The *NSYNC & Backstreet Boys Rivalry Was Way Less Intense Than You Thought, According To A New Interview
If you grew up in the '90s, then there's an excellent chance that you either pledged your allegiance to *NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys — but never both (at least not in public). In a new interview with Billboard, *NSYNC talks about their rivalry with the Backstreet Boys, and it turns out your passionate playground defense of one band's merits over the other may not have been entirely necessary. Did the guys ever have beef? A little, but it was less about the band and more about your average teenage issues. In fact, the band credits Backstreet Boys for their success in America for one important reason.
*NSYNC marked the 20th anniversary of their debut album's release on March 24, and to celebrate the momentous career landmark, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Lance Bass shared the history of the band with Billboard, in their own words. One thing that even the guys' most diehard fans may have forgotten is that they weren't an immediate success in the United States. Like the Backstreet Boys before them, they conquered Europe before wading into America's booming pop music scene in the late '90s.
The guys revealed to the site that they struggled to gain a following in their own country until the day that the Backstreet Boys dropped out of a Disney concert series. Fatone explained,
"[There] was this Disney Channel concert series called In Concert. The Backstreet Boys were supposed to do it but they turned it down [because Brian Littrell needed heart surgery], so Johnny [Wright, the group's manager] said, "Listen, this new band I got coming from overseas, I represent them as well, they're probably going to be bigger, if not better, than Backstreet." The minute [BSB] said "No," we're like 'We'll do it, why not!'"
Saying yes to that Disney special proved to be one of the best decisions that the band would ever make.
The guys confessed that they thought the special would only air once, but instead, it became part of Disney's rotation for several months. That move gave the band the momentum that they needed to get a foothold in the American market. Bass recounted, "I didn't know they were going to air it like three times a day for four months. Once it started airing, that's when the tides started changing — one morning we woke up, and everyone knew our name."
While this seems like the kind of story that could have sparked a real rivalry between the two bands, it's actually something they still talk about to this day. Fatone told Billboard,
"We say it all the time, I even said it to Howie [Dorough, of BSB] — 'Thank you for saying no.'"
Rather than spend their time beefing with the Backstreet Boys, the members of *NSYNC recall their "rivalry" being more about making each other better. There was a sense of healthy competition between the bands, but in reality they weren't holding grudges — well except for the one time when two of the guys ended up dating the same girl. Fatone revealed,
"Did anyone have any beef? AJ and Chris did, because they were dating the same girl, she broke up with one — I think AJ — and dated Chris. They didn't like each other for a little while."
Kirkpatrick confirmed the story, and also shared that he ultimately made up with McLean when the two ran into each other at a bar. He said, "I think boy band fights are in the same realm as hockey fights. You fight when you're on TV, but then when you're not, you get a beer together. Now we're really good friends."
Basically, if you still feel like you're cheating on *NSYNC when you start singing "I Want It That Way" in your car, then you shouldn't. Because not only are all of the guys friends now, the rivalry that existed between them was never the epic feud people imagined it to be. In fact, the bands helped each other raise their game simply by co-existing — if that symbiotic relationship doesn't deserve a pop ballad of its own then nothing does.