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Although *NSYNC emerged in 1995 in Orlando, Florida, singers JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake had previously co-starred on The Mickey Mouse Club before relocating to Nashville, where they worked on solo projects with the same vocal coach and songwriters. Timberlake soon returned to Orlando, where he befriended Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone. Along with Chasez, the four agreed to form a boy band, and *NSYNC officially launched after the addition of bass singer Lance Bass. The group recorded its eponymous debut LP with help from a series of producers, including Denniz Pop (whose protégé, Max Martin, would later work with the band after Pop's death in 1998). The album was initially released by BMG Ariola Munich, and *NSYNC became an overnight success throughout much of Europe, where the singles "I Want You Back" and "Tearing Up My Heart" were sizable hits. The album was then released in America during the spring of 1998. Accompanied by a tour of the nation's roller rinks, it became immensely popular and eventually sold more than ten million copies, thus establishing the singers as teen pop titans. Home for Christmas followed later that same year and went double-platinum, while a similar version was released in Europe under the title The Winter Album.
Although already celebrated as one of pop music's biggest acts, *NSYNC rose to greater heights with the release of No Strings Attached in 2000. The album was originally slated to appear in 1999, but a series of legal battles with former manager Lou Pearlman delayed its arrival by several months. After successfully escaping from Pearlman's contract and signing with Jive Entertainment, *NSYNC happily watched as sales of No Strings Attached topped one million during its first day of release. Nearly two-and-a-half million copies were sold by the end of the week, and three singles soon cracked the Top Five in America: "Bye Bye Bye" (which many viewed as a sendoff to the band's old management), "It's Gonna Be Me," and the ballad "This I Promise You." Supported by a 76-date American tour that grossed over $75 million, No Strings Attached proved to be the most popular album of 2000, selling nearly ten million copies.
*NSYNC returned to the road in early 2001, this time to promote the impending release of Celebrity. The album appeared that summer to continued fanfare, with first-week sales reaching nearly two million -- a feat that made Celebrity the second fastest-selling album of all time, bested only by No Strings Attached. The album featured a stronger debt to hip-hop and electronic dance genres, with production provided by the likes of BT, Darkchild, the Neptunes, and more. Celebrity also included several songs written by Timberlake and Chasez, an opportunity that may have whetted their desire to pursue respective solo careers.
Following an elaborate stadium tour, the group went on hiatus in mid-2002. Timberlake released his solo debut that same year, successfully making the jump from boy band vocalist to critically acclaimed solo artist, while Chasez also made his own solo bid with 2004's Schizophrenic. Meanwhile, Joey Fatone launched a movie career and later performed on Broadway, Chris Kirkpatrick starred in the reality TV series Mission: Man Band, and Lance Bass became a certified cosmonaut in the hopes of making it to outer space before moving into TV and radio hosting work, as well as LGBTQ+ advocacy.
A compilation, Greatest Hits, appeared in 2005 and the group's website shut down in 2006, however, prompting increased speculation about *NSYNC's future. Responding to such rumors in 2007, Bass informed the Orlando Sentinel that the group had "definitely broken up" in light of Timberlake's desire to continue his solo career. In 2013, the group briefly reunited at the MTV Video Music Awards, performing a medley of their hits "Girlfriend" and "Bye Bye Bye," just prior to Timberlake receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. All four members of *NSYNC (except for Timberlake) also appeared together at Coachella in 2019 where they joined Ariana Grande on-stage for a series of songs, including "Tearing Up My Heart." The official comeback wouldn't happen until 2023, when all five members reunited on the Video Music Awards stage, where they presented an award to Taylor Swift. This public return coincided with the release of "Better Place," which was featured on the soundtrack to Trolls Band Together. Produced with Shellback, the track was the first new material from the beloved boy band in over 15 years. ~ Matt Collar & Andrew Leahey