Exactly fifteen years ago today, NSYNC gave the world No Strings Attached-the group’s second (and strongest) album. Six months later, the Backstreet Boys released Black & Blue. So to celebrate their anniversaries, we’re ranking all the songs on both albums-together.
These boy bands spent most of their careers being compared, for obvious reasons. Each group consists of five guys; both released their debut U.S. albums around the same time in the late ’90s; both No Strings Attached and Black & Blue were released by Jive Records. And both NSYNC and BSB started in part thanks to Lou Pearlman, a man who quickly made a name for himself as a boy band Svengali before everyone figured out he was a scammer. (He’s now serving time in prison for multiple fraud-related charges.)
But despite those oft-cited similarities, the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC are separate animals. The Backstreet Boys are ballad experts; NSYNC had the uptempo dancers. Both groups occassionally drifted into the other’s territory, and sometimes succeeded in doing so.
For the purposes of this ranking, though, we’re pretending like No Strings and Black & Blue are one big super album. So read on, and feel free to speed past the dull stuff to get to the good parts-just like you would on the actual CDs.
Is this Backstreet Boys, or a teenaged Backstreet Boys cover band? It’s hard to tell, because it sounds too much like a generic love song made specifically for Delilah to play on her evening show.
Another built-for-weddings track that doesn’t have the heart of “Yes I Will” and doesn’t adequetely show off its singers’ voices. This could easily be any boy band’s ballad, and lyrics like “How do you prove the sky is blue?” don’t help elevate it. Like, really, Nick: You prove the sky is blue by going outside.
NSYNC’s ‘No Strings Attached’ and Backstreet Boys’ ‘Black and Blue’: We rank the songs
Every so often, Backstreet Boys will slip into NSYNC’s uptempo territory and NSYNC will slip into Backstreet Boy’s ballad territory. Sometimes it works; sometimes not so much-like with “That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You,” a track that’s too bland to truly deserve a place on this otherwise super-colorful album.
This Howie-penned song is inoffensive enough (that piano!) until you listen to the lyrics: “Remember when we never needed each other, the best of friends like sister and brother.” It’s a love song, and freakin’ Howie is trying to seduce this woman by recalling how they were like siblings when they were kids. Way to kill the mood, bro.
Justin previews his future solo career by (mostly) taking the lead on “I’ll Be Good For You,” a song you might hear on the smooth jazz station-and that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. At all. And that’s a pretty big feat to accomplish, given that this is an album that includes radio-ready singles as well as anthems blatantly advocating phone sex.
This comes right after “Get Another Boyfriend” on Black & Blue, a track that’s so wonderfully manic the listener needs at least one ballad afterwards to calm down. “Shining Star” is the anti-ballad, though-which would be fine if it were as good, or even almost as good, as “Get Another Boyfriend.” Instead, it’s an exhausting attempt to emulate NSYNC that’s too turbulent escort Palmdale to be enjoyable.
For you those times when you need to, you know, bring down da house or raise the roof, this track is here for you. It’s appropriately bouncy, and JC gets a chance to show off his voice (and to sing “y’all” a bunch).