ABC has brought together some of the greatest pop influencers of the past 20 years in hopes of creating the next chart-topping boy band via a new reality show.
Boy Band unites Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, Spice Girl Emma Bunton and Justin Timberlake's most frequent collaborator Timbaland on Thursday, June 22 to try and find the next great pop act of the 2000s. Instead of judges, the threesome are called "architects" and will coach a set of aspiring young male singers into the team players they need to be to hopefully join the ranks of the pop groups of yesteryear. The proceedings will be hosted by recording artist and actress Rita Ora.
Each of the architects are approaching the competition from various areas of expertise. Carter, of course, is one fifth of one the most successful boy bands of all time. The Backstreet Boys, unlike most of their pop contemporaries, are still touring and performing together. Bunton, better known to her fans as Baby Spice, toured the world with the Spice Girls, redefining "Girl Power" and smashing records left and right. Timbaland's presence could be felt more behind the scenes. He helped craft Aaliyah's career and turned Justin Timberlake from boy band member to a pop icon in his own right.
TVGuide.com got the opportunity to talk to all three architects about why they joined Boy Band, what it takes to make a successful group in 2017 and why this show is what everyone needs to be watching this summer.
What brought you to the show?
Nick Carter: For me, I was approached by the producers and also ABC. They basically had the idea of the show Boy Band and they said, "We were thinking about these different guys in groups right now that are active in a boy band. We really think that you could offer something to the show because of your experience and whatever." Obviously, I had done some stuff before with ABC with Dancing with the Stars and knew the whole family. I obviously heard about Timbaland's involvement, Emma's involvement and the concept itself was — I felt like they really wanted to get it right this time.
[The network] really wanted to make sure that it was credible with the people who were involved. We liked the idea that we're architects instead of judges and we're sort of mentoring these boys and trying to help them achieve their dreams rather than tearing them down as much. All those things collectively really made me excited to be part of the process and the project. I was a die-hard fan of Timbaland and good friends with Emma.
Timbaland: I got involved in the show kind of similar. [I wasn't] in a boy band but being part of Justin Timberlake's career and being there for that whole pop sound...Once they told me they had Emma and Nick Carter, I was like, "Oh, you guys are really putting some thought into this." I met with ABC and the producers, they said they didn't want it to be corny. I didn't have to say it or bring it up. They really want it to touch the culture. I thought the way they were going and the song choices they wanted the kids to sing, I thought were amazing.
I just came from working with kids on my show The Pop Game. I enjoy working with kids. I love giving back because part of me, I'm a producer, I like making that new sound and mixing talent and making that new sound for this generation. I did it for the '90s, the early 2000s, so what is the next thing? This is one of those things that is meant to be. ABC brought it in, I looked at it and it is something that I have always wanted to do.
Emma Bunton: Who doesn't love a boy band? I just felt that it was perfect for me, being part of a girl band. I feel like I know what to look for. I'm looking for guys that can really work well together but have individuality as well. Being in a band, it's such fun. You're a team. You get on stage with your best mates. It's obviously one of the best things to be part of, as well. When I looked into it, it just seemed like such good fun. I also loved the fact that as architects, myself, Nick Carter and Timbaland, together we are trying to find a boy band that is modern. We're all working as a team and that's great.
What is the main difference between what a boy band looked like in the '90s and what it looks like now?
Carter: What I've noticed over the last decade when you had One Direction and all these guys come out, the guys can sing. Obviously, they have talent but from my standpoint with my era with Justin Timberlake, with the Backstreet Boys and that whole era, it's about a show as well for us. As the songs and everything, dancing and singing together was one of our specialties. That definitely has changed. We want to add a little bit more of those elements to this next generation of boy bands that we're going to put together. The music has definitely evolved. Tim can probably elaborate on that. One Direction is the only band that I can think of in the recent times that is a boy band. That's why it's so important to put together another boy band. We're going to give a new, younger generation something fresh when it comes to music. Overall, I think the mentality in the performance part of it and the songs are different.
Timbaland: I just think that the boy bands in the '90s set the trend for the boy bands in the future. Of course, the music is different. The style is different, but overall there's room to grow...Now what we're doing with Boy Band is that we're showing a whole new side of the industry...It's changing it up. We're evolving. We're taking the structure of the '90s [boy band] but we're changing it.
Bunton: When you go to a show and watch a boy band on tour, there's something electric about it. There are individual characters but they have great dances...With boy band, we auditioned every guy as an individual. They all bring something different to it. We've got a really young, intelligent rapper on the show. We've got a beat boxer. We've got a guy that does these incredible runs. We have a couple of guys who harmonize unbelievably together. They have to come together. They have to gel.
What is your main advice for these contestants coming on to the show?
Carter: My advice that I'd like to give these kids is when you commit to being in a group, if that's what you really want to do — be in a group — then you have to know what it's like to sacrifice for your member. You have to compromise. I might feel really strong about something, but in my group we operate in a democracy. We operate in a voting system so if four out of five, then we go with something. It's not about being a solo artist. If you want to be a solo artist, then be a solo artist. It's Tim's job, Emma's job and my job to see through that. The last thing we want is for anybody to use this as a stepping stone for a solo career.
Timbaland: I will say this, my advice that I would give is study the past. To make a great band and great members, go back in history. The old always informs the new...Go back to the old and refine it to you.
Carter: Learn from the mistakes as well in the past.
Bunton: Work. Work hard. I do remember back in the day with the Spice Girls, we had so many girls coming up — one of them even came into our dressing room — and said, "Hey, we've got a bone to pick with you. You're working so hard that the rest of us have to try and keep up." It's about once you're up there you have to keep up at it. You have to have vocal coaching. You've got to be in your bedroom practicing all the time. That is my thing. I want them to work as hard as they can, but also have a lot of fun! Get to know the other guys in their band.
Why should everyone tune in to this show?
Bunton: It is very different from any other show that's on in the moment. It's a bit of an emotional roller coaster. You've got these guys that want to be in this band so badly. Some of them have personal things going on in their lives. They want to be in the industry. There's other guys that have been working the circuit for years and now they want to be special. I was in tears because one of them sang a song that I absolutely love and it hit an emotion in me. [The architects] are together on it and we're spending time with these guys. It's an uplifting show that America, at the end of the day, is going to make the decision and they're going to make this boy band. With the diversity of the guys, I think we're going to make something so amazing. I'm just looking forward to America making that decision.
Carter: I'm going to tell you this right now, when Tim, Emma, myself and Rita [Ora] all sit in a thing called the war room and we start debating with each other — it gets fun. It gets interesting. The chemistry that we have with each other so far just starting this thing is exciting. It's electrifying. You can see that. That's probably going to be different from other shows...I'm passionate about everything that I do. Our architects are definitely passionate.
Timbaland: I think they're going to see it's real...The war room is about building a group and we know what we're doing. We're building the next super group for America. When we're in the war room we bring up all the points that we learned...We even look at the past of what we've done and use it as judgement for the day. That's what's so cool about this show.
Carter: We have 30 guys that are talented. They are doing everything they can to show the world that they have what it takes to be part of this group. They are going to see that competition come out. They're going to see not just competition, but that they have to work together in order to achieve that success. It's really a crazy dynamic.
Boy Band premieres Thursday, June 22 at 8/7c on ABC.
Additional reporting by Lindsay MacDonald