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Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Gonna Be Me - Whatever Happened To...*N Sync?

Okay, so before I kick off this edition of the Sunday Jukebox this week, I will warn you ahead of time.  If you weren't into the boy band phenomenon of the late 1990s, you probably will not like the content of this blog.  But for those of you who did embrace the boy band scene, well, today is your lucky day.  This is one that you'll probably enjoy.

I know this period all too well.  Having graduated from high school in June of 2000 (a month before today's featured single hit the charts), I remember it all too well.  By the time I graduated high school, it seemed as though rock and roll was becoming phased out to the point where it may as well have been killed off like disco had been twenty years earlier.  Sure, bands like silverchair, Stone Temple Pilots, No Doubt, and Matchbox 20 were trying to keep rock alive, and of course I heard a lot of those songs playing on the radio while I was trying to figure out eleventh grade algebra.

I would have to say that 1998 was the year in which I started noticing the shift.  It all began with the Backstreet Boys becoming incredibly popular.  They first broke out in my home country of Canada way back in 1995 (the year I graduated elementary school), and were already established stars in Canada.  Ironic, given that the band was born in Orlando, Florida.  It wasn't really until 1998 that the Backstreet Boys began to take over the American charts.  If I recall, their first smash was "Quit Playing Games With My Heart". 

Well, with the Backstreet Boys being regarded as "The New Kids of the Block for a new generation", naturally it paved the way for other boy bands to try their hand at success, all over the globe.

Let's see.  In the United States, we had 98 Degrees, O-Town, LFO, The Moffatts, and Hanson all charting between 1997 and 2002.

In the United Kingdom, there was Westlife, Boyzone, A1, BBMak, and 5ive.  I don't know if any of them actually had hits in the United States, but some of them managed to have some singles chart in Canada - I seem to remember the last two bands I named as having at least one hit.

Hell, even in Canada, we had soulDecision and 3Deep.  And, no, I won't post videos of either band.  Lord knows I heard enough of them in high school. 

So, which boy band will we be featuring in this blog?  Well, we'll be featuring a band that featured five members, and had a few hits on the charts between 1998 and 2002.  I can tell you that one member became a huge superstar, another one had a brief solo career, one became involved in the game show/infomercial industry, one ended up on a reality series, and the final member came out of the closet and almost went up into space!

And no, I'm not kidding!

Okay, I've held you in suspense long enough.  Here's today's featured single, a number one hit fourteen years ago this week.

SONG:  It's Gonna Be Me
ALBUM:  No Strings Attached
DATE RELEASED:  June 13, 2000

Yes, we'll be taking a look at the only #1 single that the boys of *N Sync managed to get during their seven years together. 

And, here are the members of *N Sync above.  From left to right, we have Joshua "JC" Chasez, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Justin Timberlake.

The band formed in 1995, and interestingly enough, the one who came up with the idea was Kirkpatrick, who had applied to become one of the Backstreet Boys, but just missed the final five.  He approached the then manager of the Backstreet Boys, Lou Pearlman, to finance a second boy band.  Pearlman agreed...on the condition that Kirkpatrick found four more singers to join him.

The first member came easily enough.  Kirkpatrick had met Joey Fatone while he was working for Universal Studios in Orlando, and Fatone jumped at the chance to sing with Kirkpatrick.

Member #3 was Timberlake, whom Pearlman had recommended, as he had already achieved success as a member of The Mickey Mouse Club.  And once Timberlake had jumped on board, a fourth member came in the form of JC Chasez, whom Timberlake worked with on the show, and who he had formed a close friendship with.

Now, the fifth member of the band was a bit of a wild card.  Initially, the spot was filled by Jason Galasso, who would serve as the group's bass singer.  And, with Jason's arrival came the inspiration behind the group's name.

Just picture the names in this order.  Justin - Chris - Joey - Jason - JC.  Look at the last letters of the names.  Yep, you see where I'm getting at?

One problem.  Just before the band was about to sign with Pearlman's label, Galasso had second thoughts and quit the band, leading to the signing of Lance Bass.  And to keep the name the same, the band initially had Lance going by the name of "Lansten".

Kind of lame, but whatever.

Shortly after signing with Pearlman, the band moved in together and started working on their harmonies and performing dance moves.  They traveled to Sweden where they recorded songs with producers Denniz Pop, Max Martin, and Andreas Carlsson (who would also work with The Backstreet Boys, Robyn, and Britney Spears).

And, just like the Backstreet Boys before them, *N Sync had to wait a while before they had success in America.  Believe it or not, their very first single "I Want You Back" (which was their first American single to chart) was released two years before its American chart date in October 1996.  In Germany.

And between 1996 and 1997, the group had massive success throughout Europe, with their debut album being released in 1997, and them doing several concerts throughout Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. 

Interestingly enough, the year that *N Sync had released their album in the United States - 1998 - was the year that the group discovered that their mentor, Ron Pearlman, was robbing them blind.  They soon found that Pearlman was taking as much as sixty per cent of the band's earnings when he was only supposed to take one-sixth.  A settlement was made out of court, and *N Sync moved on to Jive Records, but they wouldn't be the last band to go after Pearlman.

But, that's another story.

You know the rest.  *N Sync went on to release three studio albums, a Christmas album, opened for artists like Janet Jackson before embarking on their own tours, and became a real presence on the pop charts. 

And certainly with today's single, they showed that they also could inject humour into their videos.  I'll grant them this.  The music video for "It's Gonna Be Me" is quite creative.  The guys, trapped in their Barbie doll like boxes bust out, trying to get the attention of a girl (which parallels the theme of the song, which is about trying to get a girl's attention and not stopping until he is the one she wants).  Of course, they are mere toys.  I suppose if you really wanted to offer up this theory, maybe they were showcasing what their former manager Lou Pearlman saw them as...puppets on a string.  But, that would be too much symbolism for a four minute music video, so I'll just steer that train of thought back to the station.

I actually wonder how much make-up it took to get the boys of *N Sync made up to look like marionettes?  For that matter, I wonder how long it took to make up the extras in the video to look like toy soldiers and Barbie dolls.  It's really quite impressive for a boy band video.

After this song was released, the band never did get another #1 hit.  In fact, their 2001 follow-up, "Pop", wasn't quite as well-received as their previous discs, although the single "Girlfriend" did make the Top 5 (which in my opinion was the best of the three singles anyway).  They launched a tour to promote "Pop" in 2002, with plans to record a fourth album in 2003, but by that time, each of the members of the band were beginning to go their separate ways.  It's hard to pinpoint when exactly the band knew they were finished, but Justin Timberlake's sudden popularity as a solo artist probably was the driving force behind the split.  The dissolution of *N Sync was made official in 2005, and all the guys went off in different directions.

So, what happened to *N Sync?

Well, I don't think I need to explain too much about Justin Timberlake.  Not only has he achieved great success as a solo artist with such singles as "Cry Me a River", "Rock Your Body", "SexyBack", and "Suit & Tie", but he's also begun to make a name for himself in the film industry as well, starring in films such as "Shrek The Third", "The Love Guru", "The Social Network", and "Runner Runner".  I think it's safe to say that Justin Timberlake is probably the most successful of the members of *N Sync.  But the others certainly haven't been slacking.

JC Chasez also developed a solo career right around the time *N Sync split up.  While JC didn't quite burn up the charts like Justin has, he still had a couple of hits, like a collaboration with Blaque on their 2000 hit single "Bring It All To Me", and a couple of solo hits including "Blowin' Me Up (With Her Love)" and "Some Girls (Dance With Women)".  He also has a couple of acting credits, but mostly he has stuck with writing and producing for other artists, including Matthew Morrison, David Archuleta, and even his former rivals, the Backstreet Boys!

Joey Fatone has seemingly taken a different career path altogether.  Beginning in 2007, Joey started a career in game shows and reality television.  He was one of the featured celebrities in the fourth season of "Dancing With The Stars", coming in second place.  Months later, he hosted the NBC game show "The Singing Bee".  He became the ringmaster for NBC's short lived series "Celebrity Circus", and now currently serves as the announcer for the game show "Family Feud".  And as of April 2014, he serves as the host for the Food Network show "Unwrapped", which sees chefs recreating snack foods, and preparing dishes with their creations.  Again, a different career path from music, but whatever works.

I wish I could find out some more info on Chris Kirkpatrick, but since *N Sync broke up, he's arguably been the quietest member of the group.  All I could find that he's done since the split was that he appeared as a contestant on CMT's "Gone Country 2", where he placed second.  But given that the judges of the show were really impressed by his ability to write and sing country music songs, I wonder if maybe one day, we'll see him switch genres of music.  The jury's still out on that one.

As for Lance Bass...perhaps some of the more interesting stories have revolved around him.  Like Timberlake, Lance Bass also tried his hand at acting...but his projects weren't as commercially successful as some of the ones that Timberlake appeared in.  Bass' credits include "On The Line", "Zoolander", and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry". 

Oh, and one of the weirdest casting choices?  In the video game "Kingdom Hearts" (an RPG that blended Final Fantasy with Disney), he voiced Final Fantasy VII's Sephiroth!  Lance Bass as Sephiroth?  Sorry, I can't buy that.

Lance Bass also followed in Fatone's footsteps by appearing on the seventh season of "Dancing With The Stars".  He finished third.

And in 2006, putting rumours to rest, Lance Bass officially came out as being gay in People Magazine, and has been in a couple of relationships since then (the most publicized of which was his relationship with "The Amazing Race" winner Reichen Lehmkuhl).

These days though, Lance is content with voice work, lending his vocals to a few Disney projects, as well as doing musical theatre (including a six-month engagement in 2008 with the musical "Hairspray").

We won't talk about his attempt to go up into outer space in 2002, though.  That story is beyond words.

And, there you have it.  The story of *N Sync, along with their only #1 hit.  It seems hard to believe that it has been twelve years since the group last hit the Billboard charts.  But you know, when they performed together at the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2013, they still proved that they could make music happen.  I suppose that it could be possible that they could reform once again.

Time will tell.

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