Flashback Friday: NSYNC GET DOWN & DIRTY (Seventeen Magazine, July 2001)
Moments ago, *NSYNC were behaving like the professionals they are. Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, JC Chasez, and Joey Fatone patiently posed for shot after shot on a Universal Studios soundstage in Orlando at what must be their zillionth photo shoot since the band formed in 1995. But someone discovers a bag of paddle balls–those plywood party favors with strings (and rubber balls) attached-watch out! The guys’ concentration crumbles, and they’re transformed into rowdy kids. A crazed Kirkpatrick smacks Fatones butt so hard with one of the paddles, it actually cracks in two. Then Kirkpatrick starts whacking himself on the head like a masochistic karate master. “Do I have a red spot now?” he asks. Well, duh. Timberlake grabs this reporter’s recorder and begins a play-by-play from the sidelines.
“Everyone is playing paddleball. JC is particulary good, Joey sucks and Lance is mediocre. I, on the other hand, am the most mature of the group, so I’m going to stand here and say everything I think about hte guys on this recorder. Chris-short; Lance-idiot; Joey-big idiot; JC-really good at paddleball. Uh, gotta go! Joey is chasing me with the paddleball.”
As you undoubtedly know, *NSYNC are the biggest band in the universe. They sold a record breaking 2.4 million copies of their last CD, No Strings Attached, in one week, and are currently on a massive stadium tour to prmote their upcoming album, Celebrity, due out July 24. So if our photographer has to wait a bit for Kirkpatrick’s forehead to return to a normal shade, he will. These guys are superstars.
Not that you’d know it from hanging out with them. In spite of their pop preeminence, *NSYNC are amazingly down to earth. They show up for the shoot on time. (No stretch limos; Timberlake and Kirkpatrick arrive on flashy motorcycles). At lunch, they eat burgers and sandwiches from a food truck and are disarminly warm to everyone around them–even the reporter, whose job it is to dig into their private lives.
How is it there’s no ego tripping, spotlight hogging, creative conflicts, or scuttlebutt about solo albums? “We’re brothers,” says Timberlake. “I wouldn’t change the friendship I have with them for anything in the world. We like to pick on one another, but it’s all in good fun. There’s still a level of respect that we have for one another.”
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, at least from outside forces, hasn’t come easily to the band. There are web sites devoted to dissing them (*NSYNC Nsux, *NSYNC Nduces Vomiting, etc…), and the critics haven’t always been kind. Entertainment Weekly single out their “hammy agonizingly contrived African American vocal mannerisms” when reviewing NSA-only to later out them on the cover. Not that the guys let maysayers bother them much. With their blockbuster sophomore studio album, the fab five left Svengali Lou Perlman behind and gained creative control of their career. The struggle made them stronger: Now even skeptics are coming around. Says levelheaded Bass, “The people who we really respect in the music business know what we can do. Listeners consider us a real group. I don’t think they use the term boy band nearly as much as they used to.
Throughout their ups and downs, the guys have always been willing to poke fun at themselves. Remember the skit as 7 ddegrees celcius on SNL? The new album’s title track is in keeping with the same self deprecating spirit. On the twitchy “Celebrity,” the guys ask whoever’s listening, “Would you be so into me if I wasn’t a celebrity?” “We’re not complaining,” says Timberlake of the lyrics. “‘Celebrity’ is about the ironies of being a star.” But despite its lightheartedness, the song reveals the boys vulnerabilty. “People will sometimes do things-like not let us into a club-because we’re *NSYNC,” says Kirkpatrick, “just so they can say they turned down *NSYNC. It makes us feel like idiots, because all we want is to have a good time.”
More vexing are the rumors that come with star status. Timberlake tends to catch the most flak–just cutting his curls made headlines! And this past December, the sultry-voiced singer was slapped with a lawsuit by the mother of a fan. JoAnne Mcguire alleges that her 15 year old daughter Danielle suffered verbal and physical intimidation from Timberlake. he allegedly berated Danielle for shouting ‘I like JC better anyway-he is cuter,’ after Timberlake ignored a group of fans outside a St. Louis hotel. Timberlake is under a gag order from his lawyers but says, “I have nothing but love for the people who come out to see us.” Chasez is quick to defend his bandmate. “It’s a shame, man, because that girl is headtripping and the truth wiill come out. I feel bad because the lawsuit has kind of given the fans a bad name, and our fans are great.”
Another subject Timberlake would prefer to steer clear of is his much specuated-about relationship with Britney Spears. “What are you talking about?” he asks, feigning ignorance when first asked about her. He then offers a diplomatic response; “If anyone is going to understand my schedule and demands, it’s Britney, because she’s in the same business,” he says. “Going public with our relationship was a choice that she had to make. Britney didn’t want people to say, ‘Oh, that’s Justin’s girlfriend,’ because she has her own thing.” Chasez, who’s also in the room, starts jumping up and down behind Timberlake. It’s not the most subtle way of distracting a nosy journalist, but it’s touching to see him helping his buddy out of a tight spot.
The other *NSYNCers are more open about their romantic status. For the record, Chasez and Fatone are both taken, which Bass and Kirkpatrick are free agents. Bass, for one, is lucky if he has time to brush his teeth, let alone take a girl out on the town. For the last few months, the ambitious Mississippian has been juggling his hectic filming schedule with *NSYNC’s promotional commitments. “It’s hard to meet people,” he says. I don’t even know what a personal life is. My bus is my home.” Bass says he’d eventually like to date someone who isn’t in the business.
Kirkpatrick, meanwhile prefers to remain on his own these days. “I’m just not a relationship person,” he says. Kirkpatrick and Danielle Raabe, president of his burgeoning clothing company FuMan skeeto, broke up in October but remain close. “Since we weork together, I have to find out who she’s going out with now,” he says. “It’s really hard because I was in love with her. We were together for two years, and I still love her. She’s a great person.”
And this will tear up your heart; Chasez has been dating the same woman (he won’t name her, in order to protect her privacy” for more than a year and a half. “We met a bunch of times through friends but never noticed each other,” he says. “And then one days we were playing cards and everybody was hanging out, and we clicked.” He says his girfriend, who writes about women’s issues for a living, isn’t threatened by his sex-symbol status. “I don’t walk around thinking that I’m sexy. I just do my day-to-day stuff. I try to learn the next dance steps, to sing the best I can. She sees that in me and respects me. You can’t be sexy forever-unless you’re Sean Connery.”
Which brings us to the self-proclaimed fun lover Fatone. When asked about his love ife, he proclaims, “I’m single and ready to mingle, baby.” (This elicits a big “EWWW! That’s cheesy,” from Chasez.) But then Fatone backpedals a bit, saying, “I’m kind of dating somebody, and I have been for a while.” It’s understandable that he’s a little cagey. Gossip columnists have erroneously linked him to several celbrities, including WWF star Chyna and actress Minnie Driver. “My girlfriend knows not to take the gossip seriously,” he says. Hey, did he say girlfriend?
The dishing comes to an abrupt hat when the entire band runs outside the soundstage. What’s going on? Fire? Hurricane alert? Obviously, we’re curious and follow suit. “Uncle Justin is here! Uncle Justin’s here!” Timberlake yells. What? As it turns out, the guys are all ogling at a beautiful baby girl-and it’s Fatone’s! He and Kelly Baldwin reportedly became the proud parents of Brianna in late April.
As thrilled as the guys are about being uncles, what the realy want to talk about is music. You’ll have the new disc any day now, so we’ll skip the flowery adjectives. Let’s just say if any doubt remains as to whether these guys are the real deal, Celebrity will erase it. The band wrote the bulk of the CD’s songs themselves and coproduced the rest. The growth is undeniable-some tracks are rough R&B others are supersmooth ballads and the peppy lead single “Pop” even find the guys experimenting with the furturistic electronic beats. Any way you cut it, *NSYNC has undergone a stunning evolution. “I don’t think about what I’ve done,” says Chasez, who along with Timberlake shares the most songwriting credits. “I’m proud of Justin-he’s probably done the best stuff on the record.” Spoken like a true brother.
Hope you can sleep with the light on. Like girlfriend Spears, Timberlake is diving into the literary world. His first novel, Crossover Dribble, comes out in September. So he may keep you up by writing into the wee hours. Still, Timberlake isn’t your typical bookworm–he’s obsessed with his HondaCBR600 motorcycle and has even gone skydiving. Pack a helmet and a sense of adventure.
He digs spunk women, like Cheri Oteri, formerly of SNL. To make it to the altar with this guy, you’ll need to tickly his funny bone. He also likes artisitc girls-when you’re hanging out backstage at *NSYNCs shows, pull out your sketch book. Maybe you’ll dream up cool designs for his fumanskeeto clothting line.
It would take a high energy spouse to keep up with this nightclubloving globe-trotter. Though he has serious acting ambitions, Fatone is hardly all work and no play. You might want to set aside a room in your mansion for his Superman memorabilia collection.
To be sure, you’ve bagged the nicest guy in the world. But will you ever get to see him? Bass is a hard core career man. When he’s not with the band, he’s busy acting; looking for movie scripts to develop for his prduction company, A Happy Place; and managing the careers of up-and-coming artists like country crooner Meredith Edwards. You may want to consider a business degree-together, the two of you can take over the world.
He’s a strict music man. If you can’t find your hubby in the middle of the night, he’s probably in the home recording studio. Chasez had a blast producing some tracks for a girl group Wild Orchid, but he’s really more into songwriting. To be his muse, you’ll need to be smart and secure. And it wouldn’t hurt if you were also a good cook–Chasez, who loves grilled cheese sandwiches, is psyched that his current girlfriend’s parents are gourmet chefs.