In many ways, I could probably take the blog I wrote for “Millenium” and the Backstreet Boys, and cut and paste it here for “No Strings Attached” by NSYNC. In both cases, it was their third album, and in both cases, they were massive commercial success stories. “Millenium” was the best-selling album for 1999, and “No Strings Attached” claimed the same title for 2000. In both cases, the acts were five-member “boy bands” founded by manager-turned-dirtbag Lou Pearlman, forming in the Orlando area. Another similarity I think I knew but reinforced is that while each act is supposedly 5 equal members, both groups had two lead tenors that were not only on the prettier end of the scale, they also seemed to garner most of the lead vocals. For Backstreet Boys, this was Brian Littrell and Nick Carter, with an honorable mention to Kevin Richardson, but the no-so-secret weapon of NSYNC was emerging superstar Justin Timberlake, along with the co-lead of JC Chasez. Ultimately, Justin has emerged as the triumphant force from NSYNC, based on the combined forces of his natural talent, some well-timed collaborations, and the pop-media star power from his early relationship with fellow former Mouseketeer Britney Spears. One last similarity, this record is also highly known for its lead single, “Bye Bye Bye”, although “It’s Gonna Be Me” also made it to number one.
By comparison, if I had to pick a favorite, I think there is more energy and allure on this NSYNC album. There aren’t quite as many emotionally draining lost-love ballads, and there is even a well-timed infusion of acapella on the last song, which is a nice change of pace. With Timberlake’s ascension into superstar status beyond the group, NSYNC hasn’t maintained the same continuity or rhythm as Backstreet Boys, but even so, they all seem relatively well-adjusted and do make appearances as a group from time to time. There have been others since, and there will surely be even more to follow, but with an evolving music industry that generates more revenue from live performance and less from recorded music sales, it is hard to imagine anything quite like the side-by-side phenomenon of Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, even as acts from South Korea like BTS dominate the current genre and scene.