By Heather Jones and Emily Maltby
February 6, 2014

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S. and the Fab Four’s legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964. While the lads quickly distanced themselves from their largely fabricated image as mop-topped Beatlemania-inspiring dreamboats, their blueprint for a successful boy band–smart one (John Lennon), cute one (Paul McCartney), quiet one (George Harrison) and funny one (Ringo Starr)–lives on. Whether their successors played surf music, suave R&B, novelty songs or sugary ballads, here’s a look at the connections and characteristics that have defined five decades of adorable pop acts.

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WITH FEW SUBSTITUTIONS, THE FORMULA THAT KEEPS ON WINNING:

ULTRA-TALENTED, DREAMY HEARTTHROB

+

BAD BOY

HOMELY ONE

CUTE ONE

SHY ONE

+

THE PUPPET MASTER

Brian Epstein groomed the Beatles; Maurice Starr created New Edition and New Kids on the Block; Lou Pearlman invented Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync; Simon Cowell masterminded One Direction

IMAGE IS EVERYTHING

+

IT’S NOT ABOUT SALES, IT’S ABOUT TOURS AND MERCHANDISE

THE BEATLES

HEYDAY: 1962–1970

Beatlemania set off a merchandising frenzy that included a Flip Your Wig game, lunch boxes, figurines and serving trays

BEACH BOYS

HEYDAY: 1962–1975

SPIN-OFF: BRIAN WILSON

“Kokomo” hit No. 1 in November 1988, 24 years after the band’s first chart topper, “I Get Around”

THE MONKEES

HEYDAY: 1966–1970

SPIN-OFF: MICHAEL JACKSON

Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney for the publishing rights to some 200 Beatles songs in the mid-’80s

JACKSON 5

HEYDAY: 1969–1979

SPIN-OFF: MICHAEL JACKSON

THE OSMONDS

HEYDAY: 1971–1976

SPIN-OFF: DONNY OSMOND

In 1963 5-year-old Donny Osmond performed on The Andy Williams Show; in 2009 he won Dancing With the Stars

BAY CITY ROLLERS

HEYDAY: 1973–1976

NEW EDITION

HEYDAY: 1983–1988

SPIN-OFF: BOBBY BROWN

Bobby Brown said his earnings from New Edition tours and records amounted to “$500 and a VCR”

MENUDO

HEYDAY: 1981–1989

SPIN-OFF: RICKY MARTIN

Members cycled out when their voices changed or they got too old; Menudo had more than 30 members total

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

HEYDAY: 1988–1992

The band’s original name was Nynuk

BOYZ II MEN

HEYDAY: 1991–1997

Named after the New Edition song “Boys to Men”

BACKSTREET BOYS

HEYDAY: 1996–2001

The reunited Backstreet Boys sang at a 2013 Christmas concert in Washington, attended by the Obamas

98 DEGREES

HEYDAY: 1997–2001

SPIN-OFF: NICK LACHEY

Nick Lachey broke into reality TV on MTV’s Newlyweds with Jessica Simpson before hosting NBC’s The Sing-Off

‘N SYNC

HEYDAY: 1997–2002

SPIN-OFF: JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

‘N Sync fans bought 1.1 million copies of No Strings Attached on its first day in stores, making it the first album to hit seven-figure sales in one day

HANSON

HEYDAY: 1997–2000

BBMAK

HEYDAY: 1999–2003

BBMak’s breakout song, “Back Here,” initially made a bigger splash in the U.S. than in the band’s native England

JONAS BROTHERS

HEYDAY: 2005–2010

Their squeaky-clean image was “sugarcoated,” said Joe Jonas, who recently admitted to drug use

BIG TIME RUSH

HEYDAY: 2010–

THE WANTED

HEYDAY: 2010–2013

The Wanted Life on E! drew an audience of 1.7 million viewers

ONE DIRECTION

HEYDAY: 2011–

Fans bid $100,000 on eBay for a piece of Vegemite toast that member Niall Horan bit into in Sydney

START HERE

KEY

TOGETHER 5+ CONSECUTIVE YEARS

KNOWN TO PLAY OWN INSTRUMENTS

HAD NO. 1 HIT SINGLE IN U.S.

INCLUDED FAMILY MEMBERS

SPAWNED FROM TV

MADE CHRISTMAS ALBUM

AT LEAST ONE MEMBER ARRESTED

FAMOUS SOLO SPIN-OFF

HAD A COMEBACK TOUR

AMERICAN

BRITISH

BRITISH/IRISH

PUERTO RICAN

SCOTTISH

SOURCES: BILLBOARD.COM; BAND WEBSITES

Contact us at editors@time.com.

This appears in the February 17, 2014 issue of TIME.

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