Monday, April 08, 2013

(WAY) BACK IN THE DAY: *NSYNC Turns 15; I Feel Old

2013 is inadvertently turning into a year of personal nostalgia for me. I guess, my 25th (almost 26th, wow) year of life is when things start to turn on their head in my personal musical back catalog and material that I grew up with is officially becoming "the oldies". Jurassic Park (which came out in theaters when I was a wee 5 year old who was far too terrified to want to see it until several years later) is celebrating its 20th anniversary complete with a re-release in 3D. The UK have revitalized my beloved boys in 5ive via "The Big Reunion" television show (Good Lord, Abz Breen Luv, you've had a rough go of it, eh?) -- even if it is without frontman J. And *NSYNC's debut album recently celebrated its 15th anniversary of release in the US.

Listen -- any chance I can take to needlessly expand on the history of *NSYNC, I'm gonna take it. It's just my way.

Now so many years out after my *NSYNC obsession has dimmed (as in the rest of high school, college, adult life years out), I've come to decide that it was *NSYNC's debut album that means the most to me out of their three albums (no, we do not count Home For Christmas -- get out of my face with that). No Strings Attached was emotional -- a snapshot of the boys on the verge of the very pinnacle of their career as a group. Celebrity was a somewhat indulgent offering as they began transitioning into other, separate things. But *NSYNC was a testament to what they were trying to build -- a setup to the legacy they had originally wanted to leave behind: a five-piece harmony group.

On no other album will you hear all five voices. Chris Kirkpatrick takes lead in the melancholy ballad "Thinking of You (I Drive Myself Crazy)" (the music video being somewhat offensive to the mentally disturbed community not with standing -- but 1999 was another time, I suppose). Joey Fatone sings lead in "You Got It" and rocks the climax falsetto note in "Crazy For You" (a highlight from their first US tour and my first real arena concert experience). And Lance Bass was the only saving grace for "Giddy Up" (they were so proud they wrote that one -- do you remember? Why?).

No other album offered a pretty even mix of 90's boy band uptempos (including two Max Martin ditties in "I Want You Back" and "Tearin' Up My Heart"), soulful attempts at R&B ("For The Girl Who Has Everything", the Full Force-produced "I Just Wanna Be With You") and two covers(!) in Christopher Cross'  "Sailing" and Bread's "Everything I Own".

And of course, that was just the US version of the album -- it was originally released in Germany almost a year earlier with a few extra covers and different singles/music videos. If you've never seen the original version of the "I Want You Back" video, you are doing yourself a disservice. Check it out below. Never again will you see our five boys look so...Eurotrashtastic meets Star Trek?

Recordings for *NSYNC began a scant two years after Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez exited the Magic Kingdom via The Mickey Mouse Club -- which explains why in the eventual US release, Justin's vocals are a bit all over the map from sounding tweenage fresh (and high) to the more husky/nasally deeper voice we've come to know now. Indeed, in the above video, released back in 1996, he was just 15 years old.

Sure, it looks funny now but change the outfits and the logos and you got the cover of One Direction's next record.
Since I am American and was an ardent *NSYNC fan, it should surprise none of you that during an exciting trip to the city in which I now currently live (New York, NY), my tweenage self paid a shopping visit to the Virgin Megastore in Times Square (RIP, my old friend) and while casually perusing the *NSYNC memorabilia they had there back in early 1999 (because why not), I found my golden nugget in the original German import of their debut album (see cover above). As that year would go on, I would find more import goodies from my fave boy band at my local FYE (which still exists in Upstate New York, but no longer offers imports), including a German single of "For The Girl Who Has Everything" that included a cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (to this day, my step-dad's absolute least favorite song of all time for some crazy reason) and a UK single of "I'll Never Stop," a Cheiron sparkler that was included on No Strings Attached's Europe version and not on the US version (Why? Who knows? I blame Jive Records.) So rather than expound on the US-available version of *NSYNC, let's take a few moments to revel in the lesser known (to the American public, anyway) tracks.

Released as a single in Germany in 1997 and featured as an album cut on the US version of *NSYNC, it was one of my favorites because of it's oh-so-90's rallying cry of "Yes! Yes! Yes! Here We Go!/*NSYNC has got the flow!". Could that songwriting be any more blatant (and/or lazy)? Nope. No, it could not. And a basketball theme? Don't try and tell me I'm not all about the March Madnesses. (blank stare) The video has disappeared from the YouTubes so the boys lipsynching to the song live in Germany will have to do.

After copping the German version of *NSYNC, I vividly remember lamenting that this original Eurodance corker wasn't available Stateside (because, honestly -- it was Justin overload and at 12, I was convinced we were destined for marriage). Even at 12, I was a fan of the Eurodancin' and 90's dance tunes. No Mercy, eat your heart out.

This was actually a single in Germany but the song disappeared from their catalog entirely when they made a run for Stateside success. And no, it is not a Janet Jackson cover -- although that would have been amazing. It was released as a Christmas single in 1997 (pre-dating "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" and it's awkward video with an equally awkward video). And Chris sings the second verse!

Previously mentioned b-side. Proves how much these boys can sing.

When I saw this song live during their first US tour (it was called Ain't No Stopping Us Now...hilarious), I cried. Never in my life had I seen a flying gag over the audience like this, complete with such a pretty harmony. Such a perfectly executed cover that really complements JC's vocals.


Lilly said...

i was literally just having this convo with my brother (nsync). anyway, my fave song on the first album was prob "here we go" also

Linus said...

"I'll Never Stop" is one of my favoritest (?) guilty pleasures!

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