Jan 242020

Go back to the beginning

10. Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox – Tie: I Want It That Way / Bye Bye Bye / Tearin’ Up My Heart / MMMBop

Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox is a musical collective known for taking contemporary pop songs and sending them spiraling back in time. The group has covered at least four songs from the boy band era. These include: a doo wop cover of Hanson’s “MMMBop” that feels a lot like the Happy Days’ theme; a jazzy take of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way;” a psychedelic pop rendition of NSYNC’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart;” and a surf-rock reworking of the group’s biggest hit “Bye Bye Bye.” “It ain’t no lie,” that with the right arrangements, these songs could have been hits in any decade. – Curtis Zimmermann

9. The Wailing Souls – True to Your Heart (98 Degrees cover)

With Mulan coming back into the spotlight, it only feels right to throwback to this closing credit song. With its assertive riff a la “Superstition” mixed with sassy brass, the original has you busting a move while leaving the movie theater. This version brings a reggae flair. Some of the accompanying instrumental frills are removed, yet the high energy of the original remains. I do miss Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo, though. – Sara Stoudt

8. Exit Eden – Incomplete (Backstreet Boys cover)

Those who followed the Backstreet Boys through the aughts know that the group’s 2005 album Never Gone was a sonic departure from their previous efforts. The boys steered away from the soft ballads and dance-pop that made them superstars. Instead they created an album that featured more alt-rock-flavored tunes, such as the opening track and lead single “Incomplete.” In 2017, the female-powered metal outfit Exit Eden reworked the track into an epic piece of symphonic prog metal. The cover plays like a fusion of Mannheim Steamroller and Metallica, mixed with a bit of Idina Menzel’s Frozen-style bombast. – Curtis Zimmermann

7. The Beautiful South – Don’t Stop Moving (S Club 7 cover)

Quirky, melodic, and charming, The Beautiful South, the band led by Paul Heaton following the break up of The Housemartins, enjoyed enormous success through the late ’80s all the way through the early ’90s. Their 9th studio album, Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs features all kinds of nifty covers performed in sweetly oddball fashion, mostly in duet form. Their version of “Don’t Stop Moving” is strumming on a porch languorous and lovely, features some fine harmonizing, and while it may not be an outright hands-in-the-air BANGER, it is really fine and undeniably qualifies as small-b banger. – Hope Silverman

6. HUFF THIS! – You Got It (The Right Stuff) (New Kids on the Block cover)

Musician and dancer Alison Clancy enlisted various collaborators for her folksy New Kids on the Block cover. Probably the best music video of the bunch, too: a choreographed slo-mo dance sequence across New York City rooftops. They got it, indeed. – Ray Padgett

5. The 1975 – What Makes You Beautiful (One Direction cover)

One Direction’s debut, quadruple-platinum single is so catchy that you (almost) forget that the song is about insecurity being an attractive trait. This version is certainly less boisterous with a slowed-down tempo, dramatic snapping to keep the new beat, and a doleful guitar solo. With one voice, almost a whisper at times, instead of five, the tune becomes a loner’s anthem. The style is far removed from a typical boy band vibe, but you can almost hear this cover mixed with The 1975’s own hit, “Somebody Else.” – Sara Stoudt

4. The Wedding Present – Back For Good (Take That cover)

There are so many levels why I think this is the best of a number of good covers of this song, arguably the best of Take That, possibly of the boy band brand altogether. It sounds so raw and real. Okay, the backing vocals are pretty limp, but if you dismiss them, and I can, it is pure pathos, a wounded croon against the barest of backings. It somehow also avoids the threatened build-up toward the more generic Wedding Present sturm and thrash, that seems to be almost begging for permission to out in the final stanzas. This restraint adds extra kudos to the overall picture. To be fair, so out of character is it with the rest of this band’s output, I am not even sure how seriously it was intended. It wouldn’t be beyond singer and de facto bandleader David Gedge for it to be a throwaway prank, perhaps a statement of rebuke for asking the band onto something as trite as a radio session. – Seuras Og

3. The Gardiner Sisters – It’s Gonna Be Me (NSYNC cover)

This song brings out the edgier (and meme-able) side of NSYNC with its ominous intro and the biting “babe”s. Even with simpler piano accompaniment, The Gardiner Sisters are able to bring a similar sharp attitude in the verses. Transitioning from an accusatory tone to a lamenting style, the choruses get a softer side, complete with well-executed harmonies. We hear a sillier side to the sisters, too, as they even find a way to pay homage to the associated meme. – Sara Stoudt

2. Steel Panther – I Want It That Way (Backstreet Boys cover)

Had ponzi-schemer-turned-music-mogul Lou Pearlman assembled the Backstreet Boys in the ‘80s, he might have used a different formula. Instead of white denim, well-sculpted bangs, and the occasional robot costume, the group would have donned spandex and perms and been a hair-metal band. For those who like to harbor such fantasies, retro-metal outfit Steel Panther’s 2010 cover of “I Want It That Way” is for you. The group recast BSB’s signature hit into a rockin’ piece of ‘80s hair metal, with loud guitars, booming drums, and some high-pitched belting from vocalist Michael Starr. We all want it this way. – Curtis Zimmermann

1. Mitski – Fireproof (One Direction cover)

A reward for those of you who immediately quick-scrolled all the way to #1, as Mitski’s statement on her cover serves as a perfect introduction to this entire list: “We seem to de-legitimize music that has a majority of young girl fans and think of it as having less cultural value. Isn’t that strange? I’m not down with the elitism of indie-rock music, where it considers itself to be more ‘serious’ or ‘intelligent’ than mainstream pop.” That sums up why all these covers work, and why this one works best of all. The sound is pure Mitski (dig that guitar explosion into the chorus, a la “Your Best American Girl”), even as she honors an unlikely inspiration. – Ray Padgett

Check out more installments in our monthly ‘Best Covers Ever’ series, including Bruce Springsteen Elton John, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd.

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  One Response to “The Best Boy Band Covers Ever”

Comments (1)
  1. O the years of Backstreet boys, boy did I love them!

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