I don’t know what started it exactly, but recently I’ve been having a pre-teen nostalgia kick. This, embarrassingly enough, means I’ve been listening non-stop to my favorite artists of the time- *NSYNC. I’m pretty sure my friends on Last.FM are going to delete me once they take a look at my Recently Played tracks and see nothing but songs from a boy band; all pretense of me having a sophisticated taste in music will be shattered.
Don’t laugh too hard though- Nsync was pretty popular when I was a preteen. I’m talking about the early 2000’s, of course- when the names Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, Lance Bass, JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake were known worldwide (though luckily enough for Timberlake, his still is). In fact, when Nsync released their sophomore album, No Strings Attached, in 2000 (wow, I feel old now), it sold 2.4 million copies in its debut week alone- more than some albums sell during their complete lifespan. So laugh it up, naysayers- but I’m not the only one whose past (and…*sigh* present) includes a Nsync CD collection.
The disc starts off with the lead single, Bye, Bye, Bye. Everyone in the world has heard this song, I’m sure- it was inescapable in it’s time, and became a massive hit. I’ll admit to this song being, perhaps, one of the corniest pop hits in the world, though. The backing music is extremely cheesy, and the lyrics are almost embarrassing (“Don’t wanna be a fool for you/Just another player in your game for two/You may hate me but it ain’t no lie/Baby, bye, bye, bye…”). Still, during the heyday of pop music and boy bands, this song was a genuine hit.
It’s Gonna Be Me is next, and was the second single from the album. The song is musically quite similar to the one before it; another bouncy pop beat, catchy chorus (“Every little thing I do/Never seems enough for you/You don’t wanna lose it again/But I’m not like them/Baby, when you finally,/Get to love somebody/Guess what,/It’s gonna be me..”) and swoon-worthy solos from Timberlake and Chasez make up the song. Speaking of Chasez, we see him get writing credit for the first time on this disc. The first song co-written by him is the futuristic Space Cowboy, which features a special guest appearance by the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez. Chasez and the other guys sing about their thoughts of the prophesized events of the future (“Here it comes, millennium/And everybody’s talkin’ bout Jerusalem/Is this the beginning or beginning of the end?/Well, I’ve got other thoughts my friend”) and then decide the best way to deal with the future is to become…well, “space cowboys”. Yes, I’m being serious. The chorus literally consists of them singing “Why-yi-yi-yippie-yi-yay” as they fantasize about being cowboys in outer space. I think Chasez started out with a good concept (namely the first verse), but the rest gets a bit muddled in this outlandishly ridiculous song. Despite the inane lyrics, the song does have a fun beat and the chorus is one you can’t get out of your head. Left Eye’s rap adds more flair, and surprisingly enough, the song isn’t a complete misfire.
The real fun, though, comes with Just Got Paid. The song is a remake of the ’88 Johnny Kemp hit, and gets a fresh, pop update. The boys retain the song’s original R&B feel though, and the overall result is a fun, danceable song. Even Kirkpatrick’s rapping towards the middle comes off well. The guys keep up the R&B feel with Makes Me Ill. Hip-hop producers of the time, Kandi and Kevin Briggs lend their talent, but this song isn’t nearly as fun as the one before it. Again, the chorus is catchy (“It makes me ill/To see you give/Love and attention at his will/And you can’t imagine how it makes me feel/To see you with him”), but the guys seem to be trying to hard to pull of this “street”/R&B vibe and it doesn’t work well this time around.
Thankfully, Nsync returns to what they’re really good at- beautiful ballads- with This I Promise You. This song was the third single released from the album (the sad thing is that I know all of this information off hand; I’ve had to do no research so far, and I know I’m right without any verification), and was another impressive hit. We get a true glimpse of the vocal talent of the group here; from Timberlake’s smooth voice and Chasez’s strong chops, to the boys’ trademark tight harmonies. The Richard Marx-penned melody is sappy, but it’s still a treat to the ears.
The tempo picks right back up with the upbeat title track, No Strings Attached. While the title of the album was more of a play on the fact that the group had disbanded from its’ former label (and creepy boy band guru manager, Lou Perlman), the song is actually about love (“You don’t have to be afraid to fall in love/And I know that you’ve hurt in the past/But if you want it, here’s my heart/No strings attached”). Though the song sounds like another stereotypical pop song, I’ve always been a fan of it. The chorus is such an earworm, and I also love the harmonies and rounds towards the end of the song. It’s also a fun one to watch them perform live (and yes, I own both of the Nsync concert DVDs. Shut up). Nsync spices things up and hits a bit of risque territory with Digital Getdown. The title basically describes everything you need to know- this song is all about cyber sex. It’s a bit odd hearing the squeaky clean boys of Nsync singing about wanting to get “freaky deaky” and “nasty nasty” but the song is still done in a tasteful enough way that twelve and thirteen year old girls probably have no idea what they’re really talking about (at least, I didn’t at that age. Then again, I was very naive about that kind of stuff). The concept of the song seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but somehow Timberlake and Chasez pull off the racy verses well, and overall, the track is another fun one.
The only complete disappointment on the album comes with Bringin’ Da Noise. Similar in sound and concept to Here We Go, a track off of Nsync’s debut disc, the song is an anthem for the band and how they’re going to “bring the noise” and “turn the party out”. The song’s only saving grace is the memorable chorus, but besides that, it has absolutely no substance and features solos only by Chasez (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but his vocals become a bit over the top and too much at times).
Nsync redeems itself with the Diane Warren ballad, That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You. Despite the hopeless romantic in me, I’m never really a fan of Warren’s songs- they’re usually too gushy- even forme. But I’m a sucker for good voices, and all the boys are in top form during this track. Timberlake’s young voice is quite sweet and lovely during the verses, and he and Chasez sound great together during the bridge. Even Kirkpatrick, Fatone and Bass are heard on this track, and the song is, quite simply, a beautiful love ballad.
The goodness continues with I’ll Be Good For You (heh…no pun intended. This time, at least). The mid-tempo song sounds a bit similar to an old-school R&B groove track, and this time, works without coming off feeling forced or contrived. Timberlake (who is also credited as a co-writer) takes up the majority of the singing and his vocals have never sounded smoother. I used to love listening to this song when this album was released, and I still enjoy hearing the song now. It seems that the boys of Nsync are really the best at mid-tempo tracks and slow ballads.
In fact, the album ends with the latter. I Thought She Knew is performed a capella, and is really just a good excuse to show the world that the guys of Nsync really can sing. Their five-part harmony is perfect, though, and all of the guys sound in tune, and- you guessed it- in sync. In addition to the lead soloists of the band, Timberlake and Chasez, Fatone and Kirkpatrick are given a solo, which is a rarity in the Nsync world, and they both sound good. Though Bass doesn’t receive a solo part, we hear his deep bass voice during the harmonies, and it’s safe to say that Nsync wouldn’t sound as good without him. The song is a beautiful testament to Nsync’s talent, and a wonderful end to the CD.
All in all, No Strings Attached is a good album. The boys of Nsync show quite a lot of growth from their debut disc, and though you won’t find anything too thought-provoking or life altering here, the album is filled with fun pop songs and lovely ballads. What more can you ask of a 2000’s pop disc?
1. Bye Bye Bye
2. It’s Gonna Be Me
3. Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay) – (featuring Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes)
4. Just Got Paid
5. It Makes Me Ill
6. This I Promise You
7. No Strings Attached
8. Digital Get Down
9. Bringin’ Da Noise
10. That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You
11. I’ll Be Good For You
12. I Thought She Knew