â??N Sync: Outta time? 

In the beginning, there was the Backstreet Boys. Actually, that wasn't even nearly the beginning, but the surprise breakthrough a few years back of that toothsome fivesome from Orlando recaptured the marketable power of teen pop libido. Here were five loveable and infinitely harmonious representations of masculine youth, set to musical accompaniment and allowed to take over babysitting duties in the pacification of the world's young girls.;'N Sync, another Orlando phenomenon created in the wake of Backstreet's inevitable fermentation (aging concerns, royalties, egos), purport to be somehow different, despite their similar framing.

"We're the first group to throw in their face hardcore dancing and singing," 'N Sync's founding member Chris Kirkpatrick told Teen People, "then sing a pretty ballad on stools, then [get] right back in their face, dancing again." Kirkpatrick, at a fragile 27, is the oldest in the group, and with his duo-toned hair weave and braces, probably its least dreamy. It was he who (reportedly) first contacted a spry Justin Timberlake (the dreamy one) and JC Chasez (the serious one) -- both of whom worked together on Disney's "New Mickey Mouse Club" -- and got the ball rolling. Lance Bass (the quiet one) and Joey Fatone (the facial-haired one) round out the cast.

By all appearances, 'N Sync's creation (or replication) two years ago has been a formidable success. Thanks in part to the ground broken by the marketing team behind both 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, the former spends less time proving themselves, affording more opportunities to market their personable wholesomeness.

Where the tales of Backstreet Boys indiscretions surely must be waiting in the wings for litigation somewhere, 'N Sync remains the picture of boyhood purity, sporting WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets and limiting their public shenanigans to Monkees-level tomfoolery.

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Their self-titled debut remains in the Top 20 even after one year of release, racking up sales of more than 6 million copies in America alone. And that's not the only chart on which they're rearing their blonded heads. In a strange development, "'N Sync With Justin", a paperback by Matt Netter, has been riding high in the New York Times' Bestseller List, detailing the life of the youngest, cutest member. "Though superhero is a term usually reserved for the likes of Batman and Wonderwoman," pens Netter, "it's as appropriate a classification you'll find for a guy who's far too talented to be human."

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Teeming with factoids and anecdotes -- he sang a country song on "Star Search" and lost! -- it makes for thrilling reading to a love-struck audience. A similar book on JC exists as well, and the other members are in varying degrees of not-far-behind (poor, poor Lance).

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Currently, the band is on its first major headlining tour, which has been selling out; three times now they have canceled a scheduled pay-per-view performance, not wanting to give their act away too early. Titled "Ain't No Stopping Us Now '99," it finds the band in full pyrotechnic, choreographed glory.

But one has to wonder how big something this small can get ... and for how long? "Ain't No Stopping Us Now," for all its bravado, sounds suspiciously defensive. Things may be stopping before they know it, leaving today's best-selling books, pillows and buttons as musty relics.

Their time is now, indeed.


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