My hopes have risen and fallen with every confirmation or denial from “sources close to the band,” but this might really be happening, friends. When the New York Post first broke the rumor that my ride or die boy band was planning a surprise reunion at today’s Video Music Awards, I was hesitant to unleash the happy dance that I’ve bottled up inside for just this occasion. Dare I put myself out there and take the chance of getting hurt again?
But the Wright Entertainment Group has acquired and verified the @NSYNC handle and even gotten NSync.com back up and running. Could we be in for even more than a single reunion performance? In just a few hours, ten years of wishin’ and hopin’ will come to an end with the return of crisp dance moves, smooth harmonies and, if there IS a god – coordinated outfits. My preparations have begun. I’ve got the *N Sync catalog queued up on Spotify. I’ve been trading from-the-vault YouTube clips with my partner in *N Sync fandom crime. And last night, I revisited this seminal classic, a veritable rulebook for fans, the starter kit for knowing and loving JC, Joey, Lance, Chris, and Justin: *N The Mix.
Maybe, like me, you now own the remastered DVD version of this band bio. But your parents originally bought it for you on VHS, maybe from Sam Goody, maybe from Suncoast. When it wasn’t being carted around to every sleepover you attended, it was in your VCR, queued up to your favorite part. In a world without YouTube, *N The Mix was the fount to which we could return again and again to feed our need for ill choreography and vital information about the guys. And, as we prepare for a reunion performance that will surely end in tears (mine), I’d like to review its highlights with you.
One cannot properly fangirl a boy band without knowing its origin story. *N The Mix offers this handy guide to remembering who knew who and from what in that teeming metropolis of talent: Orlando, Florida. The secret behind the legend was revealed years later in VH1’s Driven piece on the band, when we learned that the second N in *N Sync didn’t stand for “Lansten” at all. (The jig was up, frankly, when no one EVER called him that. Also, it’s not a real name.) The original bass was some guy named Jason, who quit the group because he didn’t think they were going anywhere. Oops.
“Little Jazz Versions”
JC shares his slow-jammed, food-themed interpretation of “For The Girl Who Has Everything” and everyone melts at his angelic voice. Sexy even when you’re trying to be funny, JC. It’s your lot in life.
“Here We Go”
Don’t forget that *N Sync, like the Backstreet Boys, first hit it big in Germany before taking the US by storm. The “Here We Go” single was only released in the German market, along with this incredible, Europop-tinged video. The concept is what I assume Germans think Americans do all day, which is to pull some jerseys on our chicken-armed bodies, play basketball, and jump around like idiots. It’s flawless.
The stars – they’re just like us! *N The Mix makes us feel closer to our dream men by showing them goofing around on stage, backstage, and on the road. It certainly worked on me. 45 seconds of lip-synching to The Proclaimers was worth hours and hours of performance in terms of my love for these dummies. And who can hear “500 Miles” without singing along? Not these guys.
But what do my musical heros do in their downtime? 17-year-old (!) Justin Timberlake plays ball, because he’s tragically “not old enough to go clubbin.'” Chris tells the camera that he’s got some of the “craziest hobbies” you’ll ever find, which he reveals to be…spinning records and “chilling.” What a wacko! Lance likes to buzz around the coast of Florida on his jet ski; Joey’s all up in the club; and JC just wants everyone to leave him alone. JC is my spirit animal.
“(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You”
After prepping us with two big pop tracks, *N Sync hit us with their first creamy ballad and wedding bands across the midwest are still indebted. The song was accompanied by their first story-driven video, which, thanks to the black and white palette, still looks pretty polished. GMHSALMTOY has everything a boy band ballad should: cute boys in white suits; Lou Pearlman’s weight in dry ice; a twist ending; and an obscenely long, parenthetical title. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, kids.
“I Want You Back” – US Version
That’s enough with the high concepts and saccharine sentiment. Let’s drive over to Universal CityWalk and dance in the fucking street. Or, as JC puts it, “The minute you hear a hype beat, you just wanna go BOOM and hit something hard.” Indeed.
“I Want You Back” – European Version
Like I said – we were living in a pre-YouTube world. *N Sync could have just pretended that the European version of “I Want You Back” never happened and we wouldn’t have been the wiser until years later. Instead, they slapped it on this tape in all its spandexed and SFXed glory. The whole thing is worth another watch.
The one aspect of this video that remained the same for the US version is that iconic choreography, which is as synonymous with *N Sync as “The Right Stuff” dance is with NKTOB. And if I can concede to Kim that BSB is responsible for the greatest pop single of all time, she can surely agree that *N Sync danced CIRCLES around every other 90s/00s man-band.
“Tearing Up My Heart”
The guys preface this video – their TRL breakout – by trying to convince us that the song has a deep “message.” A message someone thought was best communicated by the guys trying on outfits; karate-kicking off a platform; and cheerfully eating pizza, all in the abandoned warehouse where – I think – Lou kept Nick Carter chained up for two years.
“Crazy for You”
This one isn’t a single and has no video. But the live performance on *N The Mix is a fan favorite for one reason and one reason alone.
“For The Girl Who Has Everything”
This video makes no damn sense. It’s perfection.
The guys appear to be stranded on a tropical island, but seem fine with it. They spend their days riding horses; singing to each other around bonfires; and playfully (and ever so homoerotically) frolicking in the surf. They find a trunk belonging to a rich girl, who we know is loaded because she eats breakfast in a sparkly cocktail dress, and decide to send a picture of themselves in a bottle back to her. How did they get there? Was she on a boat? How the hell did a whole trunk of her stuff get into the ocean? How do they know their picture will make it back to that specific girl? Is anyone coming to rescue them?!
If *N The Mix is the one tape a budding fan had to own, a recording of the Disney Channel concert was the second, a portion of which closes out the former. This special kickstarted the mania in this country, and who do we have to thank for it? Our erstwhile rivals, the Backstreet Boys, who canceled last minute and left this slot open for *N Sync to swoop in and dominate.
“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays”
Sadly, we’ve come to the end of our *N The Mix journey. But before the boys go, they’d like to leave you with warm holiday greetings, no matter what time of year it is. “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” was the single released from the band’s TIMELESS Home for Christmas album, which I usually bust out annually around October. (The harmonies on that acapella “O Holy Night”? Forget about it.) The theme of the video, I believe, is “A Very Special Green Screen Christmas.” The boys fly around in Santa’s sleigh, feed the homeless, and rock around the Christmas tree with some ho-ho-hoes. Did I mention it co-stars Gary Coleman?
Bonus Features: “U Drive Me Crazy”
But wait! Don’t leave without checking out the Special Features, which include the music videos for “I Drive Myself Crazy” and another single only released in Germany, “U Drive Me Crazy.” The latter is important in that it set the parameters for a simple fan test. If one’s knowledge of the band was limited to what they saw on MTV, then we REAL fans had the god-given right to feel superior. “You mean you DON’T know the lyrics in the rap of ‘U Drive Me Crazy?’ I think SoulDecision’s been recruiting for stans. Maybe you should go stand over there.”
Head Over Feels will be liveblogging the VMAs tonight. (There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever type.) Rumor has it that whatever is going down will go down when Justin Timberlake is presented with his Video Vanguard award. So hang with us here or on Twitter as we try to keep up with what the kids are into these days (What is a Macklemore?) and anticipate the second coming of the very best of the 90s.