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Perhaps you haven’t picked up on this yet, but: I love music. It’s one of the few things that hold my life together, and I wish I never had to take my headphones off. (But, I suppose I need to talk to my husband every once in a while.)

As a result, I think about music a lot. I wonder stuff like “Whatever happened to Dream?” and “Is it okay to like a 2012 song by Brandy that features Chris Brown? It was right around the time that him and Riri briefly reconciled, so that makes it fine, right?” And just recently, as I was listening to a Spotify infinite playlist that heavily features pop music, I had this thought:

For any pop group, it’s crucial to figure out who is your lead performer. And some of them totally nailed it, but others totally botched it.

Six acts came to mind almost immediately, three of which got it wrong and three that got it right. I share my discoveries with you now—and as the Prompt’s leading staffer on the music beat, I will not take any challenges to these confirmed perfect decisions.


Exhibit A: The Backstreet Boys

I love BSB. They gave me my first (and basically only) crush on a blond guy, they were my first concert experience, and much like singing along to Prince in the car with my dad, they offered up a lot of sexual references I should not have had on my radar.

But, I would be a fool if I didn’t say that AJ was THE BEST singer in that group. Like . . . come on. This should be obvious. The fact that Brian and Nick were promoted because of their soft, sensitive faces was a grave injustice to the serious skills of AJ.

In a lot of songs, he carried the group. (I mean, does anyone even know what Howie D sounds like?) This is why “Hey, Mister DJ” is one of my favorite BSB songs—AJ is front and center. I get that he was there to fill the obligatory “edgy one” slot, but he. fucking. killed. it. all over the place. Props where props are due, y’all, and they are WAY overdue with him.

Exhibit B: *NSYNC

I didn’t love *NSYNC nearly as much as I loved BSB, but obviously they got some heavy rotation growing up. This is why I feel I can comfortably (and correctly) state the following:

Justin Timberlake was not the most talented singer in that group. He was the most marketable.

So, who was the best singer, you ask? The answer is as clear as the AJ situation: JC. Why the acronymed ones were the best, I can’t say. All I know is that JC had the skillz, and given that he was promoted alongside Justin, their manager knew it.

But, Justin had a lot more charisma and was hot off that “just broke up with Britney Spears and I have everyone’s sympathy because she cheated on me” news cycle. So, it’s not surprising that JC didn’t take off post-*NSYNC infinite hiatus.

I will also admit that he probably didn’t have what it took to have a solid solo career; he’s one of those people who NEEDS a backing act to truly showcase what he can do. But. My overall point is . . . I stan JC because he was the best of the bunch, and everyone can fuck off.

Exhibit C: The Spice Girls

Similarly to the above situation, my girl Mel C was regularly at the forefront of this Brit-born phenomenon. If you were ranking the vocal talent of the Spice Girls, it would go Mel C (Sporty), Mel B (Scary), Emma (Baby) and Geri (Ginger) interchangeably, and Victoria (Posh). But, as far as the Spice Girls that people cared about, Mel C was more in the middle of that list. She didn’t have a super eye-catching look—ooh, sports bras and baggy track pants, how original—and she wasn’t blonde, redheaded, or black.

As such, she is far too under-appreciated. Listen to “Say You’ll Be There,” people. The woman is rocking the mic so hard, someone needs to put a glorious cape over her shoulders and try to lead her off stage, just for her to throw it off and get the crowd roaring again.

(James Brown references, anyone?)

You can hear her working hard for the money in the 2002 movie Bend It like Beckham, and her voice actively makes up for how awkward it is to watch Kiera Knightly try and fail to land Jonathan Rhys Meyers. (The fact that the brown girl gets that sexy Irishman probably influenced my dating decisions a little bit.) #SportySpiceforLyfe


Exhibit A: Destiny’s Child

Come on. No one is surprised by this.

Beyoncé is both the most marketable one and the best vocally.

The trio was properly aligned; when they pulled Beyoncé back a little, they pushed Kelly forward and gave Michelle a short little solo bridge so she wouldn’t feel left out. And that is the way it should’ve been.

I’m not trying to say Beyoncé is the greatest singer on the planet—please, don’t send the Beygency after me—but it was Destiny for her to lead. (Ahah.)

Exhibit B: The Pussycat Dolls

With 100 percent honesty, it is not because we share the same name that I say Nicole Scherzinger was the best choice to lead PCD. She is extremely talented.

I know that people get turned off by the fact that “Dontcha” was their first hit. I was too. But, I was already coming around by “Buttons,” and when I recently listened to “Dontcha” again, I realized that the song is actually about telling the guy to stay with his girlfriend because the narrator doesn’t want to ruin a couple. So, you know, big snaps for that.

Then, my husband shared Nicole’s rendition of “Memories,” a song from the musical CATS, and that cinched it for me. SHE. HAS. DEM. PIPES. (She was also the best looking, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Exhibit C: S Club 7

I know what you’re thinking; who in the world even remembers S Club 7? They were a C-list pop group at best, right next to 98 Degrees. But, they’re fun, and because they featured both men and women, I liked them a lot.

(I also watched their quasi-reality show.)

I’m going to be honest with you. I do not fully remember the name of the girl who I think has the best voice. I’m pretty sure it was Jo, as I’m positive the girl was blonde and not as mousy as the other blonde one.

I know what you’re thinking again: there were seven of them. How was there possibly a lead? And I say to you: there wasn’t. BUT. Jo was regularly the girl who handled the vocal runs, and her voice is the most prominent of the lady half of the group. So, in my mind, she is a—if not THE—lead. And rightly so.

Well. There you have it, ladies, gents, and other esteemed homies. A definitive list of pop acts who should’ve promoted someone else to the top of the pile and groups who had their shit on lock. Go forth and live an unencumbered life with the knowledge that I’ve given you on this day.

I will take no further questions at this time.

N. Alysha Lewis

N. Alysha Lewis is an editor and blogger with author aspirations whose love can absolutely be bought with french fries.

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