Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS

Black Dog & Leventhal. Jul. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9780762468911. pap. $24.99. MUSIC
At first glance, with its cartoony illustrations and pulpy feel, this book looks more like a fan magazine a smitten tween might buy to memorize details about her favorite boy band member—or bias, as the K-Pop kids say. But don’t be fooled by the design—the F-bomb in the book’s second sentence makes it clear that this isn’t targeted at the YA crowd. Rather, it’s a witty, irreverent, but almost scholarly primer on all things boy band. Music writer and cultural critic Sherman includes band profiles and member biographies, fashion and slang guides, and time lines and histories tracing boy bands all the way back to composer Frantz Liszt in the mid-19th century; other artists covered include Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Osmonds, New Edition, and the Backstreet Boys. This wry, incisive work notes that boy bands are often dismissed, loathed and—not without reason—seen as having been artificially manufactured by an exploitative entertainment industry. Readers are challenged to admit these realities, then empowered not to care, and, finally, urged to continue loving these groups anyway.
VERDICT Most readers will appreciate this analysis and celebration of boy bands.

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