A Deeply Divisive Debate

Last week a friend of mine told me about a debate that was going on over at EW.com. I initially figured that the debate had something to do with politics and TV, or maybe even something about what shows have the best chance for success during the new fall season. But as it turned out, the debate was much more serious, and I’ve found that I’ve not only become invested in the outcome – I’ve become surprisingly passionate about my opinion.

And the issue at hand?

‘N Sync vs Backstreet Boys: The great boy band debate

Now listen. I will admit from the get-go that I was in my 20s by the time both of these bands hit the music scene, and some of you might argue that I should’ve been listening to more sophisticated artists and weaning myself from MTV. However, I didn’t do either of those things. Instead I spent countless afternoons watching Carson Daly chronicle what was going on with boy bands (not to mention J-Lo, Britney, Christina, etc.) on TRL.

From the get-go, I think, I was an ‘N Sync fan. They seemed to laugh at themselves and not take the whole boy band thing too seriously, and oh my word they could dance – especially a young man named Justin Timberlake.

I present you with Exhibit A.

I remembered two things, by the way, when I watched this video earlier today. One is that back around 2001-2002, my friend Merritt was VERY adamant that the American public had relegated Lance to the back burner even though he was EVERY BIT AS TALENTED and worked EVERY BIT AS HARD as the rest of the band and deserved JUST AS MUCH ATTENTION as Justin and Joey and JC and Chris. It still cracks me up when I think about her saying, “WHAT ABOUT LANCE, Y’ALL? DOESN’T ANYBODY CARE ABOUT LANCE?”

(Of course we cared about Lance.)

(I daresay that we cared deeply.)

The second thing I remembered is that I watched and maybe even recorded the Making of the Video for “Pop.” Joey had hurt his foot or leg or ankle or something, so he couldn’t do the dance scenes, and the band’s choreographer took his place in the video. If you watch the main dance sequence closely, you can tell that it’s not Joey in most of it, and just so you know I’m a little bit embarrassed that I struggle to memorize Scripture by BY DIGGITY I can tell you the backstory of a boy band video from 2001.


Even though I’m partial to ‘N Sync, I know that some people feel great loyalty to Backstreet Boys. I never thought they were as relatable as the ‘N Sync guys, but Kevin and Brian seemed really sweet. I was also slightly fascinated by AJ because he seemed like such an edgy addition to a boy band – yet he sang the boy band lyrics with such conviction and sincerity.

For example. Exhibit B.

Also, please note that in the sections of the video where everyone is wearing all white (and dancing with great feeling), AJ goes with the tank top option as opposed to wearing a jacket. Because just in case you missed it: EDGY.

And to be clear, I’m sure that many of you were probably doing worthwhile things like raising families and finishing degrees and volunteering in your community while I was running home to catch the world premiere of “Jenny from the Block.” By the same token, some of you were probably in elementary school. BUT – I’m guessing that there were at least a few of you who were as deeply invested in the music of the late 90s / early 2000s as I was.

(Don’t even get me started on Jordan Knight’s solo single “Give It To You.” Or Ricky Martin singing “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Or TLC singing “Unpretty.”)

(Those are some precious musical memories.)

Anyway – what about y’all? Who was your favorite? ‘N Sync? Or BSB?

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  1. Well, I am an N’SYNC girl myself. (Also…I was in my 20s, watching TRL.) But really…my favorite boy band was 98 Degrees!!! (And I about FELL OUT on the treadmill the other day when I saw them performing on the TODAY SHOW.)

    • Bringingupboys says:

      I’m with Amy on this one! Wasn’t 98 degrees around at the same time as the other two? I think 98 degrees should be the third option added to the debate of which I was also unaware. One last thing… last summer a bunch of high school friends and I went and saw NKOTB and 98 degrees when they were on tour together. So worth the price of admission :). You wouldn’t believe the sheer amount of 30 something women that were there -so fun!

  2. N’SYNC for the win!! I was in college for most of their career, and what sealed the deal for me was “I Drive Myself Crazy”. Are you kidding me? All of those cuties bouncing around in silk pajamas in a padded room? Forget about it. I adored them. And for the record, Lance was my favorite. Justin Shmustin.

  3. Well I’ll be the first weirdo to say Backstreet Boys for the win! :D

    I was a junior in high school when these two bands hit the scene. N’SYNC was good, but their music never made me feel gooey inside the way that BSB’s music did. I actually saw BSB on tour last year when they teamed up with New Kids on the Block (who are actually my ALL-TIME favorite boy band), and both bands still had it going on. Time and age haven’t brought them down at all.

    P.S. – I think you’d be pleased to know that AJ is still very edgy!

  4. N’sync. Hands down.

  5. Oh my goodness. Those videos took me back. Those were my college years! I 100% loved n*sync better that BSB but I thoroughly enjoyed watching both of those videos:)

  6. I was a fan of both, but BSB always won out with me. Luckily, in 8th grade, I got to see BOTH in concert! My sweet dad took me to both…he earned some rewards in heaven both of those nights.

    I totally remember that about the Pop video, too! I used to video tape (with a VHS tape) the videos off of TRL on MTV so that I could watch them again later!

  7. Hilarious! I vividly remember making up motions to “I Want it That Way” in the car on the way to school my senior year of HS, which I still remember. Those boy band songs followed me to college and always bring a smile to my face when I hear them out and about now a days.

  8. ashleigh says:

    N*Sync is by far superior, but BSB songs get stuck in my head–still!–for days after I hear them. “I Want it That Way” was huge the summer I was doing a youth ministry internship. I heard more of that song than I ever cared to, complete with choreography. ( Jr high girls have a real gift for the choreography.)

    Related: Anybody remember O Town? I was completely drawn into “Making the Band.” And somewhat disillusioned that all bands didn’t start out in someone’s garage.

    • YES-O-town! They were terrible, but I loved Making the Band. Anyone remember the show Popstars that formed the girl group Eden’s Crush (only notable member being Nicole Scherzinger of Pussy Cat Doll and DWTS fame)?

    • Oh O-town: “I know my calculus. It’s says me plus you equals us.”
      What terrible lyrics, but I have to admit, I listened to them!

  9. NSync! But my all time favorite BSB song was I Want It That Way. NSync hit it big when I was a freshman in college and I can relate those songs and videos to so many happy and fun memories. Thank you for starting my Wednesday off with a smile!

  10. Susan in Indiana says:

    I must admit, I am a bit older and missed the boy band craze. I can’t listen to “I want it that way” without hearing Tim Hawkins “I work at Subway” in my head!!


    Thanks for refocusing us all on the important things in life! God bless you Boo Mama!!

  11. While I have no clue what either group sang, my Dad lived with JC Chasez’s Dad for two years in Washington, DC while they were both volunteers for a Christian organization. :) Therefore, if I must pick one, I should probably be a fan of NSync.

  12. N Sync. Great singers and dancers.

  13. I loved them both equally. I just got a new car with satellite radio and my daughter got to hear The Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” yesterday morning. I was in HOG HEAVEN I tell you. Even though she was just a toddler when these two groups hit the scene, she loves her some ‘N Sync. She’s extremely excited to know that one of these groups is getting back together but for the life of me, I can’t remember which one it is!

  14. I missed out on the boy band craze, but I do have two very clear memories. My grandmother was in the hospital and I was sitting with her watching the Today Show. BSB were the concert that day. She said to me, “Those boys are so nice. I like them.” Although she was not very fond of the “edgy guy”. I think he was a littl too much for her in her dementia state of mind.
    The other is NSYNC and Phil Collins singing in the “Tarzan” movie. My daughter loved that movie and the soundtrack.

  15. N Sync all the way!

  16. I definitely preferred the Backstreet Boys back in the day. I was a junior in high school and would just melt at their meaningful lyrics. Now I just laugh at some of the silliness.

    Up here in Chicago, we just go a new station, i101, that plays all the hits from the 90s. I’m in love!

  17. There is no debate or question in my mind… N*Sync for the win :)

  18. N*Sync.
    And thanks for the chuckle!

  19. Well, I had a 14 year old daughter in 2000, so I should probably ask her who we liked best! I do remember a serious Hanson crush in the late 90’s. “Mmmmm Bop” anybody?

    And to answer the questions, if I had to pick, I would say NSYNC.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Oh how this took me back to middle school!! I was OBSESSED with BSB back in the day. I spent most of my 8th grade year covering my walls in pictures of BSB. I liked NSYNC too, but Backstreet Boys had my heart.
    And I totally remember watching Making the Video of Pop and I Want it That Way. As a matter of fact, I would record (on VHS) every TRL/Making the Video that had anything to with boy bands. I’m telling you…obsessed!

  21. In my humble opinion, none can compare to the one and only, original boy band NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK. That being said, I’m going with Backstreet Boys but only because they realize this truth of life and went on tour with New Kids last year and oh yes, I went and saw that show…twice. And those 2 nights of seeing NKOTB and BSB in one venue will forever be etched in my memory as some of the best times of my life (barring wedding, children’s births, of course). And can I just tell you that those boys now men in their early 40’s can still dance and sing just like they did back in the day? Where I on the other hand woke up the next day feeling like I got hit by a MAC truck from trying to do the “Right Stuff” dance all night.

  22. Totally in the Backstreet camp and THANK GOD, I still get to be! They are in the studio right now for their 8th studio album. While nsync were better dancers, and I like their earlier songs when JC was the main singer, when JC admitted in an early interview that they lipsync’d to pretaped background vocals (ie you were hearing 9 voices and a single solo voice in live concerts-FAIL) during concerts because they wanted to put more emphasis on their dancing, I just couldn’t get that. During their heyday, when all five were in the group, Backstreet did NOT do that. I simply love their song catalog better-more classic songs, MORE songs, and more singable songs–no over use of computer alteration of voices. At the end of the day, driving in my car, singing at the top of my lungs, I’m not watching anyone dance–I’m hearing gorgeous complex vocal polyphony at its best–BACKSTREET all the way!

  23. N’ Sync! Thanks for the laugh and trip down memory lane!

  24. Doesn’t n*sync automatically win for giving us Justin Timberlake? I mean, originally we should thank the Mouse Club, but post-boy band, SNL has never been the same.

  25. You will also remember that your friend Merritt actually dragged her VERY young son to see ‘N Sync in B’ham. I still tease him about that being his first “real concert”. ‘N Sync was just one of her many obsessions over the years. One thing for certain, she goes all in w/ each and every one. I should keep a running list of them all.

  26. I’m cracking up because, while I read your blog all of the time, I’m not sure I’ve ever commented. And THIS is the subject that brings me out of lurking? Deep. Having said that, N Sync was my hands down favorite.

  27. Backstreet Boys! I still bust out my CD’s every now and again, and even have a Pandora station :) Playing songpop (based on your post) has brought it back up again, I can identify a BSB song in less than a second!

  28. N Sync – loved them even though I was too old to love them. My kids were embarrassed with my love for them. And BSB – and 98 degrees – even Britney. Sad but true. I have to tell you that just 2 years ago, I was at a Star Wars convention and was standing within inches – inches I tell you – of Joey Fatone and I was all aflutter. Didn’t talk to him (I should have) but I did sneak a picture. And he was just out in the crowd, with all the rest of the fans, waiting to get in to see George Lucas. It was the highlight of that convention for me (my son’s the Star Wars fan, not so much me).

  29. For some reason, I never got into either of these bands. But now, at 34, I find myself strangely interested in One Direction. Last boy band before that was NKOTB.

  30. Um, I TOTES remember that episode of Making the Video where Wade Robson (one of the greatest choreographers of all time) had to sub for Joey. I miss Making the Video. I also had the making of Britney Spear’s Crazy on VHS and watched it until I had memorized the choreography. Ahem.

    My sophomore year roommate in college was obsessed with N*Sync. We had their posters on our walls, we listened to their Christmas CD, and frolicked about in our dorm room to their music. Against N*Sync, BSB was a second rate boy band (although I do love me some “I want it that way” and have lip synced it meaningfully in my car many a time.)

    One of our friend’s couldn’t stand N*Sync-she thought Lance looked like a middle-aged business man, so we sent her an entire envelope of hand-made N*Sync posters and personalized greeting cards created by cannibalizing a variety of teen magazines. It was good times.

    I think N*Sync also contains one of the most talented entertainers of our generation-Justin Timberlake. That kid has managed to go from music to dancing, to acting, to comedy (Bring it on down to Omletteville) to overall greatness (if you haven’t watched his History of Rap with Jimmy Fallon you are shunned).

    But to be totally real-I just love a good boy band.

  31. Melissa H says:

    Well, I am showing my age here. I prefer BSB because that was what my kids liked. I heard them all the time and know lyrics.

  32. I could never decide. I was in high school in their prime years and I liked both of them. BSB had the heart, the sweetness (remember The Perfect Fan, a song for their moms?), and Brian. Loved Brian.

    But, N*Sync had the dance moves and Justin. Yes, I was a Justin fan. I even had a poster. But I knew it was ridiculous enough that I hung it in the back of my closet. I heard “Bye, Bye, Bye” at a wedding dance a few weeks ago and it brought me joy untold.

  33. We’re about the same age, and honestly I wasn’t into either boy band. So let’s just go with which one of the two videos makes me laugh more – BSB for the win!

  34. 1. I still have “Give It to You” on my iTunes.
    2. I have always been and will always be Team N*Sync. I even saw them live with a gojillion screaming girls half my age (my work friends and I borrowed my sister’s van and took my niece – she was our street cred. We even shoe-polished N*SYNC! all over the windows).
    3. That said, “I Want It That Way” is my #1 all-time favorite boy band song ever, and that includes the entire NKOTB catalog. I think it is a perfect pop song, but that consistency counts, and N*Sync was overall more creative and fun.

  35. Love them both equally. Love to sing along when they come on the radio. My daughter doesn’t appreciate my musical talent however she has started to be as dramatic when she sings. Thanks for the memory.

  36. I liked both, but I LOVED BSB. My friend and I saw them 5 times. We even convinced our parents to buy us 3rd row tickets for Christmas. I think we were 17 at the time. I wore a hot pink top covered in glitter and silver shiny pants! LOL! It was awesome!

  37. N Sync of course! I drove around in my little red Honda civic belting out their songs louder than should be legally allowed.

    There is no greater joy than a Taco Bell bean burrito, and diet Pepsi enjoyed to the sweet beats of Dirrrty Pop. None.

  38. N*SYNC all the way. We were even so generous as to take our niece to go see them in concert. I’m totally with you on the Joey ankle thing for that video, I absolutely remember it too!

  39. I must say you made my day with this post. I was a little to old also when these groups came out. But for some reason I like them. But I am a Backstreet Boys girl hands down.

  40. Too old for the boy band era, I guess. The only experience I have with a boy band is the clip at the end of the Tarzan movie. I guess that’s N’Sync? Ha!

  41. Well. I read your blog every time there’s a new one and hardly ever, ever comment. I guess it takes a good boy band debate to bring out of lurker-dom! At the time, I was not passionately committed to either group, but over the last several years have become a die hard Justin Timberlake fan. Because he is HILARIOUS.

    That said, last spring when NKOTB and the Backstreet Boys (aka. NKOTBSB) came to Nashville, I totally went. As a 34 year old woman. And loved.every.minute. It was one of the most fun nights of my life. I was astounded at the number of song lyrics lodged in my brain from a long time ago.

  42. I was 18 or 19 at the time. I liked them all but my favorite was 98 Degrees. One of my favorite memories is a trip my best friend and I took to Nashville to see 98 Degrees in concert. Shortly after we checked in at our hotel a tour bus pulled in. We were beside ourselves and spent the next several hours trying to figure out who was on the bus (turned out to be one of the opening acts). We also bought front row tickets the day of the concert even though we ALREADY HAD fifth row tickets because, really, what’s an extra $75 to be four rows closer. Oh I get so tickled thinking how crazy we were!!

  43. I HAVE to start with this. I tweeted you the picture, but Chris Kirkpatrick was at my college graduation. Not as a speaker (although it would have blown my mind), but as a guest of a graduate. You bet your N’Sync poster I RAN immediately afterwards and told my husband (boyfriend at the time) to book it and get a picture. After earning my college degree minutes before, I became 13 all over again. “HI! CHRIS!? YOUR CHRIS KIRKPATRICK RIGHT?! I WAS YOUR BIGGEST FAN! I KNEW ALL YOUR SONGS!!! I JUST GRADUATED, WILL YOU TAKE A PICTURE WITH ME AND MY BEST FREIND?!” Bless his heart, he was sweet as could be.

    This is like comparing the SEC to the ACC. N’Sync should just go ahead and sing, “It’s Gonna Be Me.”

    I STILL play N’Sync with impressive regularity on my iPod (and I just might still imagine Justin Timberlake is serenading me with “This I Promise You”). I saw them in Nashville right before the “No Strings Attached” album came out and I’ve never screamed as loud. I mean they just knew my life with Tearin’ Up My Heart, YA KNOW?

    Side note: For that concert, 5ive was supposed to be the opening act (of “Slam Dunk Da Funk” fame… ), but they cancelled due to rumored “beef” with N’Sync. Just play that scenario in your head a few times and try to imagine the possibilities. Jordan Knight took their place, and I waved my N’Sync glowstick the whole time.

    • Make that “YOU’RE CHRIS KIRKPATRICK” not YOUR. That’s my own pet peeve. Carry on.

    • Best comment on this entire post:

      “This is like comparing the SEC to the ACC. N’Sync should just go ahead and sing, “It’s Gonna Be Me.”

  44. Um. I did not see The Osmond Brothers as a choice…

    An oversight. I’m sure.



  45. also first time commenter (hot topic, I guess), this is how old I am, I took my daughter to see NKOTB way back then, but have to say am a JT fan now. anybody else remember the Bay City Rollers? S A T U R D A Y night!

  46. this post killed me! loved the bonus references to favorites like “unpretty,” as well as jordan knight. i was also really into TRL as a 20-something, young married woman back in the day. what on earth!

    thanks for the memories, and for a great post. just found your blog today.

    oh and for the record… got to go with N’SYNC.

  47. Totally N’Sync. However, let’s not forget the one BSB that went to Christian music. Brian Litrell something or other? And I share your shame. I’m terrible at Scripture, but still know the theme from Fresh Prince.

  48. Oh BooMama, you are so right on so many things. But this… no, no, no. New Kids on the Block take the boy band cake. They had the “Right Stuff” and Donnie Wahlberg had “edgy” down long before N*Sync or BSB. ;)

  49. Marguerite says:

    well I can say-I was working at MTV during this time period and stage managed the music awards of 1999 which featured the BS Boys, In Sync and several others. We were at the MET opera house and had to rehearse at night. All the boys were so nice but INSYNC brought me tea-every single rehearsal. They were adorable-and they could dance:)

  50. Haha, this cracked me up. I’m so glad I wasn’t alone in my boy band infatuation! NSync takes the cake for sure!! I put my pandora radio on an NSync station just for some good laughs this afternoon at the office, and Pandora had to audacity to make the SECOND song on my station a BSB song. How dare you Pandora!? Haha :)

  51. Melissa s says:

    N’Sync out of those two. But don’t forget NKOTB! Best ever!

  52. NSYNC all the way! You are taking me back with this post! I was in my early twenties and still watching TRL. There’s nothing wrong with that! You had me laughing so hard as you wrote the whole “Joey being hurt thing” because I remember that too and tell your friend that I felt that Lance was left out and ignored too!

  53. Jennifer G says:

    Yes, I’m in my late 30’s, and I was all over the pop music scene. NSync definitely gets my vote… I may or may not have actually bought one of their CDs!

    Also, Jordan Knight’s “Give it to You”…I could seriously watch that video all day long, even though I was a Jonathan fan back int he NKOTB days.

    I just have to say, you are my kind of people. (Except I’m an Aggie…Gig ’em!!)

  54. Jennifer says:

    Team BSB back in the day, but I love Justin Timberlake!

  55. I can’t believe how many NSYNC followers there are. I must’ve been in my BSB bubble way back been. I have and always will be a BSB fan, all the way!

  56. No CONTEST.


  57. N Sync. All the way!