Music: The return of the supergroup

New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys perform on NBC's "Today" at Rockefeller Center on June 3, 2011 in New York City.

At first glance, Mick Jagger, New Kids on the Block and Ben Harper may not appear to have much in common, but in fact, they have lately been making music bigger than their own. All three have recently joined supergroups, bands comprising members from other already established acts.

“Music has gotten so compartmentalized and put into genres,” says guitarist Dave Stewart, who is best known as the guitarist for the Eurythmics, and now as part of SuperHeavy, a supergroup that includes him, Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Damian Marley and A.R. Rahman. “Mick was saying we’ll go into the iTunes library as ‘unclassifiable.’”

Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, says putting dominant personalities from various groups will always be exciting for audiences.

“Fans very often love one or two members of a group more than the others, and when those members from different groups get together and form one supergroup, it’s almost irresistible,” he says.

Stewart says one element that makes SuperHeavy work is that the members come from such diverse backgrounds. But how about if you form a supergroup based on acts who are influenced by each other?

Metro spoke with Lou Pearlman, founder of the Backstreet Boys. Currently serving up to 25 years in a Texas prison for running a Ponzi scheme that denied investors of $300 million, he seemed happy to talk.

“Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block — that was a marriage made in heaven,” he says.
“Backstreet Boys tailored themselves to the New Kids’ style when I was helping to get it all together. … Not in every group does everybody shine to be, say, the heartthrob, but there’s always one, the quirky one, or there’s one that’s the very musically talented one or the great singer or things like that, and you take those key people, put them together and join it and you forge a new group — and that’s how you make a supergroup.”

Stewart says there’s one important rule when you’re a part of a supergroup.

“Everybody’s got to check their egos at the door,” he says. “That’s partly why people like it, because it’s like, ‘Oh good. I don’t have to be in charge.’”

Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithatMetro


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