Fans of the latest Pixar hit Turning Red have found a lot to love about the film, from the heartwarming familial and friendship stories to the depiction of pre-social media girlhood and the adorable giant red panda. One integral part of the movie that has hooked music fans is the fictional boy band 4*Town, Mei Lee and her friends' favorite group. As the girls swoon over the group and make it their life's mission to attend their concert, it calls back to the days where choosing between *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys could make or break friendships (or, if you're a K-pop fan, your current love of BTS, NCT, or ATEEZ).
Though the boy group was created for the film as a homage to '00s boy groups, 4*Town has gained many fans thanks to their three original songs (two of which include the oh so '00s "U" in their title), a fan name (4*Townies), and an official website (of course). Here's everything we know about the inspirations, voices, and Grammy-winning producers behind the band.
What bands influenced 4*Town?
As a homage to '00s boy band culture, 4*Town draws inspiration from the most popular groups of that era. The name draws specific references to *NSYNC, borrowing the group name's star, as well as possibly the group O-Town. Other great groups from that time: Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, B2K, and the Toronto-based group b4-4.
Surprisingly, the group's inclusion in the film came from a joke from Ming, Mei's mother, when she asks "Why do they call it 4*Town if there's five of them?" Shi told Thrillist, "It was such a funny joke that justified us keeping the boy band in the movie."
In a Slate interview, Shi also explained that it was very important that the film takes boy bands and their roles in teen girls' childhoods seriously. "It’s a coming of age for a lot of girls to obsess over their first boy band. It just felt right for a movie about a tween girl that the stakes of the movie, the goal of the movie, is not to save the world. It’s not to save the princess. It’s to get to their first boy band concert and collectively become women together as they watch it."
Who are the members of 4*Town?
Like the bands of the 2000s, each member of 4*Town—Jesse, Tae Young, Robaire, Aaron T. and Aaron Z. in the order of the image above—has their own personality trait. Lead singer Robaire (voiced by Jordan Fisher) speaks French and, as director Domee Shi told Slate, he's "the one that’s going to have that solo career after the boy band dissolves." Tae Young (Grayson Villanueva) is the cute animal lover, and the character is also a homage to K-pop boy bands; many fans (this writer included) have pointed out how similar he looks to BTS' Jimin. Aaron T. (Topher Ngo) is the goofball. Aaron Z. (Josh Levi) is the sporty one. In the film, Jesse (Finneas) is described as the tall one who went to art school, but Shi also says he's "the one that’s way too old to be in the band and he has two kids, and he probably drives them around and buys beer for them."
Who voices the members of 4*Town?
Jordan Fisher (Robaire) is best known for playing John Ambrose in To All The Boys I Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You, and the multi-hyphenate has also starred in multiple TV musicals, as well as on Broadway in Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. Josh Levi (Aaron Z.) had a recurring role on the football series Friday Night Lights, and was a finalist on season 3 of the U.S. X Factor. Grayson Villanueva (Tae Young) also participated on a TV singing competition, The CW’s 2019 Christmas Caroler Challenge, while Topher Ngo (Aaron T.) mostly works as a singer and theater actor in Los Angeles.
Rounding out the group as Jesse is Finneas O'Connell (stage name Finneas), who also produced the original songs with his music partner and sister Billie Eilish. He's also known for his recurring role on the final season of Glee.
In an interview with The Wrap, musicians Jordan Fisher, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo, and Grayson Villanueva shared that they were able to record in the studio together. They also tapped into their past performance experiences, in acapella groups for Ngo and Villanueva, and in the music industry for Fisher and Levi. “We kind of met in the studio for the first time and it was magic being able to kind of find our sound and blend together in the moment,” said Ngo.
Who wrote 4*Town's songs?
The musical minds behind the hit song "Nobody Like U," the love ballad "1 True Love," and the confidence booster "U Know What’s Up," are none other than the Grammy-winning duo Billie Eilish and Finneas, who work together on Eilish's albums When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and Happier than Ever, as well as other projects, including their Oscar-nominated song for the latest Bond film No Time to Die. In a Disney featurette, Eilish said, "Writing the songs has literally been the most fun we've had writing."
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