Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync fight it out on the charts
There are some conflicts that are timeless and unending: Freud versus Jung, Arab versus Israeli, Spanish versus Aztec. Today, we add another chapter to the long and often bloody history of adversarial relationships: ‘N Sync versus Backstreet Boys.
As it stands at press time, the two boy bands are in a veritable dead heat on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart: ‘N Sync’s latest offering, ”Bye Bye Bye,” is at No. 7, barely edging out BSB’s current ballad, ”Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” at No. 9. And the competition doesn’t end there: The lads are brutally duking it out on MTV’s ”Total Request Live,” with ”Lonely” consistently falling to No. 2 while ”Bye” snares the coveted No. 1 spot.
But who really deserves to be on top? That’s a grave and daunting question to the legions of bubblegum pop connoisseurs who, for whatever reason, feel that they need to choose between BSB and ‘N Sync. So in the interest of public service I thought I’d look at the evidence — the two singles and videos — and decide who wins this round in the battle of the boy bands.
Let’s start with Backstreet. While no song will ever reach the creative and artistic heights of ”I Want It That Way” — in my opinion, one of the most flawless and blissful pop songs ever — ”Lonely” is a spot-on weeper that is sure to swell the heart of any 12-year-old girl. And that somber, mournful video, so awash in evocative slate-grey tones! It’s got a copious back story: Brian, seen dying in a hospital bed, actually underwent cardiac surgery in 1998 because he had a hole in his heart — how poetic! Poor Howie, who we see yearning for a woman who fades out of view, recently lost his sister to Lupus. Then there’s Nick’s gloomy montage. As he walks alone in the rain down a grimy street, he yanks a girl out of the way of an oncoming bus headed for ”Denniz St.” — named for BSB’s late producer, Denniz PoP, who died in 1998 of cancer.
Man, are you depressed yet?
Compare this bleak hit to ‘N Sync’s latest, the funky and sexy musical dis ”Bye Bye Bye.” With such an aggressive backbeat, it’s damn near impossible to listen to this song without succumbing to its toe-tapping, overproduced edge. The video is also a hell of a lot more entertaining than BSB’s. Look at the boys on strings, being manipulated marionette style by some soulless and sultry hottie! Check out Chris and Joey going all daredevil on us, running on top of a speeding train to escape the halter-wearing babe! And that mega-cutie Justin — couldn’t you just eat him up as he tries to outrun some leather-clad seductress who’s hunting him down with vicious dogs?
It’s all good clean fun until the end, when J.C. and Lance land in their little red convertible and lead their female pursuer on a dangerous, do-not-try-this-at-home car chase. OK, boys, it’s fine that you want to assert your masculinity and maturity by starring in your very own James Bond-ian action sequence, but featuring such reckless, machismo-fueled driving in your video is downright irresponsible. Teen girl drivers are scary enough without their boy band heroes encouraging them to floor it on the highway. Shame on your record company for letting this sequence make it past the final cut.
Even so, in the matter of ”Bye Bye Bye” versus ”Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” ‘N Sync still wins by a nose. But buck up, BSB fans — I’m sure your boys will be back, all right?