Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back In the Day 2.0: No Strings Attached

Today is a Holy Day in Mel's book, because today is the ten year anniversary of an album that was, and continues to be, one of my favorites -- one that helped mold me into who I am.

I know it sounds hokey, but today is the ten year anniversary of a little album called No Strings Attached.

The five men that made up *NSYNC completely changed me as a person. Every audiophile has one artist, one record, one song, that put them on the path to musical submission, and while I already had established a strong love for music years prior to *NSYNC's dominance on the pop charts, it truly believe it was this album, this era, that changed me forever.

Now ten years on, we can look back on this time in pop music with a little more objectivity, and appreciate the records that were broken during America's last big music boom. So many are quick to toss off this time as too full of disposable teen pop. While the much of its sound is unarguably sacchrine, the proof is in the numbers -- the album is the biggest seller in America of the entire 2000's decade, per Billboard Magazine, selling over 11 million copies worldwide todate. It broke records right out the gate, selling seven million in one year in America alone, 2.4 million in its first week, almost 2 million in its first day on the market. 

It showed the public's desire for feel-good music, and it showed that people were willing to pay real money for physical product -- this concept just doesn't exist anymore, in a music market where so much of what's popular is quite comparable in sound to what was popular ten years ago. It was a time before MP3s were common currency, before you could just hit "insert artist's name and album title here" on Google and grab an album for free. To this day, the facts still surprise and confound. It remains to be the career highlight for the five men who dramatically changed my life as a music fan.

There is no denying that popular music seems to return to us in cycles, and mimicks the environment as it stands. 2009 was a shaky year in America, and 2010 continues it's dark feel. Rather than embrace the heavy, darkier sounds, it shouldn't come as too much of a suprise that so much of what music is popular today is decidedly lighter and sunnier. We need the escapism, and that's what true pop music is about -- allowing you to forget your troubles and dance, smile, enjoy.

It's almost hard for me to swallow that ten years ago today, I was your typical rapid 12-year-old fangirl, convinced that perhaps one day I'd meet then 19-year-old Justin Timberlake and we'd fall head over heels in love (for the record, we still haven't met, ten years later -- and I'm still waiting). It's hard to believe I wasn't even a teenager, and yet I remember so clearly the anticipation of this album, feeling like I had to wait forever for its eventual release due to an infuriating lawsuit with their former management. It's hard to believe it was ten years ago when I was sitting on my parent's bed, watching their appearances on TRL and the Rosie O'Donnell show that I had videotaped onto VHS over and over until I knew every word, every smile, every joke, and would still laugh each time. It's hard to believe it was ten years ago that my room was plasted in posters ripped from various teen magazines that I'd beg my mother to buy me. But it was.

"Bye Bye Bye" in itself isn't exactly groundbreaking pop music. But it's a perfect example  why Sweden's Cheiron Studios is considered so holy to pop music fans to this day. It's beautiful in its simplicity, and serves as a snapshot of what the year 2000 was to me. Justin Bieber fans, don't think I don't get you -- I do. It stole my heart in favor of good pop everywhere, and the love affair continues to this day.

March 21, 2000 was a Tuesday, but I vividly remember the days just before it -- watching every special on MTV with greedy anticipation of what No Strings Attached would sound like in full. And I remember getting a phone call on Monday, the 20th, while sitting in my kitchen after school, doing my homework, from one of my closest friends (and fellow *NSYNC fans), who excitedly told me my local FYE had made a mistake, and were selling the album a day early. You can probably guess what happened next. I immediately called my mother at work, asking her to pick me up once she got home and bring me to the mall so I could get the album early. She didn't have to say yes, but she did -- and not only did I get the album early, I remember bringing along my CD Walkman, meeting my friend at the mall's food court, and hastily unwrapping the CD packaging and us sharing my wonky headphones, barely unable to contain our squeals of eager excitement.

Ten years on and I still remember every lyric, every note, and can envision every dance move. It was the album I turned to when I was feeling down, or left out, or just generally bored. About a year and a half after its release, it was the first thing I reached for while staring in awe and horror at the images on my television screen heralding the fall of New York's Twin Towers. Upon the ending of my high school years just a few months on after it's fifth anniversary, the entire CD was played triumphantly during my graduation/18th birthday party. While in college, the history of the album was taught in my music industry classes, and friends and I would sing along and flash our hands to "Bye Bye Bye" when we'd listen to it for "nostalgia". And now, ten years later, I return to it again, because it still sounds amazing to this day. It still transforms me into that starry-eyed 12-year-old I used to be -- who just started to believe that maybe I could pursue a career in music, because if those five boys could make their dreams come true, so could I. Now I'm 22, living on my own in New York City. No Strings Attached, indeed.

Ten years on and it still sounds so good. So please, in honor of them -- take some time and listen to the record one more time. I know you'll be glad you did. Boys, we're still waiting for that reunion of our five Space Cowboys. That candle never dims. Ever.


Admin@Stillnsync said...

This was a beautiful post! We've featured it at our *NSYNC fansite, stillnsync!

.:MisZBintanG:. said...

hi there mel. i'm nurul and i'm from Malaysia but currently i'm in New Zealand. thing is, we have quite a few things in common. for starters, i'm also 22 and surprise..! I LOVE Nsync too...haha. just wanna say, this is a great post (i cried all the way reading it). Just wondering if it's ok for me to put the link on my facebook page?just a great piece of writing...=> thanx

Aaron said...

AWWW! - What a gorgeous story!

You're spot on with the notion of pop music, and you've done a brilliant way of nailing your feelings - I really struggle with writing that some times..Great post

Anyway, you are right - but I kinda think I'm still going through my music "formation", and I feel that many different albums and songs, rather than one single one, each give something different to me and my personality...

Regardless, I'm yet to hear No Strings Attached, but am DYING to now - You've got me really very excited - and I love Bye Bye Bye!

Myfizzypop said...

i still occassionally do the dance routine to It's Gonna Be Me while running drunk through supermarket aisles at midnight on a saturday.

John said...

Such a great post. I think it's been great that they haven't reunited, though. Just look what's become of BSB. You have to admit that they really went out on top.

Mel said...

StillNSYNC - Oh, I'm honored! I read your sweet comments on the site and the sweet comments of others and I'm really blown away. It's so nice to know that the *NSYNC fan camaraderie still exists! :) ::hugs::

Nurul - Feel free to place the link anywhere you'd like -- I definitely appreciate it! :) Any *NSYNC fan is a friend of mine, and I appreciate your kind words! :)

Aaron - I agree. I'm listening to so much music now that I never would have thought I'd be listening to last year, and so on and so forth. However, I definitely feel that certain albums along the way provide a snapshot of who you were at that time, and No Strings Attached was one of those albums for me, just like Janet's janet. and Mariah Carey's MusicBox and En Vogue's Funky Divas before it. :) I can't believe you haven't heard it!! Sacrilege! :)

Paul - I was rocking out to "Space Cowboys" this morning on the Subway and MIGHT have been singing out loud. I'm not really sure. But people were staring. ;)

Mike said...

I was more of a BSB kid. Also, MV is having Jada perform here on Friday night.

Noel - Best Acoustic Strings said...

Great post. I'm kinda miss those good old days listening to Nsync.

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