With *NSYNC reuniting to accept their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and appearing together on Ellen, plus the launch of a new capsule merchandise collection, this past week threw me back to strappy baby blue tank tops, bedazzled bandannas, and setting the VCR to record a TRL video retirement. I have been *N it with *NSYNC for over 20 YEARS. If I could tell my 15-year-old self that she’d still be crowing about their accomplishments two decades later, far into adulthood, she’d have been like, “Yeah, that sounds like me. I am not at all surprised.”
The world has not gotten nearly enough music from the band — yet. (I live in hope. Man Of The Woods bombed.) But because casual listeners probably only know *NSYNC’s solid collection of singles, they’re still a candidate for this very irregular ongoing feature. Also, let’s remember that it took effort, passion, and your parents’ credit card to get a hold some of these deep cuts, back in a pre-YouTube, pre-Napster, pre-Justin-as-the-founder-of-Napster world. It was a lot harder to be the trash of the thing in those days, and yet we managed.
So in tribute to their past, present, and future, here are my favorite non-single tracks by my OG, all-time favorite boy band. I look forward to selling everything I own to follow you around on your reunion tour.
Like many of the best boy band songs, “Giddy Up” makes no sense at all UNLESS you approach it from a purely sexual standpoint. The guys closed out their self-titled debut album by chanting “ride it, ride it, ride it,” into the ears of millions of teenage girls and boys, and they weren’t talking about horses. In addition to being hysterically inappropriate and repetitious, “Giddy Up” also features an iconic Lance bass lyric and a smoooooth-ass vocal from JC.
Tried to get a hold of you last night
Called you on the phone
Thinkin’ to myself something ain’t right
Girl were you alone?
“I Just Wanna Be With You”
It’s sad that this song got cut from the setlist for No Strings Attached and beyond, because it’s just classic, vintage *NSYNC. The fluidity of the choreography complemented the almost liquid beat, and the song features some of their best subtly horny lines. (Let it flow, just let it flow, baby.)
My love is insane, pleasure and pain (pain)
It’s part of life, so live it up baby (live it up baby)
“That Thing You Do”
If I’m remembering my sad life correctly, I believe I just ANNOUNCED to my parents that we’d be ordering the band’s 1999 Pay-Per-View concert instead of asking for permission. I didn’t want to chance missing out on something like this.
So, during this tour, the band did a mini-set of covers, going from decade to decade. (From this, they went on to a Jackson 5 medley for the ’70s and “Celebrate” for the ’80s. They never recorded any of them, unfortunately.) Naturally, for the ’60s, they chose a song actually written in the ’90s for a movie ABOUT the ’60s. But who the hell cares when Joey is giving you Shades and JC is doing his best Jimmy Mattingly? You guys look great in crushed velvet pants, have I ever told you that?
Cause we, could be happy can’t you see?
If you’d only let me be
The one to hold you
And keep you here with me
This is actually a cover of a Jennifer Paige song (she of “it’s just, uh, a little crush, uhhh” fame), but the *NSYNC version showed up on the soundtrack to The Pokemon Movie. I have no idea in what if any context the song is used in the film, but I CAN tell you that I did buy the full album. Once again, no Napster. No Spotify. Just lots of CDs that I owned because I had to have one song.
Anyway, this was one of those songs that you were fully empowered to use to judge people. (“Oh, you don’t know ‘Somewhere, Someday’?? Fake fan.”) And the harmonies are still super pretty.
Girl, I know you think no one sees
The weight on your shoulders
But you can’t fool me
And aren’t you tired of standing so tall?
Let me be the one to catch you when you fall
“More Than A Feeling”
One lucky fan had a chance to win a “date” with *NSYNC during their Snowed In special on MTV, and it was clear that that girl deserved it, because when they asked her what she wanted to hear in an impromptu acapella performance, she requested this. (Even they seemed impressed.) Their cover of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” didn’t even appear on the US version of the first album, just some international versions. But it’s way, way up there in terms of being a stellar showcase for the group’s vocal chops, both individually and as a unit. It’s the sonic equivalent of a warm bath, and I’ll never be sick of it.
When I’m tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
“I Thought She Knew”
And here’s Exhibit B for any idiot who tries to tell you that these guys aren’t talented. In the midst of all the straight bangers on their second studio album, No Strings Attached, *NSYNC slows it all the way down for another acapella ballad, just dripping with emotion. There’s even one of those elusive Joey solos, and it’s also the title of a world-class *NSYNC fic.
A heart full of words left unspoken
Now that we’re through
I’d sell my soul to have this silence broken
I thought she knew
“Digital Get Down”
In some interview, the guys tried to sell the story that this song is about “having a party on the internet.” Bull. Shit. This song is about good ol’ fashioned, 2000, dial-up cyber sex. There’s even a modem scream in the track. But the two most important facts about “Digital Get Down” are: 1) that my college roommate and I recorded it onto our outgoing answering machine message, and 2) that at approximately 2:41 in the above clip, JC LICKS THE TRANSLUCENT STAGE WHILE HUMPING IT. Freaky deaky.
Can we get connected?
I need some love and affection, baby
I’ll call you on the phone
I hope that I get through
“Trashin The Camp”
My guys did a Disney movie! With Phil Collins! (Did I buy the Tarzan DVD for the studio featurette? You bet your diamond-encrusted JRT necklace, I did.)
As a MOVIE, On The Line is… less than perfect. But the soundtrack was lit. (Remember the On The Line All-Stars?!) “Falling” is one of those under-appreciated latter-day *NSYNC ballads, overshadowed by the positively shameless drama of “Gone.” And not to sound like a broken record, but who gave JC permission? The rasp, the fullness, all of it. This one really shows how his voice matured from *NSYNC to here.
I lose my step
I lose my ground
I lose myself, when you’re around
“Are You Gonna Be There?”
I know I said above that if you didn’t know “Somewhere, Someday” you weren’t shit, but this was the real test. Did you go to McDonald’s to get your *NSYNC/Britney Spears exclusive EP, available only for a limited time, plus the behind-the-scenes VHS? I thought so.
Anyway, “Are You Gonna Be There” is just a pure little song about needing emotional support, with a nice JT falsetto.
Can I depend on you to see me through this life?
“If I’m Not The One You Want”
Every pop act needs a song about being the overlooked friend, and this was *NSYNC’s. It’s a solid mid-tempo number, the likes of which they could absolutely pull off on their 2019 reunion album, just saying.
I want to call you up ’cause in the end
I keep writing letters to my garbage can
“You Don’t Have To Be Alone”
I wasn’t going to include any of their holiday music on this list, but the truth is, it goes just as hard as the rest of their catalog. Anyway, change a lyric or two and “You Don’t Have To Be Alone” isn’t even a Christmas song. It’s just a killer break-up song.
My foolish pride
Turns me inside
Why did we tell all those lies?
“The Two Of Us”
The PopOdyssey tour was well under way by the time the Celebrity album came out, and I was committed to staying as pure as possible before my show. (Easier in 2001 than it would be now.) I was too successful, in that when they launched into “The Two Of Us” — the first unreleased number in the set list — I was unprepared in every way and almost lost my life on the bleachers at Hersheypark Stadium
The two-step thing was a big deal back then; it gave some nice movement to the new songs. And the lyrics are super sweet. But more than that, “The Two Of Us” will always represent that exhilaration of getting new content from your faves.
See I just love the feeling
Knowing I can make you smile
And I haven’t felt that way
About someone in quite awhile
“The Game Is Over”
When I told Kim I was thinking about writing this post, this was her first request. And she’s right. It’s a bop. “The Game Is Over” is peak Celebrity-era *NSYNC in that it’s about a lady who’s been using her famous boyfriend and that it’s produced to high heaven. The arcade sound effects are just…*chef’s kiss*
Take it personal
Cause I did when you cheated on me
“Tell Me, Tell Me… Baby”
Hold on. Uh, you know what? Can we back it up just a little bit?
In hindsight, this song is about a girl who is trying to ghost *NSYNC and them collectively not taking the hint. But at this point in time, we were on their side about EVERYTHING, so why-y, just tell me, my ba-bay?
We were born the same day
We even think the same way
I couldn’t be more right
We are what they call
A perfect match
“Up Against The Wall”
God bless this band for being so damn literal. “The Game Is Over” has 8-bit choreography, and this song gets trampolines and velcro walls. One of the best decisions *NSYNC ever made was to add dancers to their shows; there’s so much energy and sass in this number, and only half of that comes from the song itself. But it IS a sassy song — a fun, low-stress club come-on. I cherish it, especially in this performance.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall
Who’s the cutest one you saw?
She’s underneath the disco ball
The disco ball?
The disco ball.
Their Unreleased Demos
We thought it was all over. Then, a few years ago, an unexpected windfall. Ten unreleased *NSYNC demos surfaced on the internet — practically equivalent to a new album. My feelings at the moment I found out can best be expressed by this Rome monologue from the modern cinematic classic, Magic Mike XXL:
“My queens, gather. I need you. I need you. You ever had a ghost come to your front door? A ghost from your past, one that still makes you shiver? I had one today.”
It’s a range; it’s obvious that it’s just JC singing on some of them, others have the whole band. One they even shopped to Michael Jackson, apparently. I don’t care why they exist or why they were underground for so long, I’m just glad we got them eventually. And who knows what else might be out there somewhere.
Thanks for indulging me this trip down memory lane, and don’t forget to put your favorite *NSYNC deep cut in the comments!