This infamous part of the music industry was thrown into an uprise in the late 1990s with the explosion of boy bands and the adolescent mania that followed.
In the USA, this type of music probably got its start during the 1960s with the The Monkees and other musicians who also acted as leaders of pop culture. In the 1970s idols like Donny Osmond and David Cassidy continued the tradition. These two were chiefly popular and famous because of their image rather than the quality of their voice or any musical talent. This became increasingly apparent when Osmond tried to start a serious music career and was unable to do so until the late 1980s because of the image of a teen idol that followed him and spoiled his ability to be taken seriously.
Throughout the 1980s, pop stars began to dance. Michael Jackson led the way with his then-original choreography and the teen idol was then expected to have some kind of appeal other than simply singing songs written by other people. The fresh look of teens attracted the eyes of the nation throughout the decade as the Mickey Mouse Club and other shows became increasingly interesting to the teenage crowd. The New Kids on the Block had an incredible amount of popularity based on style and their good boy images and this popularity lasted through the transition period from the 80s to the 90s. The Mouse Club members experienced popularity throughout this transition period as well, but it fell as quickly as it had risen. Paula Abdul gave a slightly more mature view of an idol.
Throughout the mid-1990s, teen idols experienced a dip in their popularity. With the Backstreet Boys gaining an insane amount of popularity for their image and breathy, stylized harmonies America became obsessed with teen idols once more. Girls screaming littered the streets of New York as they tried to see their favorite bands--which by then included the likes of *NSync--and often getting into trouble for their almost frightening obsession.
The Mouse Club crew had grown up. Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera all hit it big for their "happy teen" images.
Spears has shown us that she often lip synchs in concerts. This is, unfortunately, an indisputable element of her live performances. According to Professor Doug Mitchell of Middle Tennessee State University, most of the time her microphone isn't even on. Many of the vocals are pre-recorded. If one looks at her performance of I'm A Slave 4 U live at an awards show on MTV, it is obvious that when the crowd isn't looking at Spears, she stops singing.
So what makes a manufactured pop group? Typically, they are three or more people who are signed on to become a singing group and begin singing songs written by other people within a few weeks of their beginning as performers. As was seen in the show Making the Band, they are more concerned with image and their popularity as teen heart-throbs than as serious musicians. Their manufactured image is perfected by stylists, make-up artists, designers, artists, and so on. Their manager is marketing a package of products rather than a group of diverse musicians who have come together of their own accord to become an ensemble.
Manufactured pop groups are just that: manufactured. They are put together one after the other to compete with one another in a market that became saturated with groups with identical sounds and identical images. When this happens, the groups lose popularity as a denomination of performers. This is because of their similarity. It becomes bland and people look to artists and singer-songwriters for fresh music. The cycle continues again and again. It is true that some of the groups mastered some level of singing talent during the late 1990s and through the present (2002), incorporating harmonies into their music, but the manufactured style is still there.