Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean and *NSYNC’s Chris Kirkpatrick have come a long way since their boy band days back in the '90s and 2000s. The two musicians opened up to Variety about the rivalry that once divided them completely while debuting their new collaborative single, "Air," in Las Vegas Saturday.
"There was a time when I couldn’t be in the same room with this guy," Kirkpatrick admitted of the bands' heyday. "But there’s always been a mutual respect, and now that we’re all parents, we’ve grown up. Reflecting on things, it’s cool to see what each of the bands did and how it all worked together. It really was this symbiotic relationship with Backstreet, 98 Degrees, us and even O-Town and other bands that came in."
The singers' side band, ATCK (All the Cool Kids) plays on that symbiotic relationship after being formed by McLean and DJ Lux, bringing in a "revolving door" of musicians, including Kirkpatrick, who surprised the audience at Saturday's Music for Life fundraiser for the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, raising money to help save young people from the opioid crisis. McLean and Kirkpatrick went back and forth during the performance about Backstreet Boys versus *NSYNC, performing hits like "I Want It That Way" and "Bye Bye Bye." Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees then made his way up on the stage to settle the debate with his band's "The Hardest Thing."
Timmons told Variety that 98 Degrees was more internally competitive than when it came to fellow boy bands. "We always had a mutual respect for these guys and didn’t see it as a competitive situation, but as you get older you appreciate the opportunities you have to do this kind of stuff [together]," Timmons said, to which Kirkpatrick chimed in, "That's a lie! Back in the day, there was competitiveness. There were underlying things that we all had. I was afraid of you!"
Years after their rivalry, Kirkpatrick now thinks of Timmons and McLean as some of his closest friends. "I look at Jeff and he’s become a really great friend and I admire listening [to him]," he said. "And, AJ, I’ve listened to his solo stuff, too. It’s so cool to be mentioned with their bands and with these guys." McLean added that the trio considers themselves "pretty much like the Three Stooges" as they perform gigs together and support one another in their solo musical endeavors.