The 1990s brought us many things which we either no longer see, or only see in much worse form in today’s world. Aka, they were unreal. I’m talking about the greatest cartoons created in history thus far. I’m talking about the greatest made-for-tv movies certainly ever. And yes, I am talking about boy bands as well.
Many of us hid in the shadows pretending to hate these boy bands and their glorious music, but I’m pretty sure that on some level we all had an appreciation for their songs. If not then, we certainly can all agree to jam out to timeless classics such as “Wannabe” or “C’est La Vie” when they come on at a party (Ed. Note: Those are not boy band songs so much as they are girl band songs). The point is, though, that though our generation saw many boy band groups, only two really ever dominated the circuit as it were. Backstreet Boys and *NSync. So who are we going to call the songbirds of our generation? Let’s have a look-see.
Criterion #1: The Debut Album
As the ole adage goes “First impressions last.” I agree. Thus we must take a look at each band’s first album and consider how they had us feeling starting out at the gate.
BSB was technically first onto the scene bangin out Euro-hits since ’95, but let’s stick to US success, anyone can be popular in other countries. In ’97 they brought us the self-titled Backstreet Boys including such singles as “As Long as You Love Me” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)“. Yes, I got this album for chrimbus that year, and yes I still listen to it to this day. The rest of the US seemed to enjoy it as well with a Billboard peak of 4, and slated as the 10th best album of the decade.
Not bad, not bad. *NSync rebuddled in ’98 with the self-titled *NSync. This had classics as “Here We Go” and “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” FDAB writer and co-founder YB owned this album, sparking an intrafamilial rivalry. The album peaked at 2 on the Billboard 100, but only got the 17th best album of the decade.
Edge: BSB. (*NSync’s peak of 2 means nothing except that the other albums coming out sucked more. (much like how Katy Perry has the same amount of #1 Singles as MJ, let it go) Decade slot counts most)
Criterion #2: The Heartthrob
Let’s be honest, part of the appeal to the boy bands was the craze that came along with them. This is why many strapping young lads were embarrassed to proclaim their love for these groups as it was “gay” as it were. Both bands naturally had the same formation: The Bad-ass (AJ McLean/Chris Kirkpatrick) The Runner-Up Heartthrob (JC Chasez/Brian Littrell) The Wildcard (Kevin Richardson/Lance Bass) the guy no one really cared about (Howie Dorough and Joey Fatone) , and of course the heartthrob.
(Sidebar: Kevin is wildcard because he is like 10 years older than everyone else, sweet life bro)
Backstreet Boys had Nick Carter. I’d argue the heartthrob should have been Brian Littrell, but that’s not how the cards were dealt. So Nick was straight kicking it, the ladies loved him and all. But I don’t really understand why. What did he really have? I mean I guess they thought he was cute, but he was more like early 90s Hanson type cute, not doing it for the guys. I think he is the reason a lot of guys tended to stray away. His solo career should prove how good he actually was, because any true heartthrob should be able to pull up his bootstraps and take off. Nick did not. His solo albums were big hits in Japan (I repeat, anyone can be a star in another country), but no so much here. He attempted an acting career, but I assume I’m the only one who can name nothing he was in except for House of Carters if you peeped that reality show (I think more people watched it for Aaron though)
*NSync had an unstoppable legend of all legends. Justin Timberlake. How could anyone compete? Need I even list his accolades? Yes I do. His debut album Justified just shattered everything ever. If you disagree, peep “Rock Your Body” and “Cry Me A River” one more time. Need I remind you that this guy was dating Britney Spears before she was crazy? Moreover, JT’s acting career has been unreal. Remember when he was in Model Behavior? (Ed. Note: If you just read that last sentence and asked what Model Behavior is, you gotta go back and watch it, great movie.) Furthermore, guypiece has been in the Shrek Series, Friends with Benefits, The Social Network, and straight kicks it on SNL every now and again. Oh and did I mention that according to Wikipedia, JT has been “romantically linked” to Beyonce, Fergie, Janet Jackson, Cameron Diaz, Alyssa Milano, Jessica Biel, and here’s the kicker in 2002 he was dating Jenna Dewan. Yes she is now married to Channing Tatum. Justin Timberlake is eskimo brothers with Channing Tatum.
Edge: Do I even need to say? Its *NSync. As FDAB co-founder YB stated “Justin Timberlake’s body of work trumps anything the Backstreet Boys ever did”
Criterion #3: Peak
While YB makes a valid point, that kinda adds more to JT’s career than to NSync, so while it may be completely true, it does not end the debate. We already peeped their debut success but now let’s take a look at their peaks. Which I would say for both of them was from 99-01. Each of them had 2 #1 albums in that span.
BSB: It seems as though they were always one step ahead of NSync, in that they released their 2nd and 3rd albums a year earlier. These were arguably their best 2 albums ever. And certainly the best was Millennium. They were straight killin’ it with “I Want It That Way” “Larger Than Life” and “The One” You are kidding yourself if you disagree. When they bumped this album in 1999 I was about to call game over.
NSync fired back with No Strings Attached, though, and gained the edge. We’re talking about “Space Cowboy” “It’s Gonna Be Me” and “Bye Bye Bye.” They were untouchable, and everyone knew it. The latter two songs are two of the more commonly replayed songs ever.
BSB had Black and Blue after this which was also badass with “The Call” Unreal song, even the Neptunes remix as per Now 7 was tight. I’d argue that this wasn’t their best, but it kept them afloat for certain.
NSync’s reply of “Celebrity” gave them the lead again, though. Songs such as “Girlfriend (Feat. Nelly)” and “Pop” Game over. How often do you go back and listen to “Pop”? Probably less than you should.
Edge: NSync. When they were on, they were ON.
Criterion #4: Lasting Power
Everyone was kind of done with boy bands after this point, but BSB decided to return in 2004 with Never Gone and left us with “Incomplete.” Whether you’re a fan or not at this point, they are still making music and doing shows (albeit they dropped Kevin and picked up New Kids on The Block). Point is, these guys stuck around. They’re not producing #1 albums anymore, but people are definitely still listening to their music.
Nsync, on the other hand, claimed they would reunite many-a-time, but as you can see, they never did. Is it because Justin Timberlake is too busy killin’ it? Is it because JC is busy with America’s Best Dance Crew? or because Chris Kirkpatrick is working on his solo career under the pseudonym “Chip Skylark“? Who Knows?
Edge: BSB. They stuck around, they did. They were on par after 2001, but in the decade since, they are still selling out shows to this day.
Result: The Standings say 2-2 tie, but that’s not how I am going to end it.
The criteria are not evenly weighted, and so we must look a little closer at what is important here. BSB had the early lead, as the first people out of the gate generally do (See: DJ Earworm’s United State of Pop series) But as NSync began to prosper, despite coming in later in the game, they started to take over (See: Mashup-Germany’s Top of The Pops Series). After 2001, NSync and BSB both dropped off, but only the Backstreet Boys were able to continue.
Much like our friend Spongebob, though, Backstreet Boys were never the same, and thus their late success is inconsequential here. I don’t believe that Justin Timberlake’s personal success is enough to give NSync the win, but I do think that NSync’s success in 2000 +/- two years takes the cake.
It saddens me to admit this because I am a Backstreet Boys fan through and through, and will stand to that, but I will not let my personal bias win this argument. NSync is seen played more at parties, killed it back in the day, and will remain untainted in my memory.
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