Ever since Beatlemania made its way across the pond in the 1960s, Americans have been fawning over boy bands left and right. As the annual Justin Timberlake/NSYNC “it’s gonna be May” meme surfaces again this month (a play on their smash hit “It’s Gonna Be Me”), what better time to take stock of the popularity of boy bands today?
By digging into the data, we can identify the bands and musicians garnering the most online attention, both in the US and globally. For instance, which boy bands do people search for most online? What reunions do people want to see from the genre? And which boy band’s website attracts the most fans?
Crowning the catchiest boy bands of the era, according to search data
Based on Google searches between April 2019 and March 2023, one boy band claims first place as the most-searched group in both US and global queries. The pop culture superstars topping these charts? BTS, of course. The South Korean band made a huge splash in the US when they first entered the American market in May 2019, and they’ve been holding strong ever since.
BTS is not the only South Korean boy band making headlines. Eight of the 20 top-searched boy bands in the US go to South Korean groups, and this number jumps to 11 out of 20 when we look at the most-searched boy bands across the globe.
These musical groups include ONEUS, Exo, TXT, ATEEZ, NCT, MONSTA X, GOT7, Super Junior, SHINee, and Wanna One, all hailing from South Korea. It’s clear there’s a new global hitmaker in town when it comes to boy bands, and the Brits have been dethroned.
But England still has a significant horse in the race, even though it comes with caveats. The British boy band One Direction, which split up in 2015, is still the second most-searched group in the US based on data between April 2019 to March 2023, and it’s the third most-searched group globally.
While One Direction no longer performs as a group, its members are pursuing successful solo careers, keeping the One Direction brand alive in new ways and keeping fans interested.
But what about older boy bands? Are any of them still popular in internet searches? In a nod to the genre’s roots, The Beatles still have a hold, ranking as the fifth most-searched group in the US and seventh most-searched globally.
Other boy bands of yesteryear that are still holding strong? Turn-of-the-century groups like NSYNC and Backstreet Boys show up on our 20 most-searched lists for both US and global queries.
In other news, the Jonas Brothers, a group that has splintered and reunited a few times since their 2005 founding, came back together for a massively popular 2021 tour. Perhaps that’s why they claim the impressive third place spot for boy bands with the most US searches from April 2019 to March 2023.
Putting the “boy” in boy band
So we’ve taken a look at the groups pulling the most attention online. But what about specific band members? Which boys of the proverbial “boy band” stand out?
From January 2020 to March 2023, we can see which boy band members have the largest total search volumes in the US, as well as which musicians have seen their search numbers grow the fastest over that period of time, signaling rising popularity.
Tom Parker, from the boy band The Wanted, saw the sharpest growth in searches, increasing by over 1,000% from January 2020 to March 2023. For context, Parker passed away from brain cancer in 2022 at 33 years old, leaving many searching for answers online.
Similarly, Ray Reyes of the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo passed away from a heart attack in 2021, causing a spike in searches by 260% over that same period.
Unrelated to breaking news stories, searches for Jonathan Knight (of New Kids on the Block) and Niall Horan (of One Direction) grew by 810% and 644%, respectively.
Looking at the total US search numbers from January 2020 to March 2023 reveals a very different list. The boy band member with the largest search volume during that time period?
It’s none other than One Direction’s Harry Styles, who has been growing his solo music career, branching out into acting, and making headlines with high profile romantic relationships in recent years. His 2023 world tour could be helping boost those massive search numbers as well.
The most-searched boy band member after Styles might surprise you. From the boy band The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson takes second place in total US searches from January 2020 to March 2023 for boy band members.
Other “boys” garnering top US total traffic over that same time period include Jungkook (from BTS), Nick Jonas (from The Jonas Brothers), Justin Timberlake (from NSYNC), and John Lennon (from The Beatles, of course), representing a diverse spread across classic and pop boy bands.
Topping the charts of web traffic
In addition to search data, we can also look at the traffic on boy bands’ official websites to gauge popularity and prominence from another angle. Whose pages draw in the most visitors?
From January 2019 to March 2023, TheBeatles.com experienced the most web traffic of all boy band websites, both globally and in the US. This shows us that the Beatles fandom is still going strong all these years later, and the early boy band has a hold on listeners of many generations.
The number two spot for web traffic globally and in the US goes to another notable group in the history of boy bands, although this one is certainly more recent. In second place is BackstreetBoys.com, the website of the iconic late-90s and early-2000s pop group that’s currently touring again.
After that, the global and US data starts to vary. Interestingly enough, the website WhyDontWe.com, for the American boy band Why Don’t We (or WDW), is the fourth most-visited boy band site globally, but it doesn’t even rank in the top 10 sites for US web visits. This shows that the popularity of this American band might be stronger abroad.
Other sites that brought in top traffic between January 2019 to March 2023 both globally and in the US include txt.ibighit.com (for the band TXT), BTS.com, OneDirectonMusic.com, JonasBrothers.com, and 5sos.com (for the boy band 5 Seconds of Summer).
Hanging on when we just can’t get enough
From The Beatles to The Backstreet Boys, a variety of earlier classics remain in the genre’s zeitgeist when we look at today’s search and traffic trends. And fans aren’t ready to give up the nostalgia of their favorite heartthrobs singing it out on stage just yet.
US searches for boy band reunions reveal who we’re still hung up on. From March 2020 to March 2023, One Direction takes the top spot of reunion-related queries, revealing how hungry fans are for more of this former boy band. This also bolsters the internet popularity of members like Niall Horan and Harry Styles, as well as high search volumes for the band name in general.
What other musical reunions do people want, according to search data? After 1D, we see high-volume reunion searches for NSYNC, The Jonas Brothers, and The Beatles, representing nearly every era of the boy band evolution.
Whether fans are crossing their fingers for the return of their favorite boy band or they’re obsessed with today’s biggest groups, the boy band genre spans generations and nationalities, but we return to its familiar comfort time and time again.