Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands From NKOTB to BTS Book Review


Larger Than Life by Maria Sherman
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Overall:  5
I don't think I've ever anticipated a book longer than Larger Than Life. I'd heard Maria on a couple music criticism podcasts whenever they'd launched into the confusing world of the boy band, and she always mentioned the book would be coming soon. Well, it's finally out, and it makes me incredibly happy.
As I already knew, Maria is a boy band expert as well as a true fan. Her joy and enthusiasm really does make the book. I also love that boy bands are finally getting their full and comprehensive due. I wouldn't say that I'm particularly a boy band fan (outside of the Jonas Brothers and One Direction (though I guess those are just the boy bands of my generation so many I am)), but I find how they're looked at culturally to be fascinating. Boy bands tie back to feminism and how society constructs their views around things liked by teens/girls/women/LGBTQIA people. Maria doesn't shy away from that.
She offers a comprehensive overview of how boy bands, and really fandom, came to be with timelines to start off with. She's thorough, mentioning the not quite boy bands and the rocky path to their true origin. Then she dives into specific histories of the most notable bands of each era going through their formations, individual style, innovations on the classic boy band format, and how they were treated in the industry. The bands that I didn't particularly care about still had fascinating stories that are important simply from a music industry history prospective, and for the bands that I love, I got to relish in her thoughts echoing mine and finding someone who really understood the special aspects they brought to the table from a knowledgable prospective.
Maria delves into the whole world around them as well. She brings up the inequities in the boy band space. She mentions how many popular Black boy bands were pushed aside or didn't hit the mainstream as big due to racism. She talks about what draws girls to boy bands and what exactly makes them so important and appealing to generation after generation. She talks about how they've been used as a cultural punching bag against young women's agency, and she goes through how some bands, like One Direction, ended up with fandoms that turned concerts into queer safe spaces.
I love that this book exists to pay boy bands their fair due in the history department. There have been so few comprehensive writings on the subject, and I'm glad Maria is one of the first to do it. Her voice is the perfect one to deliver an all encompassing look and balance facts and fascinating commentary.
Last month, I made a video discussing the book and my history with boy bands for my YouTube channel, so if you want to find out more about the book or just want to hear someone talk about their history with boybands, I'd love it if you checked it out here.



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Links of Interest:
Halsey's Manic Meets YA
More Than Just a Pretty Face
Wordslut
Vicky Skinner Guest Post
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