America's Next Top Boy Band?

Could we be America’s Next Top Boy Band?

The number of successful boy bands has been on a steep decline since 2000, and where some may see the death of a trend, we see opportunity. Our goal is simple: we want to become the next top boy band by unraveling past boy bands’ formulas for success. To do this, we consulted the world’s authority on all things boy band related: The Internet BoyBand Database which also has a github.

Boy Bands Through the Ages (Source: Billboard)

Figure 1: Boy Bands Through the Ages (Source: Billboard)

Our Data

The dataset was originally two separate files, boys.csv and bands.csv, containing data on boy bands after 1980 who had a Billboard Top 100 hit with a music video available on Youtube. We made a few improvements to this data: We merged the two files into a single boybands.csv, cleaned up the way accessories are documented in the dataset, and also added YouTube statistics to the dataset with the help of a Python script. Now the number of likes, dislikes, views, and upload date for each band’s most popular music video is included in the dataset.

While working with this dataset, we looked to answer the question that could lead to our own fame and fortune, “What makes a boyband successful?” To answer this, we focused our data exploration on the two most important aspects of a boy band: fashion and music.

But What Should We Wear?

The most important aspect of any boy band is their sense of fashion. If we want to become the next big boy band, we are going to need a look that says so. In order to figure out what types of clothes to wear, we needed to look at what the other top boy bands have been wearing.

What tops should we wear?

To investigate which shirts we should wear, we took the date at which each band reached their highest chart position, and rounded the year down to the closest number divisible by five, using the floor function to do the rounding. We used the mutate command to store these years in a new column. This allowed us to group each band member into a different era based on when their popularity peaked. After this, we used the group_by() and summarize() commands to reconfigure our data frame to have three columns, one for the era, one for the style of shirt, and one that counted the number of boys who wore that syle at the time.

tops_over_time <- boy_bands %>%
  mutate(era = floor(year(ymd(highest_pos_date))/5)*5) %>%
  group_by(era, top_style) %>%
  summarize(n = n()) 

After this, we used the group_by() and mutate() commands to calculate the proportion of boys that wore each style in each era. This means that the proportions across one era sum to one, as opposed to the proportions across all eras summing to one. Because there were a lot of different top styles, we chose to use the filter command to help focus on the most popular styles (We found out which styles were most popular overall by creating a separate data frame).

tops_over_time <- tops_over_time %>%
  group_by(era) %>%
  mutate(proportion = n/sum(n)) %>%
  filter(top_style == "long-sleeve button down" |
           top_style == "long-sleeve t-shirt" |
           top_style == "other jacket, short-sleeve t-shirt" |
           top_style == "short-sleeve button down" |
           top_style == "short-sleeve t-shirt" |
           top_style == "suit jacket, long-sleeve button down") 

This plot illustrates the proportion of boys that wore each shirt style during each era, showing us the relative popularity of each style over time. As we can see, short-sleeve t-shirts with jackets have been the main choice since the late 90’s. Given the sheer dominance of this style, specifically with regards to the past five years, this will be the optimal choice for our boy band.

What pants should we wear?

To investigate pant styles, we used the same method that we used for shirts. There was a much smaller variety of pant styles, so we were able to look at all of them as opposed to only looking at the most popular styles.

If we focus on bottom styles used by boy bands, we see that jeans and dress pants have largely dominated the scene since its initiation. During the 90’s, we saw the advent of new pant styles, such as overalls and cargo pants (yuck!). However, it seems that by 2005, the top boy bands were strictly avoiding lesser pant styles and sticking to jeans and dress pants. Interestingly, the most recent five years saw the introduction of acid-wash jeans, which outranked both dress pants and jeans. Given that any sort of not-conforming pant styles died out in the 90’s, it seems our boy band will have to stick to jeans or dress pants, and potentially acid-wash jeans.

Should we wear accessories?

We looked at what accessories were most popular. For this table we included the four most popular accessories as variables.

Earrings Necklaces Glasses Sunglasses
81 54 26 11

Of these accessories, earrings were clearly the most popular accessory amongst band members. For the aspiring boy band, earrings are a fashion must!

And What Type of Music Should We Sing?

While aesthetics are the most important part of the boy band concept, music plays a close second role. We must explore the genre of music we want to play. While some musical styles are universal, trends are highly influential, and we can always change with the times!

We want to know at what pace we need to sing for our first song to make it big. While NSYNC’s iconic “It’s Gonna Be Me” is a great example of a top ranked pop song, New Kids on the Block also had a winner with their slow song “I’ll be Loving You (Forever)”. We took the songs in our data set and looked at their dance speed to figure out the best choice for our boy band. Boy band music isn’t particularly experimental, so the only speeds were “pop” and “slow”. We opted to measure success by how many views the songs had aquired on youtube. Note that YouTube was founded in 2005, so songs that came out before then had their songs uploaded later. At the same time, these older songs have been on the streaming website much longer and have had more time to rack up views.

These box plots show that pop songs tend to generate slightly more views. When considering YouTube views, pop songs bring in more opportunities to wow the audience. Another key to this decision is the modern trends.

Only one top slow song has been created by a boy band since the early 2000s, indicating that slow songs are out of style. If we want to stick to the stats, we should go for a pop song. The choice was a difficult one, but ultimately, the best option here is a pop song.

Throughout our data exploration, we’ve uncovered various trends in fashion and music that helped fuel the excitement around boy bands in the past. If we follow the trends in the boy bands dataset we should rise to the top of boy band charts in no time!