Why 5ive were the best 90s ‘boy band’

Well, there goes my street cred. Hey, are you still here? Then welcome to this random post about 5ive (or Five), who were formed in 1997 at the height of the trend for manufactured pop groups known as ‘boy bands’ and ‘girl bands’. They were aimed at the youngest music fans, who could see their favourites on children’s TV and use their pocket money to buy the latest singles on cassette or CD. The choreography and the carefully-matched looks were just as important as the singing.

By the time I was interested in current music targeted at my age group, the boy bands of the early 90s were already old hat and it wasn’t cool to like Boyzone, Backstreet Boys, Take That or East 17. The newest ones on the scene were A1, Another Level, *NSYNC, Westlife and of course 5ive. There was some kind of rivalry between the latter two, like Heaven vs Hell. In white suits, posed on stools, looking angelic, crooning their uplifting ballads, Westlife didn’t appeal to me at all. 5ive, in contrast, dressed in dark baggy clothes, were bursting with energy, shouted about everybody getting up (or was it down?) and projected a bad-boy image. They looked like they were having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. When we first got the internet at home, I remember waiting what seemed like a hundred years for a video – it may have been ‘Slam Dunk (Da Funk)’ – to buffer on the 5ive website. I just watched that one on YouTube and sure, the music and looks are not particularly original, the lyrics aren’t exactly Shakespeare, but it’s a feel-good tune which suggests youthful fun and high-jinks.

5ive released three albums. I had the first and third ones on CD; the second one is on cassette – yes, I still have it. Invincible is a very good album, at least when measured against other 90s boy band fare. The tracks are all different, there are samples, mellow guitars, strings, a couple of ballads, even a cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ (the album version is better than the one they released as a single). The best song is ‘Keep On Moving’, which is insanely catchy but also motivational. It was the band’s first number 1 single in the UK, and well deserved I say. The only songs which get the thumbs-down from me are the sinister ‘Don’t Wanna Let You Go’ and the bizarre ‘Mr Z’.

You may suggest that I’m looking at 5ive with my nostalgia glasses on. That’s probably true, as with any music that was the soundtrack to one’s more carefree days. But for some reason, I was thinking about them and decided that they really were superior to the other manufactured bands I remembered. If you don’t agree, I’ll fight you on it.

As with any group, you have to pick a favourite. Ritchie was the prettiest, with bright blue eyes and floppy hair. Sean was quiet and modest. Abs was cheeky and naughty-looking. Scott had the spikiest hair and reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog. My favourite was J, the oldest and the leader of the group. He looked least like a boy and more like a man. He also had an eyebrow ring and a challenging stare. I wouldn’t have admitted to friends that he was my favourite, however, because it was conventional to like the ‘cutest’ boy (usually considered to be either Scott or Ritchie) and not the scariest, most macho-looking one.

5ive split up in 2001 and have reformed a couple of times since then. It seems they are still around but there are only 3 of them in the group.

Readers who haven’t unsubscribed in disgust at my music taste: did you have a favourite ‘boy band’? Were you more into ‘girl bands’? Do you secretly still like some of the music of your pre-teen years?

20 thoughts on “Why 5ive were the best 90s ‘boy band’”

  1. Ooooh my, can you believe I have never ever heard of 5ive until now? It’s true that I was born in 94 but I must admit I am not very educated when it comes to 90s music.

    1. 5ive were one of the biggest in the UK but I’m not sure they were famous anywhere else. I don’t think they were on the radio or anything much after their heydey, so it’s not surprising you haven’t heard of them 😀

  2. I’ve heard of the rest you’ve mentioned, except 5ive! And yes, I’m still here, still your no. 1 fan despite which boybands you like or what music you like 🙂 As long as YOU LOVE BOOKS! ahahah ;D

    1. Thanks Jee, I’m very glad not to have lost your patronage 😉 The great thing about the book lovers’ community is that it tends not to be judgmental.

  3. Great post! I don’t find anything embarrassing at all about boy and girl bands and pop music. It was all certainly very “cool” in the 1990s Russia where I grew up, especially English-language bands like Five. To answer your comment to the busy shelf, they were famous globally, I am sure. I listened to them and had posters of the band (but then I also had Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and who knows how many others). Perhaps Russia was “behind” other English-speaking countries in this respect of what was considered “cool”, but I did listen to Five, remember the ballad “Closer to Me” and everybody knew “We Will Rock You” too. Maybe, irrelevant, but looking at the music chart of today’s Japan, boy bands, girl bands, choreography, synchronicity and matching looks are the pinnacle of popularity there now as it has been since already…such a long time? Sorry for this ramble, but my nostalgia also kicked in 🙂

    1. Thanks 🙂 Really interesting comment, no need to apologise. It’s good to know that 5ive’s popularity wasn’t limited to the UK and yes maybe the English language aspect made bands seem cool. I guess it also depended on which countries had access to particular music imports and what music videos were on TV. I don’t know anything about pop music in Japan (or any current music marketed for the younger generation really) but I suppose the ideas come around every so often, it’s time for boy and girl bands again.

  4. J was my favourite too, as you say not the conventional choice. As far as boybands go my favourite growing up was Westlife, haven’t listened to anything by them for years but I bet I still know all the words 😂

    1. It’s nice that J was your fave 🙂 I think he’s probably been the least visible one after the band split up. I know lots of the words to Westlife too, I didn’t actively choose to listen to them, but when they were number 1 so often, it couldn’t help filtering in to my mind!

  5. I liked 5ive but they weren’t my favourite band. It was more that I liked some of their songs but not really the band enough to want to buy their album (don’t hate me!). 😮 Scott reminded you of Sonic the Hedgehog? As I lifelong Sonic fan I am shocked and really can’t see it, butthen again I’m admitting I’m still a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog so i guess any street cred I had is gone, lol!. Actually I don’t think there’s anything to be embarassed about with liking 90s bands, I have to admit I wasn’t obsessed with boy bands, I actually really enjoyed listening to the Spice Girls when they first started ( I still know all the words of their first two albums by heart) plus a few other bands. I think I was more into mixed groups or girl bands though 😀

    You’ve made me want to write a post about my old music loves. I don’t know why we have to feel embarassed, weird or ashamed for liking something, peer pressure was huge when we were younger, but I’ll admit I listen to my old pop CDs and cassettes all the time! 😮 😮 😮 lol 😀

    1. Hi thanks for your comment 😀 I’m not going to hate you for not wanting a 5ive album! The spiky hair reminded me of Sonic, that’s the only resemblence really. I didn’t like the Spice Girls but nearly everyone else at school seemed to. Boy bands always appealed more than girl bands. Please do write a post on your favourite pop music 😀

  6. I came across your blog, and I’m glad to find out someone out there looks at 5ive the way I did as a child and up to now! I’ve been a big fan since their debut, and I only got to see them perform live in person last year. It was one of my most memorable moments as a fan coming from Asia, where 5ive wasn’t that popular. Sadly, only Scott, Sean, and Ritchie remained, and Abz already had a solo career. I must say, in terms of music, 5ive’s the most eclectic and never sounded the same as others. I found out that other artists have probably copied some of their songs and melodies due to a lack of copyright (not entirely sure about this!). Anyhow, I highly recommend you listen to their single “Inspector Gadget”. There’s a fanmade video on YouTube, but the song is original. I also believe to this date that most Korean boybands were highly formatted from 5ive as they have rappers, balladeers/main vocals and had to dance to catchy songs. Not all boy groups had the same anatomy back in the 90s.

    Sorry for the long post!

    1. Hey, thank you for the comment, very interesting to have your perspective! I agree there was something different about the band and their songs and I’m sure they have influenced pop since. I remember they did the Inspector Gadget song for the movie. That’s cool you saw them even though they are down to 3.

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