Earlier this week, our fans voted on the greatest rivalry of all time, and the results were not close. It wasn’t Good vs. Evil or the Cavs vs. the Warriors. And Trump vs. the Media got no votes whatsoever. People have opinions on these late 90s/early aughts poppy whiteboy bands. And while 98° was cute for like three songs, and BBMak had two underrated jams, and O-Town had their own TV show, we all know there were only two real contenders.
YES, you have to pick a side. Are you on Team Backstreet Boys or Team *NSYNC? Get ready to lose friendships. It’s time to get real.
I could point out that “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Tearin’ up My Heart” are the same song, except BSB’s was first to market… though technically that’s only true in the U.S.
I could remind all you revisionist historians that peak Nick Carter is hotter than peak Justin Timberlake… but that might be subjective.
Instead, I’ll let 5 little words do the talking. They convey my opinion and their very existence is an irrefutable fact asserting, once and for all, Backstreet Boys’ dominance over *NSYNC:
My initial reaction is that this is not a rivalry: *NSYNC is clearly better.
As a teen in the midwest who shopped at uber-hip used clothing stores and enjoyed all varieties of punk (regular, emo, and pop), my disgust for all boy bands was de rigueur. Both *NSYNC and BSB sucked. But *NSYNC only sucked on principle. Really, they were fine.
The Backstreet Boys did suck. They all looked like second tier CW leading men (though I think back then it was still the WB). None of them were as affable-looking as Joey Fatone or had the marbles to pull of Chris Kirkpatrick’s frosted tipped braids updo. (Fun fact: I had to look up how to spell “de rigueur” but the name of the guy with the weird hair in *NSYNC is burned to my memory. Feeling good about my brain’s allocation of resources.) Anyway, we won’t even bother comparing any Backstreet Boy to Justin. And their first hit that I knew of was “Backstreet’s Back.” Back from where? I don’t know who the fuck you are, how can you be back?
Fred Savage, who played the moody but wholesome Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years, was my very first crush. Then, I moved to Joey McIntyre and my first foray into boy band crushes. Then, to Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez from The Sandlot and the perfectly damaged Gordie Lachance from Stand By Me. Then came a long period of people assuming I was gay, confused by my love of Justin Timberlake (which was like a river: peaceful and deep).
And JT is emblematic of *NSYNC’s superiority over BSB: a better dancer by a muthafuckin’ LANDSLIDE. A sound that transcends pop and “blue-eyed soul.” He dated Britney Spears, the It-Girl of the era. And—because it is a crucial element in the boy band marketability matrix—JT is/was/always will be hotter than the best Backstreet Boy on his best day. And as Timberlake goes, so goes *NSYNC.
When I found Justin Timberlake, it was hard to move on, folks. And, I’d argue that it was hard for society also. He is the only boy bander still doing the damn thing. So, it’s really no contest. I’m with *NSYNC, ride or die.