MUSIC

The 8 Biggest Pop Groups Ever Formed on Reality TV

Boy bands and girl groups have become staples in the pop music scene over the past few decades, winning hearts by combining the catchiest songs with fun choreography and a killer sense of style.

With these bands’ success and chemistry, it’s hard to believe the members are often not lifelong friends and instead got their starts on a TV show. The X Factor, MTV’s Making the Band, La Banda and more have given music lovers some of the biggest pop groups of all time.

In fact, that’s what Universal Music Group and BTS’ label, Big Hit Entertainment, are also trying to do. As part of a strategic collaboration announced Wednesday, the South Korean label and the U.S.-based major are planning to create a joint venture recording label and audition show in the U.S. to find the next global K-pop group.

In celebration of the news, we’ve compiled the best and brightest bands (from One Direction to Twice) that have formed on reality TV shows.

One Direction

Besides their impressive career and good looks, what makes One Direction beautiful is perhaps the fact that Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik all serendipitously auditioned for X Factor (U.K.) as solo singers in 2010.

Thankfully, Simon Cowell saw their potential as a boy group, and 1D went on to release five hit albums (with 29 songs on the Billboard Hot 100) and amass millions of fans all over the globe. Of their projects, Up All Night, Midnight Memories, Take Me Home and FOUR topped the Billboard 200 albums chart, and Made in the A.M. peaked at No. 2.

After Zayn left in 2015, the band continued as a four-piece but later that year they announced they’d be going on a hiatus — though that was hardly the end of the One Direction guys. Six years later, each member has a successful solo career, keeping the spirit alive.

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Fifth Harmony

Similar to One Direction, Camila Cabello, Ally Brooke, Normani, Dinah Jane and Lauren Jauregui auditioned for X Factor (U.S.) as solo artists in 2012, before getting formed as a girl group thanks to Cowell.

As Fifth Harmony, the five-piece group proved that they were “Worth It” by releasing two hit albums, known for Hot 100-charting songs like “BO$$,” and “Work From Home.” Their debut Reflection peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in 2015, and its follow-up 7/27 peaked at No. 4 a year later.

In December 2016, Cabello announced that she was leaving Fifth Harmony, and Ally Brooke, Normani, Dinah Jane and Jauregui continued as a four-piece, releasing a self-titled album in 2017. The album peaked at No. 4 in 2017, and in March 2018, Fifth Harmony announced an indefinite hiatus to pursue now-successful solo projects.

Little Mix

Another X Factor win! Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jesy Nelson won the singing competition as Little Mix in 2011, before signing to Cowell’s label, Syco Music. Since then, they’ve released six albums together, with 2016’s Glory Days hitting No. 1 on the Official U.K. Albums chart.

In December 2020, Nelson announced that she was leaving Little Mix to focus on her mental health. “The truth is recently being in the band has really taken a toll on my mental health. I find the constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations very hard,” she shared in a statement. “There comes a time in life when we need to reinvest in taking care of ourselves rather than focussing [sic] on making other people happy, and I feel like now is the time to begin that process.”

The U.K. girl group’s remaining members all tweeted their support for Nelson, noting that they will continue as a three-person band. “We love her very much and agree that it is so important that she does what is right for her mental health and well-being,” they wrote. “We are still very much enjoying our Little Mix journey and the 3 of us are not ready for it to be over.”

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CNCO

After forming on La Banda in December 2015, CNCO took the Latin music scene by storm. The five-piece boy band, known for their swoon-worthy songs and sultry dance moves, are still going strong six years later.

Composed of members Joel Pimentel, Richard Camacho, Erick Brian Colón, Christopher Vélez and Zabdiel De Jesús, CNCO released four projects together, two of which snagged the No. 1 spot on the Top Latin Albums chart (Primera Cita in 2016 and CNCO in 2018). Perhaps their most popular song, 2016’s “Reggaetón Lento,” currently has a whopping 1.6 billion YouTube views.

Danity Kane

Formed on MTV’s Making the Band in 2005, Danity Kane were signed to Bad Boy Records by Diddy. The girl group, composed of members Wanita “D. Woods” Woodgett, Aundrea Fimbres, Dawn Richard, Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex, released a self-titled debut as a five-piece in 2016.

D. Woods left the group in 2008, and the remaining members released Welcome to the Dollhouse that same year. The album’s breakout single “Damaged” peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100.

A year after announcing a reunion, Fimbres also left the band in 2014 and the three remaining members released DK3. In 2018, O’Day, Richard and Bex announced that they would be reuniting once more for a tour. “New albums, new era, grown us. Don’t miss it,” the trio wrote alongside a promotional photo with the words “the universe is undefeated” scrawled across it. Including Danity Kane songs, the set list also featured Richard’s solo material, as well as music from O’Day and Bex’s duo project, Dumblonde.

O-Town

The five guys discovered by Lou Pearlman on the original Making the Band (Jacob Underwood, Dan Miller, Erik Estrada, Trevor Penick and Ashley Parker Angel) are the voices behind the hit “All or Nothing” and sparked the success of the MTV reality show.

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The group released both a self-titled debut and its 02 follow-up in 2001, hitting No. 5 and No. 28 on the Billboard 200, respectively. After pursuing solo projects, Estrada, Penick, Underwood and Miller reunited to release Lines & Circles in 2014 and The O.T.W.N Album in 2019.

iKon

B.I., Bobby, Jinhwan, Ju-ne, Yunhyeong, Donghyuk and Chanwoo were first introduced on WIN: Who Is Next as “Team B”; the group went on to appear on Mix & Match in 2014, and iKon was born.

The group released their debut album Welcome Back in 2015, featuring fan-favorite hits like “My Type,” “Apology” and “Dumb & Dumber.” In 2018, their second studio album, Return, with “Love Scenario,” “Beautiful,” “Jerk,” “Hug Me,” “Best Friend,” “Don’t Forget” and “Long Time No See” charting on the Billboard K-Pop 100.

Though B.I. left the group in 2019, the group is still going strong, most recently releasing the I Decide EP in 2020 and working on new music.

Twice

The South Korean girl group was formed in 2015 on the TV show Sixteen, which had 16 trainees compete against one another to secure a spot in Twice. Later that year, the band dropped their debut EP, fittingly titled The Story Begins.

In the six years since then, Jihyo, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Mina, Sana, Dahyun Momo, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu have done nothing but kill the music game, most recently unveiling a 2020 album titled Eyes Wide Open.

“Even though we speak a different language, fans from all over the world were able to relate to our lyrics,” Mina told Billboard of their band’s international impact in 2019. “I think this just goes to show the power of music, and that we are all human and experiencing the same things. Thank you to all our fans for supporting our music and for always being there for us.”

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