Think of late '90s/early '00s pop music, and chances are that one of your thoughts will be of *NSYNC.
With one successful Boy Band under his belt, Lou Pearlman sought to strike gold twice. In 1995, Pearlman approached Chris Kirkpatrick (age 23), an employee of Universal Studios Orlando and singer for The Hollywood Hi-Tones, to form a vocal group in the same vein as the Backstreet Boys. Chris called up Justin Timberlake (age 14), an alumnus of the 1990s revival of The Mickey Mouse Club, whom he'd allegedly met at various auditions around Orlando. Justin then called JC Chasez (age 19), his former castmate on MMC. Chris and JC invited Joey Fatone (age 18), a mutual acquaintance, after running into him at a club. Chris and Joey met while working at Universal Studios, Joey as the Wolfman in the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue. JC and Joey, meanwhile, were old friends and ran in the same social circles during JC's time on MMC. Joey then recruited Jason Galasso, a friend of his from high school.
Sometime later, the group was set for a live showcase at Pleasure Island in Orlando and started negotiations with Pearlman's label, Trans Continental Records. Galasso suddenly dropped out a few weeks before the showcase, unhappy with the group's direction, and left the others scrambling to find a replacement. Justin eventually called his old vocal coach in search of a bass singer, who recommended a kid from Mississippi named Lance Bass (age 16). October 1, 1995, *NSYNC officially formed.
The showcase was filmed and sent out to record labels and the boys signed to Trans Con. Unfortunately, the musical climate in the US was still very much entrenched in the Grunge scene and no labels were willing to take them on. Europe, however, was another story. Johnny Wright, former manager of New Kids on the Block and then-current manager of the Backstreet Boys, was on the lookout for more American acts to bring overseas. Impressed with the guys' demo tape and showcase, he brought over reps from BMG Entertainment in Germany to Orlando to meet with the group. The reps liked what they saw and were ready to sign NSYNC, but not without a few stipulations. First, they wanted the group to change their name, due to not understanding the meaning and it being difficult for German people to pronounce. Second, they wanted Lance out of the group, as they felt he was a weak link within the group. The boys fought back and after some negotiating they were signed to BMG Germany and brought in Wright to manage them.
They were sent to Sweden to begin work on their first album. Their first single, "I Want You Back" was released on October 7, 1996, and they set off on a whirlwind tour of Europe. Their debut album, 'N Sync, was released May 26, 1997, and reached number one in Germany by its second week. They released several other singles, such as "Tearin' Up My Heart", "Here We Go", and "For The Girl Who Has Everything", before getting the attention of Vincent DeGiorgio, an A&R rep for RCA Records, the American subsidiary of BMG Entertainment. They were eventually signed to RCA and began retooling their album for the US market.
They released "I Want You Back" in the US on January 20, 1998, which charted moderately well. Their reworked album, featuring an altered tracklist including newly recorded songs and now titled *NSYNC, was released March 24 the same year. The album floundered for a bit, but they soon received their big break by way of, funnily enough, the Backstreet Boys, who bowed out of a concert special for the Disney Channel. The offer was then given to NSYNC. The special was just what the group needed; after its initial airing (and subsequent re-airings) *NSYNC shot up through the Billboard charts and they suddenly found themselves in high demand. They made several television appearances, including a Christmas special for the Disney Channel and a spot in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, recorded a Christmas album, Home for Christmas, which went multi-platinum, and after some time opening for Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope World Tour, set off on their own headlining tour in the US.
By 1999, NSYNC had successfully broken into the US market. They were also being severely overworked. With their Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now Tour still in full swing, they began work on their next album while also filming for television specials and making various other public appearances. In May 1999, Lance collapsed following the filming of Summer Jam, a televised concert on ABC, and it was discovered that Lance had an undiagnosed heart condition and that the collapse was caused by a heart murmur triggered by stress and general exhaustion. Having been restless for quite some time at that point, this would be the event that led the group to finally break away from Lou Pearlman and Trans Continental Records. For several years Pearlman had been withholding money from the group, stating that boys had yet to make up for all the money he put into financing the group. Despite their non-stop touring and multi-platinum album sales, their first real paycheck amounted to a meager $25,000 per member. While they first aimed to simply renegotiate, they quickly changed their tune after looking through their contracts, in which they discovered the full percentages Pearlman was taking from them as well as a clause in their original contract with Trans Con which stated that their first album was to be released in the US within a certain time frame; not only was the time frame not met, but the fact that they were first released in Germany was technically a violation of the contract. In September 1999, they announced they were breaking their contract with RCA and Trans Con and signing on to Jive Records.
NSYNC was then embroiled in a nasty legal battle for the next 3 months. BMG and Trans Con filed a $150 million lawsuit against NSYNC and Jive for breach of contract, intending to prevent the group from moving to Jive and releasing anything under the name NSYNC. The group counter-sued for $25 million, accusing Pearlman and Trans Con of exploitation and endangerment. The suit was settled out of court and by December 1999 NSYNC finalized their move to Jive Records. For those curious, the percentages Pearlman was receiving from the group: 55% gross and 37.5% net of both touring revenue and celebrity endorsements, 75% record royalties, 80% merchandising, and 100% music publishing.
NSYNC continued their work on their next album, releasing the single "Bye Bye Bye" in January 2000. The song was a hit and further solidified the group as a pop mainstay. Propelled by their victory against Pearlman, the guys underwent a media blitz and made countless television appearances, including a rather memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live. They were regulars on MTV and practically took over the network the weeks leading up to the release of their much anticipated third album, No Strings Attached. Released on March 21, 2000, the album went platinum on its first day and by the end of the week sold a record 2.42 million. Curiously, their next single, "It's Gonna Be Me", would be their only #1 Billboard hit. In May 2000, they embarked on their No Strings Attached Tour, the making of having been documented on the MTV special Making the Tour, the tour's stop at Madison Square Garden filmed and broadcast on HBO, and a condensed film of the tour released to IMAX theaters.
They took a break in early 2001, during which Lance and Joey filmed the movie On the Line, which was critically panned. Although they were not expected to begin work on their next album for some time, Justin's and JC's sudden stream of songwriting would cut short the group's break and recording for the next NSYNC album began with Lance and Joey still in the midst of filming. Their single "Pop" was released in May 2001 and they set off on a stadium tour, titled the PopOdyssey Tour, months before the release of their album. Celebrity was released on July 24, 2001, and although it sold substantially less than the previous album, it still sold a record 1.88 million its first week.
In March 2002 they embarked on the second leg of their PopOdyssey Tour, rebranded the Celebrity Tour, after which they went on hiatus. Justin kickstarted his massively successful solo career, Joey went on Broadway, Lance became a licensed cosmonaut, Chris got on an RV and traveled the US, and no one really knows what JC was up to, though he did release his own solo effort in 2004. Work on the next NSYNC album was to begin in the fall of 2003, but plans ultimately fell through. They still attended awards shows and even regrouped for the 2003 Grammys, where they performed an a cappella tribute to The Bee Gees. Their last public appearance together would be 2005's Challenge for the Children VII, their annual charity event they had been holding since 1999.
In 2007, Lance released an autobiography, titled Out of Sync, in which he described what was essentially their break up. At 2004's Challenge for the Children VI, NSYNC sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" for what would be their final public performance together. At some point during the event, Justin admitted to the others that he didn't want to return to the group. JC was intent on carrying on with NSYNC without Justin, but Chris refused to go on without all of them and with only three members willing to continue, they called it quits. However, since there has been no official statement regarding a breakup, they're technically still on hiatus. They briefly reunited at the 2013 VMAs, but have stated they have no further plans for the group.
In the end, they turned out to be pretty damn successful. No Strings Attached and Celebrity currently hold the records for second and third highest opening week album sales in the US, they've sung with the likes of Aerosmith and Michael Jackson, they've performed at the Super Bowl and the Olympic Games, and they have their own wax figures. Not too bad.
- Justin Timberlake - born January 31, 1981.
- Chris Kirkpatrick - born October 17, 1971.
- Joseph "Joey" Fatone - born January 28, 1977.
- James Lance Bass - born May 4, 1979.
- Joshua Scott "JC" Chasez born August 8, 1976.
- *NSYNC (1997-98)note
- Home For Christmas (1998)
- The Winter Album (1998)note
- No Strings Attached (2000)
- Celebrity (2001)
- Greatest Hits (2005)
- The Collection (2010)
- The Essential *NSYNC (2014)
- For The Girl Tour (1997)note
- Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now Tour (1998-99)note
- No Strings Attached Tour (2000)
- PopOdyssey Tour (2001)
- Celebrity Tour (2002)
Home Video Releases:
- We Are 'N Sync (1997)note
- *N The Mix (1999)
- Live from Madison Square Garden (2000)note
- Making the Tour (2001)
- PopOdyssey Live (2001)
- The Reel NSYNC (2002)note
- Most Requested Hit Videos (2003)
- "I Want You Back" (European version)
- "Tearin' Up My Heart"
- "Here We Go"
- "For the Girl Who Has Everything"
- "Together Again"
- "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
- "U Drive Me Crazy"
- "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays"
- "I Drive Myself Crazy"
- "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You"
- "Music of My Heart" (Collaboration with Gloria Estefan)
- "Bye Bye Bye"
- "It's Gonna Be Me"
- "I'll Never Stop"
- "This I Promise You"
Tropes related to the band and their music:
- A Cappella: Their musical basis and a point of pride amongst the group, they were notable for regularly singing a cappella and for their five-part harmony arrangement, with JC and Justin as tenors, Chris as countertenor, Joey as baritone, and appropriately enough, Lance as bass. Their final television performance (prior to the 2013 VMAs) was an a cappella tribute to The Bee Gees for the 2003 Grammys. In addition, both Joey and Chris were members of (separate) a cappella groups before NSYNC formed.Justin: Everything that we did was based around a cappella harmonies. That's what we wanted to be in the beginning an a cappella group. So that is why we put five guys in the group.
- "I Thought She Knew" closes out their second album, No Strings Attached, and they did an a cappella arrangement of "O Holy Night" for their Christmas album. They have also contributed an a cappella version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" for the DisneyMania CD series and have performed their a cappella rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" for the 2000 World Series and 2002 Winter Olympics.
- Adam Westing / Self-Deprecation: A large part of their charm was that they were far more self-aware than their peers about their boy band image and were absolutely not afraid to make fools of themselves and mock their own images.JC: It's fun to make fun of your friends. You can't take yourself seriously all the time.Chris: We're not dolls, we're puppets. If you're a doll, your career is over.Lance: I get confused myself, like, was it 98 Degrees? Backstreet? I always had to google it myself to make sure.Chris: We make fun of ourselves more than anybody.
- They parodied themselves on the The Simpsons, where Justin and Lance secretly signed JC off to the Navy.
- They made a cameo on Saturday Night Live as a boy band named No Refund who sang in nothing but food innuendos. They even did one of TRL's infamous shout outs as No Refund.
- Chris, Lance, and Joey have participated in animated parodies of boybands and teen idols. (Chris was on The Fairly OddParents, Lance and Joey were on Kim Possible, Joey was on Robot Chicken, and Lance was on Gravity Falls.)
- JC parodied himself on an episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?.
- Chris even had an "*NSUCK" baseball cap printed up and they all owned t-shirts with the words "Boy Bands Suck" printed on them. The hat is also an especially pointed reference to their lawsuit against Lou Pearlman, as he was suing them for, among other things, the rights to their name.
- In the opening cutscene of their PopOdyssey tour, Justin's shirt has "*NStink" emblazoned on it.
- One of their McDonald's commercials had Lance sneak into the audience and hold up a sign saying "Lance is cool too".
- Lance later trolled everyone with his own parody "Heart2Heart". He's also appeared in gay-themed parodies making fun of himself.
- Joey's Twitter profile: "They call me the FAT-ONE!"
- Joey's sole motivation to appear in the Syfy movie Jersey Shore Shark Attack as an exaggerated version of himself? He wanted to be eaten by a shark. Same thing for Chris's appearance in Sharknado 3.
- One of their commercials for Chili's lampooned Justin's tendency for Melismatic Vocals as he starts grabbing at JC while belting out notes. (Chris, Joey, and Lance walk away in irritation as Lance throws off his headphones and Chris mimics strangling Justin.)
- Lance poked fun at his failed attempt at space on an episode of Review with Forrest MacNeil and he appeared on a sketch on The Tonight Show riffing on his own name. His and Joey's entire media careers after the band are essentially Adam Westing with some Self-Deprecation thrown in.
- Fall Out Boy filmed a parody of "It's Gonna Be Me" for their song "Irresistible", and got Chris to cameo as a oddly enthusiastic factory worker that helps make the toys, and Joey as one of the toy store workers who's quite amused by Fall Out Boy's bobbleheads...and chucks them into the bargain bin anyway.
- JC landed a minor role in the independent film Opening Night as an exaggerated version of himself.
- Artifact Title: The band's name was originally an acronym for the last letter of each member name in the first formation (see Fun with Acronyms below), which intended to include Jason as the bass singer, but he decided to left the project, being replaced by Lance.
- Ascended Meme:
- Audience Participation Song: They'd get the audience to chime in on chants during "Here We Go" and "Tearin' Up My Heart".
- Their 2001 PopOdyssey Tour had a chant section in the middle of "It's Gonna Be Me" that pitted one side of the audience against the other.
- Auto-Tune: Used to distort the vocals in "Digital Get Down"
- Badass Boast:
- "Pop" was basically this. "We got the gift of melody/We're gonna bring it 'til the end."
- And when they reunited with Justin on stage at the VMAs: "Let's show these young boys how to do it!"
- Become a Real Boy: At the end of the "It's Gonna Be Me" video, the marionettes transforms into the band after they're scanned through the register.
- Blatant Lies: The group, JC mostly, denied all allegations that "Digital Get Down" was about cybersex and insisted that it was simply a celebration of technology in general. No one bought it.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: A male version for most of 1999 and an early part of 2000. Joey had fire engine red hair that he would grow out, while Justin and Lance were blond and Chris and JC had brown hair.
- Boy Band: One of the biggest ones in American history, rivaled only by Backstreet Boys. It's generally accepted that when making lists and ranking boy bands, they're in the top 5 with Backstreet, The Jackson 5, Boyz II Men (or The Beatles if you want to go back further), and New Kids on the Block.
- It should be noted that despite the moniker, they were not pulled together by a record company and for the most part came together organically, all of them (except Lance) having already known each other before forming the group. As a result, they don't quite fit into the typical boy band archetypes and there's a bit of overlap.
- Or, in the words of The Nostalgia Chick:
- The Cute One - Justin
- The Hot One - JC
- The Gay One - Lance
- The One Who Dressed Like an Idiot - Chris
- Does Anyone Remember His Name? - Joey
- Breakup Breakout: Justin's solo career has still shown no signs of stopping, a full decade after the group's breakup.
- While obviously not on the same level as Justin's career, JC was a judge on America's Best Dance Crew and does behind the scenes production work, Joey and Lance have modest careers as television personalities, Lance is heavily involved with the gay community as well as other political causes, and Chris owns a production and recording studio and also voiced recurring character Chip Skylark on The Fairly OddParents.
- Break-Up Song: "I Want You Back", "I Drive Myself Crazy", "Bye Bye Bye", "It Makes Me Ill", "I Thought She Knew", "The Game is Over", "Gone", "See Right Through You"
- "Bye Bye Bye" also has a Double Meaning, as it was allegedly written about their "breakup" with Lou Pearlman.
- Call-Back: They used to play a game of hacky-sack for good luck before every performance. They brought their pre-show ritual back when they reunited for the 2013 VMAs.
- Their 2001 PopOdyssey Tour reused elements from their performances at the 2000 VMAs and 2001 Grammys as well as opening with the monk robes they used to close their No Strings Attached tour.
- The Celebrity tour version of "I Want You Back" is a Song of Song Titles that altered the lyrics to include the titles of their songs.
- Captain Ersatz: The toys in "It's Gonna Be Me" are generic versions of G.I. Joe (called "Fight Force" here) and Barbie dolls.
- Cast Full of Pretty Boys: Duh. And lampshaded on a sketch for MTV:Justin: We're the best rag-tag group of pretty boys on the planet!
- Celebrity Endorsement: At the height of their fame, they did ads for McDonald's, Chili's, Verizon, and other endorsements in exchange for tour sponsorships. As of 2014, Joey has been endorsing Bosley Hair Restoration.
- Changed for the Video:
- The video for "For the Girl Who Has Everything" uses the radio version of the song, in which Justin sings the second verse, rather than the JC-only album version.
- The video for "Bye Bye Bye" features an additional chorus tacked on at the end of the song.
- Chase Scene: The entire premise of the "Bye Bye Bye" music video. The Psycho Ex-Girlfriend runs after Chris and Joey on a train, sics two Dobermans after Justin, and engages JC and Lance in a high-speed car chase.
- Christmas Episode: The *NSYNC *Ntimate Holiday Special, and a holiday concert for the Disney Channel.
- Christmas Songs: The Christmas album Home For Christmas and the Germany-only Winter Album.
- An interesting variation: the 1997 German single "Together Again" wasn't intended to be a Christmas song, but it sounded vaguely seasonal enough for them to pass it off as one and they filmed a Christmas video for it anyway.
- Cloudcuckoolanders: Some media outlets have aptly described them as Backstreet's weirder brother, thanks to their music videos and quirky sense of humor in interviews and public appearances. Plus, songs like "Space Cowboy" and "Digital Getdown", and their tendency to look like Rummage Sale Rejects didn't help with the perception that they were on the oddball side.
- Concept Album: Celebrity, as the name indicates, is mostly comprised of songs about how Celebrity Is Overrated.
- Coordinated Clothes: Kind of a staple during their◊ Europe◊ days◊. The matching outfits were eventually phased out as time went on but they did indulge in this every so often, especially for their touring/performance◊ costumes◊. Their brief reunion at the 2013 VMAs featured them in matching outfits once again◊, right down to the shoes.
- The Cover Changes the Gender: A minor example. Their cover of Janet Jackson's "That's The Way Love Goes" changed the line "Go deeper baby deeper" to "I'll go deeper baby deeper".
- Cover Version: As required for any boy band or teen idol, they've done some covers. Conversely, "(God Must Have Spent) a Little More Time on You" was covered by Alabama with *NSYNC providing the backing vocals.
- "Sailing" (Christopher Cross), with whom they performed for the 1999 Blockbuster Awards
- "That's The Way Love Goes" (Janet Jackson)
- "Celebration" (Kool and the Gang), performed live on their decades tribute on the Ain't No Stopping Us Now tour
- "Just Got Paid" (Johnny Kemp), and produced by the song's original co-writer, Teddy Riley.
- "More Than a Feeling" (Boston)
- "Everything I Own" (Bread)
- "When You Wish Upon a Star" (yes, Jiminy Cricket's theme)
- "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (The Tokens/Solomon Linda)
- "We Can Work It Out" (The Beatles), from their 1995 demo tape and Pleasure Island showcase
- "Overjoyed" (Stevie Wonder), an a cappella duet with Janet Jackson when they opened for her Velvet Rope Tour
- They were fond of performing cover medleys, like their aforementioned a cappella tribute to The Bee Gees, and their tours have contained medleys consisting of songs by The Jackson 5, The Beatles, and The Temptations.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: "It Makes Me Ill"
- Creator Cameo: Their real-life manager Johnny Wright plays a prominent role in the music video for "U Drive Me Crazy". Lou Pearlman also makes an appearance early into the video.
- A Day in the Limelight:
- "I Drive Myself Crazy" is their only US single in which someone other than Justin or JC is given a solo, with Chris singing the lead-in verse. (The European version of the song has JC singing Chris' verse, however.)
- The pre-US single "Together Again" has Chris and Joey on leads in addition to Justin and JC.
- Joey and Chris share verses and lines throughout their self-titled and Christmas albums and they both get a verse on "I Thought She Knew".
- Chris' falsetto is brilliantly showcased in "O Holy Night", "The Star-Spangled Banner", and their a cappella Bee Gees medley. He's also the lead on their cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".
- Their musical tribute to the 70s and 80s on their Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now tour lets Chris and Joey sing lead, with Chris leading a Jackson 5 medley and Joey leading a cover of "Celebration!".
- While the studio version gives the leads to Justin and JC, Chris sings the live version of "Falling" during their PopOdyssey Tour.
- During the Atlantis Concert, a 2001 television special, each of the boys gets a solo during a medley with Tim McGraw, including Lance who sings the first verse of "Lean On Me."
- The Beatles/Temptations medley from the Celebrity Tour also has the boys splitting leads amongst all five of them.
- Interestingly, Chris and Justin, rather than JC and Justin, were the two members who received solo lines during the "Walk This Way" portion of their Super Bowl XXXV performance.
- Lance and Joey's acting efforts were their attempts at this... it didn't go over so well.
- The Germany-only song "Here and Now" and the Christmas song "The Only Gift" features a verse from Lance.
- Deliberately Monochrome:
- The music video for "Gone" is filmed in black and white, intercut with a sepia-toned Retraux story that's essentially a tribute to silent movies and Charlie Chaplin's Tramp.
- The music video for "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You".
- The American version of "I Want You Back" falls under the Limited Palette style, with only the band's dance sequence filmed in color while the rest of the video is in black and white.
- Demoted to Extra: Chris and Joey. They had a lot more solos pre-No Strings Attached. Or as Chris jokes about the "Bye Bye Bye" video:Chris: Trains was just thrown in because me and Joey didn't have anything to do.
- Deserted Island:
- The music video for "For The Girl Who Has Everything" features them stranded on one.
- Played for Laughs in one of their Chili's commercials.
- Disguised in Drag: One of the gags employed in the video for "U Drive Me Crazy" was the boys sneaking into the music executive's pool party as The Spice Girls. Naturally, the gag hilariously backfires as they're quickly found out and chased out. And in Joey and Chris's case, it was also Incredibly Conspicuous Drag.
- Distracted by the Sexy:
- Joey gets hit in the head by the basketball in "Here We Go" because he was trying to flirt with the cheerleaders and didn't see Justin trying to pass the ball to him.
- By a group of Barbie dolls in "It's Gonna Be Me". It Makes Sense in Context.
- Dogged Nice Guy: "It's Gonna Be Me", "No Strings Attached"
- Dream Team: Collaborated with Phil Collins and Gloria Estefan, performed live with Tim McGraw, Céline Dion, Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, and Michael Jackson.
- Richard Marx specifically wrote "This I Promise You" for them and ended up doing the production for it.
- JC was a guest vocalist for Basement Jaxx and BT. (BT did the production for "Pop" and JC returned the favor.)
- Brian McKnight produced "Selfish".
- Stevie Wonder played harmonica on "Something Like You".
- Drives Like Crazy: Invoked for laughs in the "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" video with Joey at the helm of the sleigh and the boys holding on for dear life.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Their first album was decidedly techno/dance-pop and soft rock inspired, likely due to a lack of creative control early in their career. They frequently cited Boyz II Men, Janet Jackson, and other similar artists as their main source of inspiration, which was eventually reflected in the R&B and hip-hop influences in No Strings Attached and Celebrity.
- Entitled to Have You: Occasionally overlaps with Dogged Nice Guy, depending on how cynical you view the lyrics. "Girlfriend" and "No Strings Attached" are about a guy telling a girl that her boyfriend is terrible and she should leave him for the guy.
- Europop: Due to the fact that they were signed to a German label and started out in Germany, their first album was heavily steered by Europop and techno. So when they decided to release the album in America, they wisely cut out most of the techno. (The only remaining evidence on the album is "I Need Love".)
- Fake-Out Opening: "Gone" opens with what sounds like a damaged recording of a violin before switching over to a blues-inspired ballad. The music video reflects this by opening with a short comedic tribute to the Silent Movie era.
- Fake Shemp: During tour rehearsals, Joey was severely injured by malfunctioning equipment, which forced him to sit out most of the filming of the "Pop" video. He was filmed from the waist up and in sitting positions while their choreographer Wade Robson replaced him on full body shots of the band dancing.
- Fanservice: Parodied during their PopOdyssey Tour, in which Chris performs a clumsy striptease after "Space Cowboy" while stagehands prep for the next song.
- Friendly Rivalry: With Backstreet Boys. See the Trivia page. It's their fans that hate each other.
- Fun with Acronyms: JustiN, ChriS, JoeY, JasoN, JC. After original member Jason left, they nicknamed Lance "Lansten" as a joke so the acronym would still work. (It still works anyway, it's just the placement of the second "N" would now be in the middle of Lance's name rather than at the end.)
- The name of the company under which they distributed their merchandise, ZEEKS Inc., was made up of the last letters of their family names - ChaseZ, TimberlakE, FatonE, KirkpatricK, BasS.
- They had a similarly named company, SKEEZ LLC., that dealt with tour management.
- Fundraiser Carnival: Their Challenge For The Children charity event was kind of like this. The first two years it was held it was just a celebrity basketball game, but from 2001 on it expanded to a 3-day event including a club/bar night, charity auctions, treasure hunts, sand castle competitions, bowling, various celebrity team challenges, and the headlining basketball game.
- Funny Background Event:
- In "It's Gonna Be Me", Lance is seen yelling "That's my box!" when one of the army dolls pushes his toy box off the shelf.
- In the "Making The Video" for "It's Gonna Be Me", Chris makes faces and mocks JC behind his back as the latter is talking to the camera.
- Towards the end of "This I Promise You" where they're all seated at a table, Joey is seen putting ketchup on his food while the others are singing. And in another shot, Lance and Joey appear to be having a conversation while Justin sings to the camera.
- In the American version of the "I Want You Back" video, the guys play pool and while the camera is on Justin, Lance, and Joey, Chris attacks JC with his pool cue.
- In "U Drive Me Crazy", while JC, Joey, and Justin mug for the camera, Chris is seen strumming JC's guitar and Lance ducks from the ceiling fan.
- In one live performance of "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on You", Joey and Lance can be seen looking at their watches and wincing from the screaming as Justin takes a little more time on the ending.
- The MTV Spring Break special is chock full of these, as they introduce the videos.
- During one of JC's intros, Chris jabs a long reedy skewer at Lance, who grabs it and pretends to break it over his knee. The boys are seen fiddling with the skewers in various ways, mostly using them to poke each other.
- Justin flicks tortillas chips from his spot on the bed into the bowl on the floor.
- Any time they wave to the camera, Lance waves his foot at the camera as well. He also gave two thumbs up at the camera after one video finished playing.
- Fun Personified: In comparison to Backstreet and their other peers, it's pretty obvious *NSYNC were having a lot more fun doing things just for the sheer hell of it and enjoying the ride.
- Their concerts and music videos were seen as much more fun, especially with the PopOdyssey tour, which consisted entirely of football stadiums and was designed to have a high-energy vibe to keep the crowds cheering.
- JC explicitly said that No Strings Attached is intended to be a fun album.
- In an amusing instance of irony, Aaron Carter has been quoted a few times saying he preferred *NSYNC over his older brother's band for this exact reason.
- Fun T-Shirt: Chris and Joey often sported these, but the other guys got in on the fun as well.◊ In one instance of Refuge in Audacity, a photograph of them appeared in European magazines...with Chris in a "Pervert 69" shirt.
- The Gadfly: A part of their charm was that during public appearances and interviews, they took the opportunity to screw with their interviewers by saying the most outlandish things possible with a straight face.
- Genre Roulette: The music video for "U Drive Me Crazy" has them disguise themselves as a Hair Metal band, the Jackson 5, a rap group, and the Spice Girls in an attempt to get the attention of a music executive (played by their real-life manager Johnny Wright).
- Gold Digger: "Celebrity" and "Just Don't Tell Me That"
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Once mocked by Chris.Chris: The first time we performed somebody said, "These guys really stink." And we said, "What did he say?" He said, "These guys really stink." "Did he say 'in sync'? That's a great name for the band!"
- Greatest Hits Album: Greatest Hits, The Collection, and The Essential *NSYNC. The Germany-only Winter Album sort of counts, as it's half Christmas album/half compilation album.
- Heavy Meta: "Pop"
- Home Base: Orlando, Florida was where the group called home. More specifically, a majority of the group's business dealings and tour rehearsals were done at the WEG (Wright Entertainment Group) Compound. Although they no longer live there, having relocated to Los Angeles and Nashville, they still regard the city as their hometown.
- Incredibly Long Note: Justin and JC tend to do this a lot during their concerts, especially during the ballads.
- A running gag on their Ain't No Stopping Us Now tour was that right at the end of "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on You", Justin stops short of singing the last line and draws out a single note. He lets the audience scream in anticipation for several minutes before Chris and the others get annoyed and cajole him into finishing the song.
- In Da Club: "Up Against The Wall"
- Not a club per se, the setting of the video for "Pop" is highly reminiscent of one, featuring Chris spinning records and JC walking through a crowd of writhing bodies.
- Insistent Terminology: Though a lot more accepting of the label than say, the Backstreet Boys, they preferred to call themselves a vocal harmony group rather than a boy band.
- During the Making the Video for "It's Gonna Be Me", Chris was fairly adamant in clarifying that they were puppets, not dolls.
- Carson Daly once slipped and called the group "*NStink," to which Chris insisted that the proper mockery of their name was "*NSUCK."
- Intercourse with You: "Digital Get Down" wasn't fooling anyone about the fact it's about cybersex.
- Large Ham:
- Joey Fatone. This has served him well in his career as a television presenter after the band split.
- Justin and JC turn the ham up when they sing as if they're in a competition to belt out those notes the highest and longest. JC even out-hammed Joey in the "I Drive Myself Crazy" video.
- Their live performances of "Just Got Paid" and "Space Cowboy" are really just hamminess set to music.
- Love Makes You Crazy: "Crazy For You", "U Drive Me Crazy", and "I Drive Myself Crazy", which deserves bonus points for the music video setting them in a sanitarium.
- Living Toys: The concept of the "It's Gonna Be Me" video: the band are toy marionettes fighting other toys for the attention of a pretty girl.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Tearin' Up My Heart" and "I Want You Back".
- Lucky Charms Title: While they do prefer the all caps and asterisk, they're willing to accept the older spelling with the apostrophe.
- Marionette Motion: In the "Bye Bye Bye" video, the boys are being jerked around on strings by the Psycho Ex-Girlfriend and it's worked into the song's choreography.
- Melismatic Vocals: Justin and JC can be pretty guilty of this at times, especially on the ballads and definitely during live performances.
- Meaningful Name: Their name is actually a Meaningful Punny Name as Justin's mother supposedly coined their name from hearing how well their voices blended together in sync. It also takes on a Double Meaning when Fun with Acronyms is taken into account.
- Also Lance Bass, who appropriately enough, sings bass.
- Middle Name Basis: Lance Bass' actual first name is James.
- Multiple-Choice Past: There are a few conflicting stories as to how Chris first got in contact with Lou Pearlman, the most common one being him auditioning for the Backstreet Boys and not making the cut. Notably, this is the story given in Lance's book, though Chris denies this was the case. Another has Howie Dorough of BSB, whom he attended college with, introducing Chris to Pearlman after the Backstreet Boys were already formed. The "official" story, as documented by VH1's Driven series, has Pearlman approaching Chris after catching him performing with The Hollywood Hi-Tones.
- Another difference from their "official" backstory is Pearlman's claims that JC had once worked for him as a personal assistant. In addition, according to Lance's autobiography, JC and Chris knew one another before NSYNC formed and it was JC, not Justin, who Chris first recruited. Justin also acknowledges JC and Chris having known one another on *N The Mix. Chris has later clarified that he worked with Pearlman for two years on a separate group before actually recruiting the others.
- There's some confusion as to how Chris first got in contact with Justin. Early in their career, the story was that they first met through the audition circuit in Orlando. The story eventually changed to Chris getting in touch with Justin through a mutual talent agent.
- There are also two different stories they tell about how they got their name: the above Fun with Acronyms and the Punny Name from Justin's mother. Chris and Joey have confirmed that the Punny Name came first, then the Fun with Acronyms meaning.
- New Sound Album: Their debut album was heavily steered by Europop and soft rock. No Strings Attached steered them into a more hip-hop driven direction, while Celebrity further cemented their R&B, hip-hop, and garage influences. (Celebrity also foreshadowed the direction that Justin's solo music would be going.)
- '90s Hair: Boy, were they famous for this. At the beginning of the group, they had mostly slicked back and parted floppy hair, but as their fame grew, so did their experiments with various shades of colors, bleaching, spiking, and most famously, Chris's dreads and braids. They've all since toned it down.
- Nonuniform Uniform: When their stage costumes and public appearance outfits weren't matching, or worse, clashing, they generally adopted an overall themed look with modifications for each member. (See their NSA Tour marionette costumes◊ or the "Bye Bye Bye" single photoshoot◊.)
- Noodle Incident: At some point in 2001, Chris broke his hand and had to wear a cast for a while. No one really knows what happened; unlike all other times group members were injured or out of commission, they were curiously tight-lipped on the subject.
- No Sense of Personal Space: And how! A decade later and they still don't get the concept◊.
- Numbered Sequels: This was how they titled their annual charity event, Challenge for the Children — 1999 CFTC I, 2000 CFTC II, 2001 CFTC III, etc.
- Obsession Song: "I'll Never Stop" and "Tell Me, Tell Me... Baby"
- Pac Man Fever: "The Game is Over" samples the Pac-Man Theme.
- People Puppets: The cover of No Strings Attached and the concept of the "Bye Bye Bye" video. Hell, the No Strings Attached tour opens with them dangling from the roof like puppets and dressed like patchwork rag dolls.
- Pep-Talk Song: "Do Your Thing"
- Performance Video: The video for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is this, interspersed with clips of the guys goofing off behind the scenes.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy:
- Justin is the obvious case, while JC had shades of this, especially when they spoke. The idea was even parodied in "U Drive Me Crazy".
- JC was the featured singer on Blaque's "Bring It All to Me" singing about his Timbs, baggy jeans, and thug appeal.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: The girl from the "Bye Bye Bye" video. (She also re-appears in the "It's Gonna Be Me" video, making it a prequel to "Bye Bye Bye".)
- Punny Name: "In sync", referencing their harmonizing vocals.
- Rearrange the Song: Performed a reggae-flavored "Bye Bye Bye" and a funk version of "It's Gonna Be Me" for their stripped-down *Ntimate Holiday Special. They also performed a blues version of "I Want You Back" for their 2002 Celebrity Tour.
- Very subtle in the case of live performances, in which instrumentation is adjusted in accordance with their backing band; typically, songs will feature more electric guitar and saxophone. In addition, the No Strings Attached and Celebrity Tours featured an uptempo arrangement of "I Drive Myself Crazy" while the latter tour also showcased a Two-Step arrangement of "Sailing."
- Refrain from Assuming: The lead single off their Celebrity album is called "Pop", not "Dirty Pop". The latter was a made up term coined by the group to describe their particular brand of pop music
- Rummage Sale Reject: And famously so, regularly landing on "Worst Dressed" lists. The Huffington Post was disappointed that their VMA reunion outfits were simple and tasteful. The guys have acknowledged that they looked like idiots◊ back then and their reasoning was simply boiled down to Rule of Fun.Buzzfeed: [upon seeing the group at the red carpet for the MTV Movie Awards] Sweet Baby Lord Jesus. Pray for them.
Chris: Oh my god! Whatever happened to the days where we went down to the mall and picked up shirts?
- Lampshaded by Chris when he sees the designs for their tour costumes:
Lance: I need a time out.
- Lance upon reflecting one of their past get ups: (It's especially funny when JC apparently told him he looked like "a giant shit".)
- Sampling: The Pac-Man theme is sampled for "The Game Is Over".
- Scary Black Man: Their security team, known as Sexual Chocolate, consisted of quite a few of these. They weren't so much scary as they were imposing, which makes sense considering their line of work, and they were much appreciated by the fandom. The most recognizable of their bodyguards was Lonnie Jones, who appeared in the music video for "I Drive Myself Crazy" (the big guy with the bunny ears), was the bouncer during "Just Got Paid" on Live from Madison Square Garden, and is even featured on the cover of Celebrity.
- Scatting: "Trashin' the Camp", their collaboration with Phil Collins for Disney's Tarzan, consists entirely of non-lyrical vocalizations.
- Also pops up in other tracks, most notably the bridge of "I Drive Myself Crazy".
- Self-Titled Album: 'N Sync/*NSYNC, natch.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: Appeared on Sesame Street and have made cameos on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
- Sexy Soaked Shirt: A relatively short segment with a small waterfall in the music video for "For the Girl Who Has Everything".
- Shoehorned Last Letter: JustiN, ChriS, JoeY, LansteN, and JC. It worked better with Lance's predecessor Jason.
- Shout-Out: The opening of their Ain't No Stopping Us Now tour is an affectionate homage to Mission: Impossible, even including the theme song as the boys prepare to storm the stage.
- The intermission of the No Strings Attached concert special featured a reference to Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the boys (minus Lance) sit in a theater and a robot pops up in Lance's place.
- Silly Love Songs
- Singer Namedrop: "Here We Go"Yes yes yes, here we go
NSYNC has got the flow
You know the party's here
Sing along and have no fear
NSYNC is here to make you people scream
- The song "Pop" also features a vocoded namedrop of NSYNC and the song's producer BT in the beginning of the song.
- Song of Song Titles
- The single version of "Girlfriend" has Nelly referencing the songs "Bye Bye Bye" and "Gone" as well as sneaking in a shout-out to the group.I'll be your personal shrink boo
I care what you think
I bought the Bentley in pink
'Cause my dough in sync
So tell your man bye bye
And tell him you're long gone
Ain't no needin' wait up
You done found you another home
- The Blues version of "I Want You Back" from their 2002 Celebrity Tour references even more of their songs.This I promise you
It ain't no lie note
It's tearin' up my heart since you said bye bye bye
It's gonna be me that makes your loneliness stop
If you won't be my girlfriend
My heart will surely
I'd like to spend a little more time with you note
Doin' our thing, be sailing, like we used to do
No strings attached
I want you back
But the truth remains...note
- The single version of "Girlfriend" has Nelly referencing the songs "Bye Bye Bye" and "Gone" as well as sneaking in a shout-out to the group.
- Spell My Name with an "S": There have been so many different renderings of their name over the years that they finally had to comment on it on Twitter. Technically speaking, both 'N Sync and *NSYNC are correct. The first spelling was used throughout their time in Europe and they began stylizing their name as *NSYNC when they made their debut in the US.
- Studio Chatter:
- "Tell Me, Tell Me... Baby" features JC asking to rewind the track at the beginning of the song.
- Doubling as Last Note Hilarity, "It Makes Me Ill" ends with Justin laughing and yelling "What?! We done and done it again!" and JC saying "It's gravy baby."
- Take That!: The title of their second album, "No Strings Attached," alongside all of the "puppet on a string" imagery of the album art (and the videos for "Bye, Bye, Bye" and "It's Gonna Be Me,") came about after a rather nasty legal battle with former manager Lou Pearlman.
- The general fan consensus of their Badass Boast at their VMA reunion was that it was a quick jab at One Direction and similar teen idols.
- Take That, Critics!: "Pop"Sick and tired of hearing all
These people talk about
What's the deal with this pop life
And when is it gonna fade out?
The thing you've got to realize
What we're doing is not a trend
We've got the gift of melody
We're gonna bring it till the end
- Technician vs. Performer: Justin (Performer) and JC (Technician). While they're both the best dancers and the lead singers, Justin was better at engaging the audience while JC was more focused on hitting the marks. Justin full out admits that JC is the superior singer.
- Dance-wise, Justin is actually a Technician, a singer who learned how to dance like a Performer while JC was the Performer, a natural dancer who learned how to sing like a Technician.
- They were also the Performer (skillfully elaborate performances, willingness to experiment with their genre) in contrast to Backstreet's Technician (skilled but more simplistic performances, preferred staying within their genre).
- Teen Idol: Except for Chris, who was 23 at the time of their formation, they literally were teenagers. Justin and Lance were respectively 14 and 16 when the group was formed. JC, the second oldest member, was only 19.
- Theme Tune Cameo: "Bye Bye Bye" plays at the beginning of the "It's Gonna Be Me" video.
- Title Track: "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "No Strings Attached", "Celebrity".
- Translated Cover Version: "This I Promise You" was re-recorded into Spanish as "Yo Te Voy a Amar" and they even performed it at the Latin Grammys. They also recorded a Spanish version of "Gone".
- Truck Driver's Gear Change
- V-Formation Team Shot: The choreography for "I Want You Back" and "Bye Bye Bye" end with this pose. Their choreography, in general, will work this formation into it as well as the majority of their photo shoots.
- Vocal Dissonance: It's as if Chris and Lance swapped voices. Chris looks a like a punk rocker but sounds like a teenage boy, while Lance is a Pretty Boy who sounds ten years older than he looks.
- Vocal Tag Team: NSYNC songs typically have Justin and JC handling the solo verses, with Chris regularly providing secondary harmonies for them and the other two relegated to the choruses. Chris is a distant third when it comes to the number of solos, Joey having even fewer, and Lance essentially none. They were often criticized for this and compared to the rivaling Backstreet Boys, who gave every member at least one line in most of their songs.
- That said, there are actually a number of songs that spread out the solos more evenly among the group, though they are not as well known. As stated above, Chris was the most likely to be given solo verses in addition to Justin and JC, though many of these songs were outside their album releases. About half of the songs from Home For Christmas contain solos from Chris and Joey and "The Only Gift" features solos from all five members. The Beatles/Temptations medley from their 2002 Celebrity Tour and the Tim McGraw medley from the Atlantis Concert also showcases solos from all five members. "Together Again" is their only single release in which Justin, JC, Joey, and Chris sing lead. They've also contributed a song called "Here and Now" to the soundtrack of the German film Widows, which features leads from everyone but Joey. And if their 1995 demo tape is anything to go by, they originally intended for Chris and Joey to lead as often as Justin and JC.
- There are several songs that avert this by having only one member lead the entirety of a song. JC was the most frequent soloist, leading "Sailing", "For the Girl Who Has Everything", "Some Dreams", and "Bringin' Da Noise". Justin leads "Riddle" and "Gone" and even Chris got "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" for himself.
- Live versions of the first two songs play this straight, however; the live version of "Sailing" has Chris sharing the final verse with JC, while the music video, radio, and live versions of "For The Girl Who Has Everything" give the second verse to Justin.
- Wall Bang Her: "Up Against The Wall"
- A Wild Rapper Appears!:
- "Space Cowboy" featured the late Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes of TLC.
- The single version of "Girlfriend" featured Nelly.
- Justin and Chris rap the bridge in their "Just Got Paid" cover.
- The Europe-only single "U Drive Me Crazy" features the German rapper Toni Cottura.
- "Do Your Thing" features a rapped bridge by the song's writer, gospel artist J. Moss.
- World of Ham: Really, with their energetic personalities as evidenced on their behind the scenes specials, things can get pretty loud and boisterous quickly.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: "U Drive Me Crazy" and "Bringin' Da Noise".