Five Surprisingly Great Albums from Former Boy Bands

Page 5 of 6

N/A. SMAP - 1991-present

Important International Sidebar: Japan is a strange place. One of the ways it's strange, musically, is illustrated by the continued success of SMAP (Sports Music Assemble People, obviously), a 22-year-old boy band that collectively hosts one of the country's most popular and longest-running TV shows, SMAPxSMAP (Sports Music Assemble People by Sports Music Assemble People, presumably.)

Their albums still sell, but at this point SMAP is more famous for their own sake than they are as musicians -- imagine if Justin Timberlake had never much progressed past "It's Gonna Be Me" musically, but he and the rest of *NSYNC had been regular cast members on Saturday Night Live since 2001. (In the embedded video, from when Michael Jackson "lit hopes and dreams" in SMAP by surprising them in person, a subtitle off-handedly notes that the footage comes from when, in "the year-end four hour special show, the SMAP members discussed things." That explains a lot.)

The continued social acceptability of manufactured bands (Google "AKB48") and goofy variety shows makes this trick a little easier in Japan than it would be in the states, but becoming plain-old-celebrities is probably a better bet for most ex-boys than becoming well-regarded musicians.

I talked to Micky Dolenz from the Monkees recently (to preview their show in Mesa this week) and he told me that when he auditioned he saw himself as both an actor and a musician -- an entertainer, basically. Entertaining is what most boy bands were assembled to do; SMAP was wise and lucky enough to embrace it.

Which, oh, yeah --

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dan Moore