How to successfully transition from handsome teen in a boy band to legitimate, grown-up solo artist? The latest boy band to send fresh faces into the deep end of the pop pool is One Direction, the U.K. group that has filled stadiums across the globe since appearing on the Simon Cowell-powered music competition show The X Factor.
You know what happens next in this tried-and-true story: Boy band catapults into the stratosphere, captures the hearts of tweens across the globe, then rips their hearts in half when the boys get too famous and go their separate ways.
In 2015, 1D member Zayn Malik left and quickly established himself as a sultry crooner with an adult edge, while Niall Horan hit it big recently with his own, predictable take on music that tries to feel sexy but is still safe for Mom's carpool lane. More so than Horan, Liam Payne has stepped into the adults-only lane with "Strip That Down," a sexy collab with Migos rapper Quavo that's gone platinum in eight countries.
The highest profile, and best, effort to come from the splintered 1D camp thus far is Harry Styles and his recently-released solo record. The self-titled effort jumps around stylistically, taking great strides to veer away from the pre-fab teenybopper sound he made his fortune with first.
Styles' new disc is as fun as it is refreshing: Globally-adored pop singer takes road less traveled in the hopes his adoring audience will follow. (It's a lot better story than this one: Globally-adored pop singer lifelessly rehashes Radio Disney soundbites to keep his name in the browser search bar.) Styles and producer Jeff Bhasker's clear nods towards David Bowie, George Harrison, Ryan Adams and Beck make for a well-rounded rock album that overreaches its ambition at times yet never falls flat in execution.
It's not unreasonable to think Styles can become one of the most successful ex-boy banders of recent times.
His path to solo stardom was paved in previous generations by Davy Jones, Michael Jackson and Bobby Brown. And yet, for every Justin Timberlake-like ascension, there are a dozen cringe-worthy JC Chasez attempts.
In honor of the hits and the misses, here are four fresh-faced fellas who've attempted to scale Mt. Who Needs Those Other Guys, with varying degrees of success.
Jordan Knight, New Kids on the Block
Every boy band must have that one guy that has "the voice." In some cases, the one with the best pipes is also the baby (see: the Jackson 5, the Monkees) but not always. Jordan Knight, not to be confused with his groupmate and older brother Jonathan, capably filled that role in New Kids on the Block. For a time in 1999, it looked like he would get his big break. What his overtly sexual (and only) hit single "Give it to You" lacked in subtlety it made up for in catchiness. Though he swung for the adult R&B fences (and though he may have fallen short), he fared much better than many who came after him.
Nick Lachey, 98 Degrees
Aside from Timberlake, there isn't a bigger celebrity to emerge from the past two decades of boy bands. But unfortunately for 98 Degrees fans who hoped to watch Lachey collect gold records for years to come, high-profile marriages and cheesy television hosting gigs have piled much higher. His first solo effort, 2003's SoulO, was a bust, though his 2006 post-Jessica Simpson divorce album What's Left of Me was at least considered a hit at the time. Lachey has gotten his boy band back together in recent years, but it wasn't because he was selling millions of records.
Nick Carter, Backstreet Boys
As the obligatory blond baby of the group (another boy-band formula staple), Carter seemed destined to be the breakout star of the Backstreet Boys. But Now or Never, his 2002 solo debut, was packed with songs that had seemingly been swept up from the pile of his main group's discarded tracks. "Girls in the USA" is as hilarious of a Def Leppard wannabe song today as it was 15 years ago, so there's that. It surely didn't help Carter that a rival boy band blondie released his first solo record around the same time with far different results...
Justin Timberlake, 'NSYNC
If you can believe it, there's a generation of Timberlake fans who weren't old enough, or even alive, to bust down the doors of Best Buy on the day an 'NSYNC CD was released in the late '90s. Aside from Michael Jackson, there's not a more revered former boy bander in the world, because Timberlake managed to complete the seemingly impossible jump: Swim from the shallow end into the deep end, piling more people on his back along the way. Timberlake is sexy but safe, and that can't be taught or bought.
So, you love boy bands, huh? Harry Styles plays a sold-out concert on Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. at Toyota Music Factory, 300 W. Las Colinas Blvd, Irving.