The Backstreet Boys vs NSYNC vs Pop Culture

backstreet boys, nsync

Which of these 90s boy bands holds a bigger place in the zeitgeist?

Much of the 90s pop music scene was defined by boy bands. While the radios were absolutely cluttered with these fresh-faced vocal groups, there were no two bigger bands than The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. And as with any ubiquitous pop music idols, both groups were highly sought after for soundtrack appearances, cameos in television and film, and advertising endorsements. They both left such a such huge mark on popular media that either band could be the topic of a straightforward pop culture article. But the actual fun comes when we start to compare the influences of one band to the other.

So let’s take a look at the careers of these two boy bands and see which had the bigger place in pop culture.


On the precipice of their stardom, The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC appeared in quite a few television programs.

The Backstreet Boys were the first to throw their hats into this ring, making a 1998 appearance in the teen sitcom classic Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In the aptly-named “The Band Episode,” Melissa Joan Hart’s character brews up some bottles of talent potion in order to win a Battle of the Bands competition. One of the bottles gets misplaced, then intercepted by a group of students played by A.J., Howie, Nick, Kevin, and Brian. The boys consume this bottle of talent and give everyone in the school gym an impromptu a cappella performance.

NSYNC’s first television appearance was during the following year. They played a group of street performers on an episode of Touched by an Angel.

As far as first appearances go, The Backstreet Boys clearly had the better show, as they were thrust straight into eyes of the teen demographic. NSYNC would first need to trudge through a mediocre drama before they could accomplish a similar feat. And hey, the boys’ scene in Sabrina was actually pretty funny.

NSYNC’s next television spot began the uncanny parallels seen in the careers of the two groups. You see, NSYNC also shared a special guest spot on Sabrina about a year after the Boys set the stage. In the episode “Sabrina and the Pirates,” the teenage witch really wants to attend an NSYNC show, so she secures a fake I.D. to make it happen. The band even gets to perform a second song during the end credits and dance provocatively with Melissa Joan Hart, something many young men at the time would want to do.

Rather than appear as a group of unknown characters like The Backstreet Boys, NSYNC got the opportunity to appear as themselves on Sabrina. They would play a similar role on Clueless that same year, giving viewers the satisfaction of seeing Donald Faison remove his shirt in excitement.

It should also be noted that the characters of these respective shows are downright in love with NSYNC and their catchy tunes. Watching these idols perform hits like “Tearin’ Up My Heart” is comparable to the second coming of Christ, and the opportunity to meet them in person is so highly sought after that it justifies fraud, intimidation, and kidnapping. The unbridled fervor for NSYNC and their music remains a trend that may just help them win the television category over Backstreet.

The TV bracket continues on the next page!

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