If you grew up in the nineties and were either a BSB or an NSYNC fan, you knew immediately what I was going to dive into as soon as you saw the title. Because in terms of fandom wars, this was the original. When I think about what this would’ve been like in the age of social media? I shudder. Because it would’ve been pretty bad.
So I’ve touched on this subject before back when I wrote my reaction to Lance’s documentary.
I didn’t dive that deeply into it though and I wasn’t exactly planning to until I saw a tweet. The latest 20/20 special on Lou Pearlman (which by the way was very NSYNC leaning), brought up the topic and had a lot of people talking about it on social media.
And I’ve seen many fans ask this before. It’s been stated before even in The Boy Band Con that you liked one or the other. You could never like both. I can attest to this. I’ve now admitted I really liked Tearing Up My Heart. Now this was back in the day before you know streaming and I ended up owning their debut album based on that song alone. I abandoned NSYNC pretty much after because we all learned you had to pick sides. That’s just how the media portrayed it. You liked the Backstreet Boys or you liked NSYNC. No exceptions. If you did like both? You damn well never admitted it.
So I ran a poll. It’s 2019, a full twenty years after the PEAK of this fandom war.
Do you like NSYNC and BSB?
Those are some damn split results.
The tweets however? While some of you owned your love of both…most of the tweets I got looked like this. (By the way you guys came out in FORCE to express your opinions on this!)
You had to choose. There was this feeling that there could only be one.
Now for the younger fans born after 1996, I’ll break down the history of this.
Basically Lou Pearlman saw BSB get successful that he decided that someone was going to create their competition. Why not him? NSYNC was designed to be similar. His exact quote was “where there’s Coke, there’s Pepsi”. Chris who had auditioned for BSB and missed the cut, was asked to try and form a group – similar to how AJ helped with the formation of the Boys. Lou knew what he was doing was wrong and he kept NSYNC hidden like a dirty little secret until they were ready to be launched.
Obviously when the Boys found out they were hurt and pissed.
Imagine being told you’re unique, you’re special. Then discovering the person who told you that sought to create another group exactly like you to be their competition. Now, this isn’t NSYNC’s fault. They were five kids who just wanted to sing and perform. You can’t blame them for taking their shot too. It’s no different than BSB taking theirs for the same reason. But then, imagine finding out that the Disney concert you turned down so one of your members can get open heart surgery is what ends up being your competition’s big break. Created by your manager.
That’s enough to make anyone angry, right?
On top of this, both groups admitted that Lou would go to them and play them against each other. Saying oh can you believe they did this, or man they’re horrible, nothing like you. Not to mention, as admitted on 20/20, NSYNC literally followed the same blueprint to fame that the Boys had left. Down to getting signed by the same label – Jive Records.
So yes, NSYNC and BSB are friends…now. Back in the day the rivalry was absolutely real between the two. Not just between the fans but the groups. But it’s understandable to see how it happened. NSYNC could never escape the fact they were created after the model of the Boys, and BSB couldn’t get around the fact if they missed one opportunity, NSYNC was there to pick it up.
Kevin even says in this clip above, “find your own identity”.
So as a fan, you had to be loyal to your band.
Funny thing was you were allowed to like all the other groups that were out during what I think of as the boy band invasion of the 1990’s. I was openly a fan myself of LFO and 98 Degrees. That was totally okay by my friends back in middle school. We just couldn’t like NSYNC. Ever.
It got worse thanks to the media. Man, when Millennium broke records and NSYNC were about to release No Strings Attached it was played up. Would they outsell Backstreet Boys? As we all know now, they did in fact beat their first week’s sales. (They have not however beaten their overall sales. Millennium to this day has sold more albums than No Strings Attached.)
And man, the conspiracy theories that followed?
Even when I was a manic teenybopper, I couldn’t believe them. I can’t find the pages anymore (tragically) but there were some where supposedly receipts had more copies listed on them than someone actually bought to “inflate the numbers”. Like come on. Jive wouldn’t care. They made money either way. I also remember one involving the album being listed as being bought on receipts where someone didn’t purchase it. Just pure madness.
Neither side could admit to any accomplishments from the other.
As a fan, jokes and pot shots were taken at the other group all the time. Almost every Backstreet Boys fan-page had an NSYNC joke section. I’m sure the opposite could be said for NSYNC fan-sites. It was literally a given. Hell I used to seek out NSYNC jokes because they cracked me up. Immature? Absolutely. But we were kids on the internet which was still really new.
Here’s a couple examples I was able to still find on the archive of my friend’s site.
God made Coke
God made Pepsi
God made BSB so damn sexy
God made rivers
God made lakes
God made *NSYNC
Hey, we all make mistakes
Or like this one.
BSB, *NSYNC, and Britney Spears were walking down a beach. They came to a bottle and decided to rub it. Of course, Christina Aguilera popped out. She said, “I will give each of you a wish, so that’s three wishes in all.”
Britney went first. “I’m going to be on the cover of Rolling Stone soon and I want to look really sexy.”
Christina nodded and said, “Done.” Soon Britney’s body had lots of curves.
*NSYNC went next. “We want a city named after us, with a big wall around it so no one will bother us.”
Christina nodded and said, “Done.” *NSYNC were put inside their city.
The BSB said, “Tell us more about this wall.”
“Well, it’s fifty feet high, five feet thick, and no one in the city can get out, and no one can get in,” she explained.
The BSB smiled. “Fill it with water.”
Now once the hype died down, people got older and more mature. Mostly. The Boys and NSYNC are friends today. Hell, Nick had two of them in his movie Dead 7. They’ve had multiple members at their birthday parties. For the most part the rivalry is dead. Would it be dead had NSYNC not broken up? Who knows. I think for the groups it would be.
For the fans? Not so much. It still lives on. NSYNC isn’t even together anymore and you’d think at least most fans in our fandom could let it die since they’re Gone. (I’m sorry, I really couldn’t help myself.) But no. That resentment is always there, lurking and tends to pop out at weird times. As for NSYNC fans, I actually don’t blame them. I would be angry at BSB too for surviving when my group didn’t. To me that end of it makes sense.
Still, even in my current post I’m checking myself. Little bits slip out even though I don’t hate NSYNC passionately the way I did as a teen. When there’s big news about BSB you see tweets from NSYNC fans saying NSYNC would be doing it better. When NSYNC got their star on the Walk Of Fame there were many tweets from BSB fans saying NSYNC didn’t deserve it. Did the competition die? Not for the fans. You just don’t quite forget that sort of thing. All you have to do is ask which group was better and the new battle will go on.
Thank GOD Twitter didn’t exist back then. We would’ve been worst than the craziest of fans today.
I say all the time that we’re luckier than NSYNC fans because our group never went away. But neither did this competition that was absolutely started by Lou. Hell Howie and Chris went to college together. You can try to forget but any time someone brings up the idea of which group dominated the 90s? You’ll see me go to bat for the Boys without even thinking about it. It’s ingrained. From a less biased perspective I can admit today that BSB were always a worldwide group while NSYNC were a US group. Take that as you will. Fans today of both have gotten to be more open about their enjoyment without that feeling of cheating on one, at the very least.
Nick’s even suggested NSYNC reunite without Justin and do a tour with BSB. Could you imagine? Even today thousand of heads would explode at the very thought. But it’s also a sign of how much has changed. This wouldn’t have even been a thought back in the day. So there’s definitely been growth and maturity since this fandom war began, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Either way, I think this meme sums it up best.
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