In NSYNC’s 2001 pop anthem about pop music, “Pop,” Justin Timberlake is fed up with the haters:
“Sick and tired of hearing all these people talk about / What’s the deal with this pop life and when is it gonna fade out?” he chirps in his unmistakably high-pitched yelp. “The thing you got to realize, what we doing is not a trend / We got the gift of melody, we gonna bring it ’til the end.”
He wasn’t wrong.
The American boy-band phenomenon was (I’m sorry to say, Justin) a passing a trend—it ended pretty much the moment JT went solo. But in the 16 years since, NSYNC’s enduring, catchy-as-hell music has not faded from the public consciousness. The band’s five members really did bring it till the end.
This is a special week in NSYNC fandom: the start of the month of May, which brings with it the “It’s Gonna Be May” meme. NSYNC’s Timberlake, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, and the one everyone always forgets (Chris Kirkpatrick) also reunited in Los Angeles yesterday (April 30) to receive their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Add to that the warming weather in much of the world, and now seems an excellent time to fire up “Here We Go” and “Just Got Paid” on Spotify and make NSYNC a part of your spring music diet.
Anyone who grew up in the 1990s has a soft spot for NSYNC, even if they’re embarrassed to admit it. The boy band was one the most popular musical acts in the world for a quick but intense four-year period, from 1997 to 2001. It was nominated for seven Grammys and 15 MTV Video Music Awards, and had four albums go platinum.
This particular 90s child has more vidid memories of NSYNC than perhaps any other musical band or artist. I distinctly remember rushing home after an anxious day of fourth grade so that my mom could drive me to music retailer Sam Goody (rest in peace) to buy No Strings Attached, the group’s second album. I remember plopping in front of the TV to watch the music video for “Bye Bye Bye” dominate the #1 slot on MTV’s Total Request Live for what seemed like an eternity. I remember getting into actual arguments with the pro-Backstreet Boys contingent of my class, and how utterly, undeniably wrong they were.
It’s a testament to NSYNC’s timelessness that you can walk into any McDonald’s almost two decades later and hear “Tearin’ Up My Heart” blaring through the speakers. I can still recite every righteously indignant lyric of “Bye Bye Bye,” every frenzied note of “Pop” (essentially the nerdy white-guy equivalent of Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre”). But I’d be remiss not to also mention the earnest, semi-creepy apology song, “I Want You Back,” or the histrionic teen love ballad “This I Promise You” (“I’ve loved you forever/In lifetimes before…And with this vow/Forever has now begun”).
Much of the fun of listening to music again after a long time is the rediscovery. NSYNC has many more hits, and there are many more days in May to make them your soundtrack to spring. I have not forgotten you, NSYNC, nor have I forgotten your contributions to pop music.