Battle of the boy bands: *NSync vs. Backstreet Boys

Lylia Li and Amelia Pacht and

In 2002, *NSync officially disbanded while Backstreet Boys took a self-imposed hiatus after parting ways with their management firm. Both boy bands officially reunited in 2013.  The Backstreet Boys released their 20th anniversary album “In a World Like This” on July 30, and have upcoming cruises where fans can interact with the band.  Although *NSync made a huge splash at the 2013 MTV VMAs, fans wonder if their reunion will last more than the brief performance.

No one knows how long these reactivations will last, but fans are already raving about the *NSync-Backstreet Boys-rivalry.  So that begs the question, who will claim their fame as the ultimate 90’s boy band?


*NSync beats the Backstreet Boys no question.  It is true that the Backstreet Boys rose to stardom before *NSync, and that “I Want It That Way” is probably the crowned jewel of the boy band genre, but today the original 90’s crew is far beyond their prime as a group of backstreet “boys.”  But what does modern day *NSync have? Two words: Justin Timberlake.  Backstreet loyalists love to throw shade at his “ramen noodle” hair, but we all know that JT is the epitome of suave.

If you did not think it in the 90s, fine, but today Timberlake’s success both over the radio and on the big screen prove him to be both undeniably cool and inspiring.

On top of that, *NSync is a clear winner in the lyrical battle.  Their upbeat, poppy hits can get stuck in your head for days, while Backstreet ballads just seem to drag on.  Other than Backstreet Boy’s catchy hit, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” the majority of their songs are fairly forgettable, whereas there are an endless amount of things to remark on from *NSync’s discography.  The intense beat boxing in “Pop.”  The very subtle way the note on “love” changes from chorus to chorus in “It’s Gonna Be Me.”  The harmonies in “No Strings Attached.” The barbershop quartet moments in “I Want You Back” and “It’s Gonna Be Me”.  The sweet, “I’ll-treat-you-right” lyrics in “Girlfriend.” Even 10 years later, these songs remain legendary.  Last point of argument: Lance Bass trained to be astronaut.  If that isn’t the coolest thing you’ve ever heard, there is no hope for you.

      Backstreet Boys

The Backstreet Boys were and still are the superior group.

They had all of the right components of a great boy band.  The heartthrob, the hits, the cohesiveness of the music and the name were all better.  “Backstreet Boys” had such an edge, evoking images of good boys walking down some uncharted path, while *NSync was a bizarre compilation of letters and a random asterisk making the word resemble  “in sync.”

*NSync’s success was dependent on Justin Timberlake, who even now is the prince of pop.  But there is something to be said about a group who managed to remain as one unit even after many strenuous years in (and out of) the spotlight.

If we are looking to quantify each group’s sphere of influence, the evidence is found in the amount of YouTube hits on each of the groups’ biggest songs, “I Want It That Way” and “Bye, Bye, Bye.”  The Backstreet Boys’ song “I Want It That Way” has 75 million hits on their VEVO channel while *NSync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye,” falls short, receiving only 38 million views.

The appeal of the Backstreet Boys hit single to the modern audiences shows their lasting appeal and the longevity of their music.  On the subject of the videos, “Bye, Bye, Bye” music video is less entertaining and a bit creepy, starting off with a demonic female puppeteer controlling the band members to flail along to music, vaguely resembling their mediocre dance sequences.

In comparison, “I Want It That Way” features a calm scene at an airport in front of, what is to be assumed to be, their private jet, more natural looking dance moves, and elated fans singing along to this quintessential 90’s girl’s anthem.

The Backstreet Boys were also a rather egalitarian group.  In “I Want It That Way,” each of the five group members had the chance to sing their own solo verse.  *NSync also had 5 members, but its two front men, JT and Lance Bass, sang the melody almost exclusively.

Another thing that can be said about the songs and the respective groups is that the lyrics featured in the two distinct songs really define them.  “Bye, Bye, Bye” was rather cliche, lyrics telling the story of a man who wants to leave his absent lover.  “I Want It That Way” has a clear, relevant, meaningful message to never give up on love, appealing to its hopelessly romantic demographic.

Regardless of where you stand on the Backstreet vs. *NSync spectrum, it is clear that both bands are amazing in their own rights and both produce that special brand of deliciously boyish music that has the power to transcend generations and touch the hearts of people regardless of what decade they were born in.

The ‘90s boy band to beat all boy bands is an obvious choice. Why else would we still be talking about it?  Who is going to waste their time arguing about whether the Jonas Brothers or One Direction is better? Please. (It’s One Direction.)



The band that took the world by storm in the 90’s, *NSync, reunites for one song during Justin TImberlake’s performance at the 2013 VMAs.  The members include (left to right): JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Timberlake, Joey Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick.
The band that took the world by storm in the 90’s, *NSync, reunites for one song during Justin TImberlake’s performance at the 2013 VMAs. The members include (left to right): JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Timberlake, Joey Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick.