I absolutely hated *NSYNC when they first become popular, much like I absolutely hated the Backstreet Boys. And, though time has softened my feelings, it was still a struggle listening to “Bye Bye Bye” and “It’s Gonna Be Me” as immediately my got up a bit, as I remembered being inundated with these songs and unable to escape them.
But it should come as no surprise that those two songs are the two best songs here. As with most boyband/manufactured pop, less care has been put into the non-singles and the other tracks are just not great. (I guess the hook on the title track is maybe as catchy.) I’d like to single out two in particular: “Space Cowboy” is an extremely dumb song even for a boyband, and “Just Got Paid” feels like adult spiritual predecessor to “Friday” by Rebecca Black. (Oh, and is “Digital Get Down” any better than “Email My Heart”?) Songs like this make me feel like the producers pulling the strings don’t have a lot of respect for *NSYNC’s audience.
There is some truth to the claim that this record is different than a Backstreet Boys record, for the most part. It does feel dancier – though I don’t quite get how that makes it “heavier” – but you could also accuse it of a little bit of cultural appropriation, because it definitely feels like this record is, at times, “blacker” than the Backstreet Boys, rather than dancier. And, of course, there are exceptions: “This I Promise You” is a straight up Backstreet Boys ballad that is indistinguishable to me from the genuine article.
One thing that’s annoying: some of the singers sound like they’re whining, and I’m not sure why. I blame Timberlake, principally, because he’s one of the two lead singers – and Chasez is not whining – but sometimes the whine is in the backing vocals, too. So my favourite male singer of all time had a whine when he was younger, and then one day it went away. And this got me wondering if this is an age thing, or is it a professional thing. Either way, Timberlake has stopped singing like this, and we should all be thankful that he learned how (or grew out if). Because here’s pretty annoying. (And rightfully his pronunciation of “me” is a meme.)
But, like all other music among the “top tier” of manufactured ’90s pop music, this is immaculately produced and it’s all very professional. And I will say that it hasn’t dated quite as badly as I would have imagined, perhaps because some of these production techniques haven’t yet fallen out of favour in the dance pop world.