The Ultimate Question: Backstreet Boys or Nsync? (A Look Back)

Welcome back, my friends.

Boy bands. When I think of Boy bands, I think of the ones that I grew up loving. Just in case you are new to this blog, I grew up in the golden age of boy bands. I guess that explosion of this pop goodness was a reaction to the years of alternative music or as I call it ‘complaint rock.’ You could track the rise of boy bands to my generation wanting something different, and we had the money to make that change from alternative to pop. I remember hearing about a new band through my friends at school and by the weekend, I was at Sam Goody’s pleading with my mom to pick up the cassette/CD.

They say that music can bring you back. I fully agree on that. Whenever I happen to hear ‘The Sign’ by Ace of Base, I am brought back to the Jersey Shore and Martell’s getting a hot dog with parents. I hear Nirvana, and I am brought back to a time where my family was going out to dinner. My parents were big Nirvana fans back in the day. I have unyielding memories attached to that band (that is another look-back entry).

Either way, music brings you back. Being a part of the boy band craze brings me back to very fun moments in my life. Lots of calling radio stations, pining over guys who I never had a chance with and memorizing every song they ever made. It was a fun time to be a fan.

I’m going to look at the two boy bands that had a profound effect on my childhood. Are they any good? Let’s find out shall we?

Backstreet Boys

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The Backstreet Boys were the first boy band to grab my attention as a kid. It was the first major album I bought with my birthday money. It was the first time I begged my grandma to buy their live concert on Pay Per View. Their music will always have a place in my history.

In case you do not know, Backstreet Boys started in Orlando Florida in 1993. They hit international stardom in 1996 and never looked back. The album that made me a fan was their debut titled Backstreet Boys.  I wore that CD out and had to buy a new one. So, it has to be good…right?

Looking Back

I listened to this open with an open mind. To start out, the singles on the album will always work for me. They are fun and easy to sing along with. I am convinced that the song, ‘Everyone (Backstreets Back)’ could have been released today and still a hit. It is easy to dance to, remix and the video for the song was inventive. The only problem is, what are you back from Backstreet Boys? This is your “first” album. Anyway, it still works for me. I also still know all the words by heart.

As for the songs that were not singles. They are in line with the hits. The same type of beat, still talking about girls or going out with friends. There is a distinct R&B feel to some of the songs. It would be laughable, but it works with their voices. I still got into the songs especially the song ‘Hey Mr. DJ” which I always skipped when I was a kid. More than likely because it was a bit on the older side and I just wanted them to hit on me directly. Like they did in “If You Want it to be Good Girl (Get Yourself a Bad Boy). I loved that song as a young teen, and now it is just slimy. I like them flirting than straight out trying to hit on the listener.

If you compare this album to their numerous other records (yes, they still record songs and tour) you can see the maturity and growth in the song choices and voices. I feel they tried too hard to be like what is popular at the time but when they find that happy middle, it is fun to listen to them again. Check out Weird World. That song has grabbed my attention.

One thing before I move on.

Why do they ask if they are sexual on Backstreets Back? I did not know how to answer that as a ten-year-old and I do not now at twenty-eight.

*NSYNC

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Now. Nsync. The boy band that stole me away from Backstreet Boys. They were younger (generally) and came across a bit more juvenile. They showed up in 1995 with bright costumes, funnier personalities and managed to get more screen time than Backstreet Boys. I had the albums, the t-shirts, the dolls, the posters, and the paraphernalia from the concerts. I had it all. Super fan is the proper word for me. I was the biggest Lance Bass fan (barking up the wrong tree on that one. Still find him adorable, though).  Justin Timberlake was a close second. Like most girls my age.

Regardless of all the hype, I only have the albums to look back on. Like with Backstreet Boys, I will be looking at their debut album Nsync (see…there is that theme again).

Looking Back

Just listening to the hits, I still love them. Could they still work if they were released today? No. Not at all. Unlike the Backstreet Boys the songs sound dated now. Especially (God Must of Spent) A Little Time on You. Corny as all hell. If I remember correctly, the video was corny too. Right up there with This I Promise You. I Want You Back and Tearn’ Up My Heart still hold up for me because I have strong memories attached. Mostly me being happy with my friends. Singing our little hearts out. I cherish those memories.

As for the other songs? They seem to follow the same formula as the Backstreet Boys debut album. Nsync had more pop on their album than R&B, but it’s there. Also, it was light in content. They were not completely hitting on the listener. They presented themselves consistently as sympathetic boys down the street. I won’t lie; I had a harder time listening to this album when it wasn’t a hit single.

Since they broke up after three albums looking forward and seeing if they got any better is tougher. I have to say that the content doesn’t change. Still those sweet boys but now fame is upsetting them (I’m saying this mockingly of course).  The songs are still catchy, and the group still sounds strong, but nothing changes in the next two albums. In fact, I’m going to have to hand in my superfan card, I didn’t like their last album Celebrity. I felt like they were complaining too much and trying too hard to be something they weren’t.

This debut album more than likely would not have gotten my attention if it came out now. It is boring. I will say this, though. I think Nsync were stronger singers than the Backstreet Boys. Their acapella are still amazing to hear.

Recently Jive released their unreleased material, and there is a lot on there worth checking out. I recommend That Girl (Will Never Be Mine) and Sailing. 

Something I Noticed as an Adult

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It is fun to look back at these groups. Analyze them. Wonder if they would resonate with you as an adult. Learning both bands were being managed by the same guy. The songs were being written by the same person (Max Martin. Look him up. Without him we wouldn’t have a childhood). They are similar in every way. Who stands the test of time? Both I guess. They are a fun memory. Current teenagers might not like them my generation is still around, and we still like to look back.

Something did bother me, though.

The Backstreet Boys are still touring and making new music. They have more accolades than most. Nsync is over. It has been over since their third album. They have lots of success but not the levels that Backstreet Boys do. Why do people remember Nsync fondly while Backstreet Boys are mentioned in passing?

My idea? Marketing. I remember seeing more Nsync merchandise than Backstreet Boys. I also remember how they marketed their personalities. Yes, both followed the formula, but I remember feeling like the Backstreet Boys were not as accessible as Nsync was. Nsync was bright and colorful and had more of a media following. I remember Backstreet Boys were quieter (give or take Nick Carter).  They wanted to talk about the music rather than just play up the crowd. Not saying either strategy was wrong it lead me to believe that Nsync was for the young end of the teenagers and Backstreet was meant for the older teenager.

Either way, looking back on my childhood has given me some insight into how marketing and my bias played a big part in what I loved. Now, I can see that whole era of my life with a clearer head. I have to say, both are still great. They severed a purpose and did an excellent job serving that purpose. I think Backstreet Boys deserve more credit for managing to stick together and evolving into a more mature group of singers. Check out their new stuff on Spotify. It is pretty good.

Nsync will always have a spot in my heart, but I feel like almost everyone (Justin Timberlake is not in this group) has faltered. The members found niches to fall into but never managed to mature into a different image. They all still have the talent they just do not seem to use them the right way.

It is amazing to think that the album that made me dump The Backstreet Boys as my ‘true love’ was not that good. Looking back did not ruin my childhood but helped me understand that a lot was at play in what I listened to growing up.

Did you participate in the boy band wars? Got some good war stories? Share them below.

Until next time, the randomness has ended. Bouns! I added a creepy clip from TRL. Enjoy.

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