Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

The Sound of the City

Sync or Swim

'N Sync are five showbiz hotties who became a boy group in the leisure mecca of Orlando, Florida, and achieved commercial liftoff in Germany. The Backstreet Boys are five showbiz hotties who became a boy group in the leisure mecca of Orlando, Florida, and achieved commercial liftoff in Germany. There you have three current top-10 albums and the emptiest pop confluence since Gerry and the Pacemakers ferried 'cross the Mersey. I mean, before you launch that Epcot Center boycott, remember--Coke really is different from Pepsi.

And 'N Sync are Royal Crown. The Backstreet Boys won't take risk one till the hits stop, but only letches who believe 13-year-old girls were culturally deprived before Next waxed their erections and Total faked masturbation would deny the pleasure potential and developmental utility of age-appropriate fantasy. The problem with 'N Sync--whose founding members, genuine singer JC Chasez and designated heartthrob Justin Timberlake, met while working the Mickey Mouse Club--is that they're into safety for its own sake. At Newark's New Jersey Performing Arts Center last Friday, their median fan was a very early adolescent, a notch younger than the full-fledged teens who blew up Radio City for the Backstreet Boys and a notch older than the grade-schoolers who took sisterhood lessons from the Spice Girls at the Garden. And despite the sexual element--"Take It All Off," one sign dared--the shriek of hysteria 'N Sync elicited was more kiddie squeal than hormonal howl. That's the test. They failed it.

Does it matter that 'N Sync replaced the Backstreets' Boyz II Men tribute with a Bee Gees medley? That 'N Sync's big dance riff recycles the Backstreets' big dance riff? That 'N Sync's "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You" packs more ick than the entire Backstreets album? That instead of relegating crotch pumps to their bad boys 'N Sync abjure them altogether? That, actually, they don't have any bad boys? Yes--these things add up. But what really confused me is why they didn't promote their Christmas album for a song or two. Hasn't their accountant told them the name of this game is take the money and run? Hmm--maybe not.

Village Voice, Dec. 8, 1998