A long, long time ago (y’know, like a whole decade ago), a Battle Royale took place over the airwaves.
In this corner, consisting of five guys in their 20s singing pop songs—N’Sync!
And in this corner, consisting of…five guys in their 20s singing pop songs….Backstreet Boys!
The crazy thing about N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys is the fact that they were essentially the same exact group, singing basically the same exact songs, and not only were they able to both enjoy incredible commercial success, but their fans would debate to the death over which was the superior group.
Oh, of course there were those who enjoyed both—I was one of them. But even those who had CDs of both groups had their secret preference. To them, one was simply the Better Group. But was one of them really better?
Let’s break down each group a little bit, shall we?
The Backstreet Boys formed in 1994 and released their first song in 1995. Their members were A.J. McLean, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, and Kevin Richardson. They released seven albums, two of which were released after Kevin left the group and the Backstreet Boys consisted of four members. Their last album was actually released in September 2009, and it’s like…who are you kidding guys? You guys are in your thirties now and the world has moved on. No one is listening to you anymore.
N’Sync was formed in 1996 and released their first song the same year, although they didn’t premier in the USA until 1998. So perhaps the claim by some that they were simply the BSB knock-off has some validity. The members of the group were Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Justin Timberlake. Their last album was released in 2001 and the group broke up around that time, wanting to focus on solo careers, at which Justin Timberlake enjoyed moderate success. So while they arrived later on the scene, and fizzled out first, at least you can admit that they knew when to call it quits, versus the farce that Backstreet Boys has become (can you still call yourself a ‘Backstreet Boy’ if you’re 37? Apparently you can!).
Let’s look at some numbers: N’Sync’s album ‘No Strings Attached’ (their second album) not only debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, it set the record for the first (and currently only!) album to have sold more than two million copies in a single week (although the records only go back until 1991). The album went eleven-times platinum, and world-wide sold over 11 million copies.
However! Backstreet Boys (unsurprisingly) can boast similar numbers. Their album Millennium went THIRTEEN-times platinum, and was the best selling album of 1999 with almost 10 million sold in that year alone. 13 million total copies have been sold. While N’Sync’s ‘No Strings Attached’ sold more in the first week (2 million versus 1.1 million) of release, ‘Millennium’ has sold more total copies.
Backstreet Boys’ next album, ‘Black and Blue’ sold over 8 million copies, while N’Sync’s next album, ‘Celebrity’ sold over 5 million. So, it does seem that when it comes time to crunch the numbers, Backstreet Boys were more successful, garnering more total sales.
On the other hand, N’Sync had a line of creepy dolls based on their ‘No Strings Attached’ album in which they were…attached to strings. Kind of counter-intuitive, but okay. (I’m not even going to lie, I got Justin for Christmas one year and I totally loved it. Except his plastic curly hair was indeed creepy.)
In the end, really, it comes down to the fact that N’Sync and Backstreet Boys were basically the SAME EXACT GROUP, capitalizing on the adoration of young preteen/teenage girls. They both had talent, they both enjoyed a lot of success, and the fact that they could coexist was just an example of how supply and demand works in the music industry. The fact that we would spend so much time arguing about who was ‘better’ makes me wonder what the hell we were actually listening to, because listening back, yeah, they’re THE SAME.
I declare the match a tie, with the caveat that I demand the Backstreet Boys stop putting music out under that name. Guys, just let it go.