MTV shows *NSYNC some love in their quest to define Pop
Eight years after *NSYNC’s last studio album and days before NSA: 2010, MTV ran an interesting article on Celebrity. The article is written by Kyle Anderson, a music columnist for MTV who is exploring the beginning, middle, and current state of Pop. He writes, “That’s why we bring you “Popology,” the guide to modern radio-friendly stars as seen through the eyes of a guy who grew up on punk and metal.”
What better group to write about, when talking about Pop, than the group that defined the term and set the bar for all other groups to achieve and surpass?
People tend to remember the boy band era being a dominant pop force, but it really only lasted five years or so (about as long as grunge). The men of the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, 5ive, O-Town and the like were regular guests on “TRL” and dominated airwaves, but fans tired of uber-populist sugar and moved deeper into pop sub-genres. However, *NSYNC never had to deal with any sort of backlash because they broke up just before the bottom dropped out. Timberlake‘s debut solo albumJustified (a title he must still regret) came out in 2002 (a year after Celebrity) and he never looked back (they’re like the Pixies of boy bands).
I adore Timberlake’s second album FutureSex/LoveSounds and was always fine with the singles onJustified, but I’ve never really explored *NSYNC. I always assumed that the gap between Celebrityand Justified would be massive, but it turns out Timberlake treated his group’s final original album as a test run for what would become a hugely successful solo career.
Celebrity opens with “Pop.” Timberlake opens the song with a blast of frustration and a justification of his group’s existence. “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 sings over a stew of burping bass and scratches. Sonically, Celebrity has already aged better than many of the albums put out by *NSYNC’s contemporaries. “Pop” (which was justifiably a gigantic hit) then breaks into a bounce beat and a neck-snapping chorus with metal guitars and sweet harmonies.
Somewhat surprisingly, Celebrity isn’t just the Timberlake show. Rather, each member of the group has a distinct personality and a memorable presence. JC Chasez‘s lead take on “The Game Is Over” is pretty remarkable. He is aided by a plethora of “Galaga”-era arcade sound effects, which makes the track sound simultaneously futuristic and old school.
Speaking of both futuristic and old school, the Nelly collaboration “Girlfriend” is produced by the Neptunes, and they lend the track with a bombastic bass undertone and a sexy Spanish guitar. These explorations into the worlds of hip-hop, world music and contemporary R&B could have been dangerous, but they give Celebrity an unpredictable feel. For an album that sold nearly two million copies in its first week of release, it’s pretty free-wheeling.
View the entire article at the MTV website HERE. Interesting that he would talk about Celebrity, when No Strings Attached made such a huge splash and set *NSYNC up for the success of Celebrity.