Boys to Men: When Heartthrobs Split From Their Teen Pop Image

There comes a time when boys turn to men and teen pop heartthrobs must split from their innocent image to become a promiscuous adult — and they make a whole album to let you know about it. 

This phenomenon all started when Justin Timberlake traded N*SYNC and his puppy dog image for the sensual R&B tunes on his debut solo record Justified (2002). Taking on a new musical direction, Justin earned the title of “white Michael Jackson,” many thanks to the writing of Timbaland and Neptunes who originally wrote the record for Michael Jackson himself. 

Timberlake became the first boybander to successfully rebrand himself and move away from the heartthrob image adored by teen fangirls to be taken seriously by an older, male demographic.

Using Justified as the blueprint, many other male pop stars and boy banders have leaned into R&B and sexually explicit lyrics to follow in the footsteps of Timberlake. Among these include Jesse McCartney’s (song title) (2009), Nick Jonas’ self-titled debut (2014), Justin Bieber’s Purpose (2015), Zayn’s Mind of Mine (2016), and Liam Payne’s LP1 (2019). 

Some of them made a smooth transition into their bad boy (or bad man, I should say) image while hitting #1 on the Billboard 200, while others flopped in the worst way possible. This week we’re ranking each of these transitions from least to most suave. Tune in to find out which had us cringing! 

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Hear similar episodes from Name 3 Songs such as: The Importance of Boy Bands to Pop Culture & their Dark History (featuring Maria Sherman) and Misogyny in Pop Music: The Nice Gusya nd the Pick Me Girls

Sources for Boys to Men: When Heartthrobs Split From Their Teen Pop Image

Pharrell Williams Says Justin Timberlake Got ‘Justified’ Songs After Michael Jackson Rejected Them (Billboard, Anna Chan, 2020)

Justifying Justin Timberlake’s ‘Justified’ – 10 Years On (NME, Eve Barlow, 2012

Justin Timberlake, Justified Review (Rolling Stone, Ben Ratliff, 2002)

Justin Timberlake: Justified (The Guardian, Caroline Sullivan, 2002)

Boy Wonder (The Guardian, Polly Vernon, 2002)

Timberlake, Janet Jackson Make Sexy Pair on Justified (MTV, News Staff, 2002)

Liam Payne: LP1 Album Review (Pitchfork, Rawiya Kameir, 2019)

Liam Payne: LP1 review – beware! Former 1D member on the prowl (The Guardian, Laura Snapes, 2019)

Liam Payne on life after One Direction: ‘It was touch and go. I was slowly losing the plot’ (The Guardian, Elle Hunt, 2019)

Liam Payne interview: ‘Party animal or animal in the gym – for me it’s all about balance’ (GQ, Jonathan Heaf, 2019)

Justin Bieber, Purpose Review (Pitchfork, Brad Nelson, 2015)

Justin Bieber Would Like to Reintroduce Himself (GQ, Caity Weaver, 2016)

A Review Roundup of Zayn Malik’s First Solo Single ‘Pillowtalk’ (Newsweek, Dipo Faloyin, 2016)

Zayn Malik’s Sexy ‘Pillowtalk” video is here: Watch (Billboard, 2016)

Zayn Malik: Mind of Mine Review (Pitchfork, Brad Nelson, 2016)

Zayn Malik On One Direction Denying His Authenticity (Complex, Joe La Puma, 2016)

Zayn’s Fader Cover Story (Fader, Dec 2015)

A former boy-bander announces that he’s become a man (Rolling Stone, Britney Spanos, 2014)

Nick Jonas: “Jealous” Has “A Good Tempo For Sex” (Elle, Mickey Rapkin, 2015)

Nick Jonas on going solo, social media and why Last Year Was Complicated (The Independent, Olivia Blair, 2016)

Jesse McCartney says ‘Shake’ is ‘Good Ear Candy’ (MTV, Jocelyn Vena, 2010)

Jesse McCartney Follows Justin Timberlake’s Example As His Music Matures (MTV, Jocelyn Vena, 2008)
Jesse McCartney Will Let Fans ‘Have It All’ in January 2011 (Billboard, Jason Lipshutz, 2010)

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