The Story Behind N’sync And Backstreet Boys’ Rivalry; How The Two Bands Rose To Fame Despite The Competition

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N'sync And Backstreet Boys' Rivalry
Photo: N'sync 'This I Promise You.' Backstreet Boys 'Drowning.'

Let us take a break from BTS and go back to the ’90s.

According to the ’90s kids, there are only two types of people in this world: ‘N Sync fans or Backstreet Boys fans.

Back in the early days, fans were crazy about the boy bands’ music. It was an era of both fame and stardom for the all-male groups as they battle to top the pop charts, which adds more flames to the fire.

Aside from their music, one thing has left into every fan’s memory since the ’90s even now; the bands’ rivalry.

The man responsible for the booming career of super-groups like ‘N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, LFP, and O-Town is Lou Pearlman who died in 2016. However in the ’90s, Pearlman knew exactly what boy band would rise to stardom, and he eventually saw a big chance for a profit if the two groups compete in the music industry.

However, their manager, who turned into a father figure, is also the key person who turned their success into devastation. ‘N’sync member Lance Bass created a documentary entitled ‘The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story,’ features members of multiple boy bands and their families who experience deceit and disloyalty during their time working with former manager Lou Pearlman.

The rivalry started when the two warring legions of loyal fans created fanbase and events held in different parts of the world. It was the start of an era where shirts and other merchandise items with images of each dominates almost every mall around the globe. Even the fashion taste of the members from their hairstyle down to their boots became a hot topic for fans to argue. Considering the impact of fans’ feud to each of the band and its members, the competition got tighter which almost ruined their careers.

BSB was an American boy band formed in Orlando, Florida in 1993, while ‘N’Sync was created two years after. The former rose to fame with their international album ‘Backstreet Boys’ debuted in 1996. According to E! News, Pearlman launched a talent contest with his own money in the hopes of finding the next great boy band. And just like that, Backstreet Boys were formed with A.J McLean as the first member. It was a long story of hard work with the boys traveling all over Europe to make a name for themselves before finally making a splash in the U.S.

In the documentary of ‘The Boy Band Con’ which first premiered in March at the 2019 SXSW Festival in Austin, BSB revealed that Pearlman is called ‘Big Poppa’ by the group who cultivates a family dynamic and hangs out with them in his mansion. He provided all the social needs of the group including parties and big dinners. But what BSB didn’t know though was Lou, and the rest of the management team are quietly working with another competing boy band.

‘N’Sync first member Chris Kirkpatrick, met with Lou Pearlman in 1995 to talk about forming a second group.  Kirkpatrick and the rest of the group were set in a house in Orlando, Florida where they regularly rehearsed to learn dance routines and vocal parts for their promotion at Pleasure Island.

‘Where there’s Coke, there’s Pepsi; somebody’s going to come along with the BSB knockoff so why shouldn’t it be us,’ is how Pearlman inculcated in the minds of ‘N’Sync. It was the time when Lou also had his favorite soft drink, with the success of BSB, ‘N’Sync said that they couldn’t enter the record label because the employees didn’t know such group existed. The band’s existence became a secret especially when Lou did not want to upset the Backstreet Boys.

But as the saying goes, secrets can’t remain as ‘secrets’ forever. In the same documentary, Kevin (from Backstreet Boys) recalled how Pearlman broke the news to him in 1995 and how the announcement devastated the group. It was a betrayal on their part, especially when they found out that there is going to be another competing band in the picture.

The betrayal raises a question to the music industry; why did the management stage and encourage this rivalry? It is because Pearlman wanted a monopoly on boy bands.

As the two groups started their career, the management set them apart by giving them different looks and slightly different sounds. For Backstreet, their image was a ‘little bit darker’ so they wore darker clothing, while ‘N’Sync were the guys who lightly took music by wearing basketball shoes, jerseys and shorts. In 1998, BSB was offered the chance to do a special number for Disney Channel but turned it down due to a hectic schedule, but ‘N’Sync found the offer to be a breakout moment and dance their way into the slot. After the special was aired, the latter soared up into fame and overtook BSB.

BSB was not happy with the booming of the other band, Donna Wright, the group’s former manager said. They weren’t pleased with Pearlman because he put another band to compete with them.

That rivalry was real for the bands and their fans. Battle lines were drawn for every teenage girl around the world where they had to choose which group to pledge their undying loyalty to. Today, BSB has continued its success and officially resurfaced in the music industry after launching its 2019 ‘DNA’ album, while ‘N’Sync regrouped for a one-off performance at the 2013 MTV Music Awards and also released songs titled ‘The Essential’ in 2014.

Although both bands have rallied against each other, we cannot deny the fact that they have contributed a lot in the entertainment world, and achieved numerous milestones. And in some time during the ’90s, people cannot forget how they were inspired by the best-selling boy bands of all time.

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