as disposable as they are starting to look. And One Dimension, sorry Direction, have the dubious honour of being the first boy band in history to have been manufactured in front of our very eyes.
Though the tweenie population is entitled to the same explosion of choice as the rest of us, surely there isn't enough space on their bedroom walls for more than one or two prospective husbands?
So what the hell is going on here? And further, what became of that promise of girl power, when young females were as happy to attach their allegiance to girl bands (an altogether different proposition, as these have never been aimed at teen and pre-teen boys)? Didn't our nation's youth once seem to have collectively outgrown this kind of drivel? Isn't the 21st century the time to put the whole boy-band phenomenon to bed?
A female colleague tells me that such girl pop-star crushes are, in the words of the Jackie magazine of her day, an important part of the growing process for young women. They are, she was assured, "a chance to explore all those feelings that you will have in a grown-up relationship without the risk of getting hurt".
Which makes a sort of sense, but if that's why boy bands exist, why do we bother pretending that it's about anything else? Why do the serious newspapers and magazines bother reviewing these albums as if their readers are remotely interested? As a music fanatic, do I really need, say, one of our broadsheet competitors to take up its precious CD reviews space to tell me that the new JLS album "takes few risks" and is "lyrically on familiar ground as hands are thrown in the air, DJs are keeping people dancing and love grows stronger every day".
I do not. But while I can't have any control over what the youth of today is into and certainly wouldn't expect anyone under 30 to share my love of folk/blues/country-based soft rock, I do make an appeal to the older lady who should know better.
If you really want to relive your youth by going to see acts that were terrible the first time round, with your tongue in your cheek and your head high on Chardonnay, for goodness' sake don't do that screaming thing. It will only encourage them, and we really need to shed a few.