Last updated on February 17th, 2018
Let me take you back to the late 1990s when we were at the beginning of a boy band craze that would sweep the nation for the next couple years. Groups like 98 Degrees, LFO, and O-Town filled the radio waves and took over MTV. There were countless boy bands during this time with some being legitimate superstars, and some being nothing more than forgettable one-hit wonders.
Standing at the top of this frosted tipped boy band mountain were the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Without question, they were the two most popular groups at that time, and their passionate young female fans would fight to the death to prove that one was better than the other. You were absolutely not allowed to like both groups, and whatever side you swore your allegiance to could have a huge effect on your social stature. Friendships were broken, families were torn apart, and the world was never quite the same. Even today, girls from that era, who are now into their 30’s, still get very protective over their favorite group.
The groups themselves dueled back and forth to claim the coveted position of “Greatest Boy Band”. They both had record-breaking album sales, major billboard hits, and were almost always in the top two positions on TRL every day. Looking back, it’s really difficult to say who the better group was. So, let’s try to put finally put this decades-long discussion to an end by reasonably analyzing the facts.
I’ve broken this down into four different categories based on common arguments among fans of each group. The winner of the category gets a point, and whoever has the most points wins the ultimate boy band debate.
Get ready, because we’re about to have the final showdown of the Backstreet Boys vs. NSYNC!
Who Was First?
Among many other things, fans of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC would always argue about which group came first. Fans on each side would claim that their group was the original, and the other one was nothing more than a copy. So, let’s do some research to find out which one was actually around longer:
- According to Wikipedia, the Backstreet Boys released their first single (“We’ve Got It Goin’ On”) in 1995, and their first album (Backstreet Boys) in 1996. This album was only available outside of the US, and a repackaged version was released in America in August 1997.
- Wikipedia says that NSYNC released their first single in 1996 (“I Want You Back”), and their first album in 1997 (NSYNC).
NSYNC’s debut album, which came out in May 1997, was actually available in the US before BSB’s first album. Still, the Backstreet Boys already had their album around the rest of the world since 1996, plus they had an earlier single. It’s close, but we’ll give this one to the Backstreet Boys.
Winner – Team BSB
Both groups churned out big hits for a couple of years, but let’s take a look at their Billboard Hot 100 performances and album sales to really get an idea of who was bigger:
- The Backstreet Boys have had sixteen singles make the Billboard Hot 100, while NSYNC has had only seven.
- For the Backstreet Boys, twelve of their singles reached the top 40 and six broke into the top 10. For NSYNC, all seven reached the top 40 and two broke into the top 10.
- If we look at single sales, the Backstreet Boys have had three singles reach platinum status, while NSYNC has had none.
- The Backstreet Boys have had eight albums in the Billboard 200, while NSYNC has had five. All of those Backstreet Boys albums reached the top 10, while only three of NSYNC’s achieved that feat.
- The Backstreet Boys have had five albums reach at least platinum status, while NSYNC has had four.
*As a note, NSYNC impressively broke the first week album sales record for No Strings Attached, but both Millennium and Backstreet Boys have higher overall sales totals.
Let’s give this a visual breakdown:
|Billboard Hot 100 Singles||16||7|
|Billboard Hot 100 Top 40||12||7|
|Billboard Hot 100 Top 10||6||2|
|Billboard 200 Albums||8||5|
|Billboard 200 Top 10||8||3|
Both groups had their run of incredible chart performances and album sales, but there’s no doubt that this one has to go to the Backstreet Boys.
Winner – Team BSB
Longevity and Legacy
While both groups ruled the pop music world for a couple of years, their popularity was short-lived. The boy band craze was officially over by the mid-2000s, and groups like the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC became nothing more than comedic afterthoughts. In recent years though, as their teenage fans from the ’90s keep getting older, nostalgia has brought back the boy band love.
From a group longevity standpoint, the Backstreet Boys win by a lot:
- NSYNC’s last studio album came out in 2001, while the Backstreet Boys have continued making new music and touring through the 2000s.
- Other than a lame excuse for a reunion in 2013, NSYNC hasn’t performed together since the early 2000s.
- Even though the Backstreet Boys are no longer the multi platinum selling artists they once were in the ’90s and early 2000s, they had albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2013.
Just staying together for a long time doesn’t necessarily make you instantly better though. I mean, the Beatles never played together after 1969, yet their legacy and popularity endures all these years later. So, how do we decide which of these groups has left a bigger legacy? It’s tough to say exactly, and I’m sure that fans of both groups have their legitimate arguments. So, what’s a simple method of determining a group’s relevancy two decades after the peak of their popularity? How about YouTube video views?
- “I Want It That Way” has the highest amount of views for the Backstreet Boys, and it’s now amassed over 325 million.
- NSYNC’s most video views is for “Bye Bye Bye”, with over 130 million views.
- “Bye Bye Bye” is also the only NSYNC video with over 100 million views, while the Backstreet Boys have three.
- The Backstreet Boys have seven videos with over 50 million views as well, compared to three for NSYNC.
For groups that haven’t had huge hits since the early 2000s, they both definitely have an impressive following on YouTube. With more longevity and what looks like a more enduring legacy though, we have to give this one to the Backstreet Boys
Winner – Team BSB
Another big debate among Backstreet Boys and NSYNC fans was which group had the best members. Teenage girls constantly argued over who was better looking, who had the best personality, and who had the best voice. This is probably the most opinion based of all of these arguments, but it’s an argument that needs addressing. So, let’s break it down:
- Both groups had five members, each with their own unique personalities and looks.
- The Backstreet Boys were more of a well-rounded group, with lead vocal contributions from each member.
- NSYNC was basically the Justin and JC show, while the other three guys were just kind of there in the background.
Vocally, the Backstreet Boys were the better group, focusing strongly on their vocal harmonies. NSYNC crushed them when it came to performing though. The live shows for both groups were a massive production, but the only boy band that could ever top NSYNC’s dance moves and choreography was New Kids on the Block.
Oh, NSYNC also had some guy named JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE! That clearly trumps any other argument about which group had the better members. Easy win for NSYNC here.
Winner – Team NSYNC
Even though NSYNC had Justin Timberlake, which I thought about counting as like five points, the Backstreet Boys pretty handily win the ultimate ’90s boy band debate. They have better chart performances, more album sales, more of an enduring legacy, and they were around first.
Sorry NSYNC fans, but I guess that Backstreet’s back…alright!