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'N Sync's 'Strings' Has Chart-Topping Spot Sewn Up

March 25, 2000|GEOFF BOUCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Backstreet Boys are sooo 1999--now it's that other Florida pop group, 'N Sync, that is making music history with record-breaking sales.

'N Sync's third album, "No Strings Attached," will debut next week at No. 1 on the nation's pop charts in stunning fashion after selling about 2 million copies on Tuesday and Wednesday, its first two days in stores. Retailers project the album could potentially exceed 3 million in sales for the week, which would double the single-week sales record of 1.13 million copies set last summer by the rival Backstreet Boys' "Millennium."

"These numbers are mind-boggling," said Bob Bell, a music buyer for Wherehouse, the Torrance-based chain of 600 music stores. "It's not going to just exceed the record, it's going to just completely blow it away. It just shows how strong the fan base is and how hungry."

Tickets go on sale today for the 'N Sync show at the Rose Bowl on June 9.

The fan fervor has been stoked by a media blitz to market the album, with the fresh-scrubbed pinups appearing on everything from "Good Morning America" to "Saturday Night Live" in recent weeks. That coveted pipeline to America's youth, MTV, has also devoted major air time to the group and its new action-packed video for the song "Bye Bye Bye."

The fans have also been kept waiting for quite a while. 'N Sync's eponymous debut album arrived in stores two years ago this week and, thanks to a fertile teen pop landscape already tilled by the elder Backstreeters, it went on to sell 7.9 million copies in the U.S.

A quickie Christmas collection followed, but legal squabbles with their former label, RCA Records, and their onetime guru, Orlando music mogul Louis J. Pearlman, delayed any follow-up album until now. The title of the new disc is a nod to their newfound freedom on Jive Records, a label shared by the other two dynamos of youth pop, Britney Spears and, once again, the rival Backstreet Boys.

Expect the 'N Sync success to not sit well with the Backstreet Boys. In an interview on MTV, the Backstreeters criticized 'N Sync recently and gave the impression that they view the rival group as pesky, derivative little brothers. Maybe it's all a fabricated tiff to stir up fan loyalty, but certainly there are some ego balancing maneuvers underway at Jive, the new epicenter of froth pop.

"We view it as a culture of success, a culture of winning attitude," said Jive President Barry Weiss. "I'd rather not comment [on the MTV interview] . . . we're not these artists' parents."

Regardless, the first-week sales of "No Strings Attached" sets it on course to match the staggering sales last year by the Backstreet Boys and Spears, who had the two top-selling albums of 1999.

Is there any end in sight to the youth pop dominance of the music market?

"The kids," Bell said, "just can't get enough."

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