I’d been meaning to do this for a while and with an abbreviated week with the holiday, it’s as good a time as any to do.
It’s kinda crazy how both of these groups came from Orlando, shared Max Martin as a songwriter and consisted of 5 members can have completely different results.
And I’m not just talking about the fact Backstreet boys are better together and Justin Timberlake became even bigger solo than *NSYNC… even though they were probably the biggest of the two boybands when they were actively competing.
Or maybe that was just media conjecture…. who the hell knows anymore?
So I figure I’ll go through the albums- do one in the morning and one in the afternoon and at the end of the day make a decision about who won.
First- their debut albums.
Self-titled vs. self-titled
For starters, neither of them are musical masterpieces. Boyband music rarely is anything deep. But that’s kinda nice. Gives my mind a brain a break and I can just get lost in the sick beats and the sweet spots in the vocals.
Also neither album really has a common theme that runs through it.
They’re nothing spectacular.
On the surface, *NSYNC has the edge. Their album is more hit-driven, more dance oriented and just more fun.
Backstreet Boys, their album is a mixed bag.
We have the upbeat dance grooves with “We’ve got it goin on” and “Get Down (The One for Me).” They also have another song “Mr. DJ” that feels very similar, maybe because they rely on the deeper vocalists of the group.
“Backstreet’s back” is also in that vein, but maybe better executed.
But they also have a lot of ballads. They do better with the ballads, but the lyrics aren’t exactly deep.
I’ve mentioned “All I have to give” when I’ve reviewed Prince’s “Diamonds & Pearls” album… the title track is practically the same song, but with far better lyrics.
“I’ll never break your heart” and “Darlin'” I never had much patience for. They run long and are so mopey (well, the first of the two is).
“Anywhere for you” is too simplistic lyrically, but vocally, it’s sublime.
Then there are the singles “Quit playing games” and “As long as you love me”… can’t help but sing along to them.
I have more nostalgia connected to the Backstreet Boy album because I remember where I was when I were learning the lyrics.
Most of *NSYNC’s album, I discovered later on. I don’t think I even listened to it that much outside of three songs. “Tearin’ up my heart,” “Here we go” and “I want you back”
Later on, I found “You got it” and “I need love” as well as “Crazy for you”
To compare the two, though, *NSYNC has the better ballads. Still very cliché, but more thought out. “God must have spend a little more time” and “I drive myself crazy” are really well done.
But they also have a couple covers on their album. “Everything I own” was originally by Cream and “Sailing” was by Christopher Cross. I’m not crazy about artists doing covers, especially on their first album when they’re trying to establish themselves. Unless it’s a REALLY GOOD cover.
Both groups have some catchy songs and that’s what I love so much about this genre.
But in that department, *NSYNC wins this round.
Even if they rhyme “do” and “too” with “you” a million times…
heck, “Crazy for you” is my favorite non-single on *NSYNC’s album… they have two different choruses… they’re the same lyrics, but with a different rhythm… but I just enjoy it so much.
Or maybe it has to do with the fact I’m not great in the morning… I’m usually in some kind of mood and I kinda was today after having a great three-day weekend that ended way too soon.
That’s why I plan to start with “No Strings Attached” and end the day with “Millennium”
As for what makes the two groups different…
I’d compared the Backstreet Boys to Boyz II Men- they’re more soulful and are stronger vocalists on ballads generally. But you gotta have good lyrics to back them up or it comes off as cliché.
*NSYNC, I’d compare more to New Kids on the Block because there’s more song and dance involved.
But both groups are really good at harmonies. There are just more harmonic opportunities on *NSYNC’s albums.
No Strings Attached (*NSYNC) vs. Millennium (BSB)
This was a little trickier. Now that the musical content is more substantial.
Either I was in a real mood the previous morning or *NSYNC simply had the better album so I enjoyed myself a lot more than the previous morning.
“No Strings Attached” is easily the better album if we’re reviewing it as a whole.
Although that “It makes me ill” and “I’ll be good for you,” I play through this album straight through.
Considering how I didn’t warm up to certain songs until I was older, I listened through almost all of the album. “I’ll be good for you” isn’t bad. “It makes me ill”- I gave at least 90 seconds and I moved on.
The one real negative about the album… there’s a cover… I don’t like when people do covers on albums when they’re an already established act.
“Just Got Paid” was written in 1988. I found this out listening to Sirius’s 80’s on 8 station.
But they did do a good job with it.
They also had two great songwriters come on this project- Richard Marx and Diane Warren.
“This I promise you” was one of their singles and I didn’t like it for years. Then after I got older and finding out Richard Marx wrote it… my feelings kinda changed. And owning one of his greatest hits albums, I can definitely see his style in their. Beautiful song.
“That’s when I stop loving you” was one of the songs I discovered later on and fell in love with. Diane Warren has written and co-written so many great songs and it’s just another beautiful example.
“I thought she knew” I didn’t really notice or even listen to until after they performed it on their HBO special. They said it was the first song they ever sang together. The harmonies are so beautiful I cry almost every time 😛
As for the rest- catchy melodies, lots of great beats… I have so much fun.
Lots of great little memories attached to a bunch of them.
“Bye Bye Bye”… the choreography for starters and also that trailer from “Crossroads” where the guy driving Britney Spears and her friends turns the song down “I can’t listen to this”
“It’s gonna be me” and “No strings attached” in the HBO special.
“Digital Get Down” also in the special, but I used it in fanfiction- in hindsight, maybe a little inappropriately. Meaning I had no idea what the song was really about until I was older. We’re not just talking email here.
Then “Space Cowboy”- there’s a flying level in Spyro 2 that I’d played along with this song… I was having flashbacks to that. Although it isn’t like it’s been FOREVER since I played the game, I always love coming back to it. I don’t think I’d played it this year… I’d played at least through the first game and the last PS2 game I own.
“Bring in Da Noise” (yeah, that’s the title… not exactly creative) has one of the sickest beats on the album. And despite it being years since I’d heard it, the words came back to me so fast.
So going into “Millennium”… having such a good time with the last album, combined with the fact I had to wait through traffic and it starting to stress me out… I didn’t really get into the album until the third song.
Because I went back to BSB a year ago and went through my favorites, they don’t come as fresh as it was with *NSYNC.
I started to worry that all of it would go to waste.
Then I hit the sweet spot of the album, which is chock full of songs I didn’t discover until I’d had the album for a couple years. One day I just got curious and went to listen through the album as a whole… found so many gems. And I just got inspired to do my fanfiction and take it in an unorthodox direction.
But as a whole, it was pretty unorthodox…. mostly wish-fulfillment actually.
It’s gotta be you… the best 2 minutes 57 seconds in music I can think of.
Don’t wanna lose you now… great ballad, beautiful, great vocals
I need you tonight- I discovered years later and fell in love with. It helps that I found out it was a Nick Carter solo.
When I got to that part in the album, I finally fell into that pocket and I was in heaven.
No Strings Attached is the better album as a whole… but Millennium wins on having some of my favorite musical moments.
I have lots of memories attached to them- at least three are fanfiction memories.
“The One” is my favorite of the singles on this album. Possibly my favorite Backstreet Boys ever.
At least the lyrics are little more comprehensive than “I want it that way” 😛 Harry Connick Jr. freaking tore that song apart on “American Idol” when Dalton and Mackenzie did a duet of it.
Max Martin knew what he was doing when he wrote it, though… made the perfect ear worm.
But “The One” is just on another level for me… hmm, I wonder if I’d feel that way if I heard it on the radio just as often.
The one negative about Millennium… I go straight through the first 8 songs and kinda forget about the rest. Going through them earlier today… the next two songs aren’t too bad. “Back to your heart” I like quite a bit (Kevin Richardson co-wrote it)
I’m not as crazy about the last two. “The Perfect Fan” is an ode to their moms, so it’s sentimental and sweet, but not my thing so much. Brian Littrell co-wrote it.
So it kinda looks like *NSYNC has won this with two rounds down and one to go.
But if I were to go through my top songs from each group, it might be a bit closer.
And the quality of the song with Backstreet Boys might score them the win.
I think deep down I still prefer them and am willing to do anything to make sure they wind up on top.
Fun fact: Millennium is one of the top selling albums of all time at 40 million copies.
No Strings Attached only has 13 million sold.
And apparently there was a misconception that *NSYNC were clones of BSB [gee… I wonder why that would be, lol] until this album’s release.
There’s still a lot of similarities for sure, but I get something different from each group. Depends on the mood I’m in, I guess.
Black & Blue vs. Celebrity
Ugh… I feel bad… I started the day with the Backstreet Boy album and tacked on *NSYNC’s as an afterthought, really. Just because I wasn’t up for keeping the album in my car for an extra day just to hear a few extra songs.
As a result of this, I really felt at home with Backstreet that when I switched over… it’s not that I didn’t have interest. I just knew it was going to be a step backwards.
For starters, I don’t own an official copy of this album. One of my friends gave it to me as a gift. Same friend also copied for me NOW 7 and two Britney Spears albums… the end result: I only listened to them a couple of times ever.
Maybe because I wasn’t as fond of the albums as wholes. And with one Britney album, it skipped so I had to copy the songs over again to get rid of the skips.
But anyway… I knew that was a time where I didn’t really care for *NSYNC. Backstreet changed a little bit, but I could go along with that change. At least for this particular album. [“Never Gone” is a completely different story… and I don’t think I’ll be picking it back up until a more appropriate month like December… it fits my state of my mind with this album a lot better than the tail end of summer].
I went through Black & Blue, not expecting at all to have this much fun with it. Not the same kind of fun I get with the first couple of *NSYNC albums, mind you. I was just enjoying myself and the music so much.
It’s a slightly more mature, slightly different direction, but for the majority, they stay true to what made them good in the first place.
Great catchy music and harmonies. Some decent ballads, but I still prefer the more upbeat songs.
“The Shape of my Heart” beats them all out… freaking love that song. So beautiful. Plus Nick gets a great solo 😛
“True” is a hidden gem that I rediscovered. Some cliché lyrics, yes, but seriously if a guy sung that to me after I caught him cheating, I’d probably take him back. Sad but true. [Did not mean for that pun to happen, it just did].
“The Call” sets an interesting story up.
“Boyfriend” has great rhythm… like really fun to sing with. “Not for me” does some of that as well, but carries extra intrigue about this crazy girl he’s trying to get away from.
“The Answer to our life”… I had no idea that ALL the guys co-wrote that song. That is REALLY good. Great lyrics, great music, super catchy. I smiled so much listening to it.
So lots of great moments… so yeah… almost anything would have trouble following that.
But here are my issues with this *NSYNC album…
I can’t quite describe what my problem is, actually.
I like the beat of “Pop” so much, but I don’t know… it’s kinda lame to me when songs address critics in such obvious fashion. It’d be an awesome song if the lyrics were about something else.
There are a lot of ballads on this album, none I really like.
Going back to “Gone” and “Girlfriend” after not hearing them in years, I kinda know why.
They’re dragged out, melodramatic and boring.
And Justin Timberlake co-wrote both of them.
I hated Justin Timberlake for years because his music sucked.
“Cry me a river” is pathetically weepy.
“Rock your body”… I mean, I’m mature enough where I’m not put off by the subject matter. Either he’s not my type as a guy or he doesn’t have the type of voice that could sell me on it. Prince probably had a few songs that are similar and they’re better because they do a little more than sit in the pocket.
“Sexyback”… I mean, thanks to that Nelly Furtado album, I like more of Timbaland’s production, but I cannot stand that song. In fact, it’s at the core of my hatred of Justin Timberlake as an artist.
Then he re-emerged a few years ago and actually took his music in a direction where I can respect him as an artist. “Suit & Tie” was the beginning of all that (just keep Jay-Z out of it, rapping ruins perfectly good throwback tune).
“Can’t stop the feeling” is also really good… but I hear it twice a day at work every day. I am so sick of it.
That’s the quickest way for me to start hating a song I loved… killing it with over-rotation on the radio.
There are actually a few songs on this album I like, but very few that I liked A LOT.
“The Game Is Over” has a cute gimmick with the video game sound effects, but that’s practically.
“The Two of Us” I like a bit more, but it gets repetitive.
“Back against the wall” has an interesting storyline, but at this point, I was losing interest in the album and also worrying about how much I can get through before arriving back at my house.
Which leaves me with two songs I actually go reenergized listening to.
“Tell Me”… insanely catchy. It and “Just don’t tell me that” were reminding me of “Not for me” from the Backstreet album 😛
“Tell Me” has the magic touch of Max Martin also to thank for my adoration of it.
I am looking at the Wikipedia page and finding all these songwriting credits now. Just to figure if that’s the reason why certain songs are hitting and others aren’t.
I mean, none of these guys are excellent songwriters. I’ll put that out there right now.
But the fact remains that Backstreet won this round.
Which leaves an interesting predicament.
the first album is a practically a draw because neither is spectacular, but *NSYNC has the edgy with catchiness and fun dance grooves. although their album is less consistent [meaning I’m skipping through the album more instead of letting it just play], whereas as Backstreet, the first 6 songs [well, excluding “All I have to give”] I like a lot and only one other really stood out.
the second album is almost too close to call. *NSYNC has the stronger album as a whole, but there’s a lot of personal connection to the Backstreet album.
*NSYNC is defined by No Strings Attached and you really don’t need any other album to get a better feel for them as a group.
If you want to see the precursor of Justin Timberlake’s career as a solo artist, I could recommend “Celebrity” because it has some similarities.
Other than some good catchy dance tunes, their first album isn’t really worth getting. It’s not anything special as far as a debut album goes. Namely because it’s prepackaged with very little artist input. But then again, I was complaining about their third album because they added their input.
yeah, I’m pretty much going to talk myself in circles to say Backstreet is better than *NSYNC.
This was fun going back to these songs, though.
Now I just gotta figure what to do for my commute tomorrow…