To say I’m an *NSYNC fan might be an understatement.
Having been big into MMC, *NSYNC’s Disney Channel concert caught my attention in 1998 and the rest is history. I’ve been to many concerts, bought everything from import albums to bobbleheads to teeny tiny lip glosses, posted all over websites and forums, and was even part of the merch team for a few Challenge for the Children events. I may have been clutching an *NSYNC cup full of booze when the reunion happened a last year. My point is, when it came to tackling ReWind, for me there was only one choice. No Strings Attached felt like the right place to begin, and just like on the album, “Bye Bye Bye” is the best way to get things started off right.
If you ask someone to name an *NSYNC song, roughly 97% will say “Bye Bye Bye”. Usually in a singsong voice and accompanied by a particular dance move. You know the one I’m talking about.
Love it or hate it, it’s irresistibly catchy. VH1 named it the 36th Greatest Song of the 00′s. Then again, Rolling Stone voters declared it the 17th Most Annoying Song of All Time in 2007. (Sorry not sorry if any of those voters are at my wedding or any party I ever host. And I’m not alone: if memory serves, I witnessed the entire ballroom at LeakyCon Portland erupt when the song played last summer.) I know nostalgia can color opinions but “Bye Bye Bye” still stands as a solid pop song after all these years.
This performance from the Live from Madison Square Garden HBO special in July 2000 really takes me back to the world of crazy staging, bedazzled bandanas, and infectious energy that was *NSYNC in concert.
The song follows the standard formula: Justin (or JC) sings the first verse, JC (or Justin) takes the second, JC breaks it down on the bridge. All five harmonize throughout. Predictable, yes, but it works. When JC lets go with the, “Bye bye, baby!” it still gets me every time. Written by the Swedish team from Cherion Studios, it’s an instant earworm and makes you want to dance.
If you say you’re not doing this in your chair right now, you’re lying.
The single debuted in late January of 2000, ahead of the album’s release in March. It was nominated for several awards and even won a couple. But in the culture of the early 00′s, it’s biggest accomplishment was holding the second longest streak at #1 on MTV’s TRL. (Another *NSYNC song, “I Drive Myself Crazy” beat it by one day and holds the all-time TRL record of 26 days.) No Strings Attached was the album that put *NSYNC firmly on the map as an unavoidably influential part of the current music and pop culture landscape. First week sales totaled 2.4 million, a record that still stands.
The music video begins with the guys on marionette puppet strings being controlled by a girl. She cuts them loose and then pursues them; Joey and Chris through a moving train, Justin on foot with two dobermans, and JC and Lance in a high speed sports car chase.
All this is cut together with scenes of *NSYNC dancing in room that seems to defy gravity. As seen in the (still hilarious after all these years) MTV Making the Video, the camera was stationary and the room rotated 360 degrees.
Of course there was also plenty of visual effects wizardry, like the boys falling from their cut puppet strings. Oh, and accidental cloning, as illustrated in this graphic I made over a decade ago for one of my *NSYNC websites. (Yes, there were multiple. Yes, a couple are still floating around. No, I won’t tell you where to find them.)
This puppet theme stuck around through several performances (remember the giant puppets on the AMAs?) and is all over the album art. For fans that had been around for a few years already, this album felt like a victory and this song felt like an anthem. Though “Bye Bye Bye” is about telling someone off at the end of a bad relationship, it was impossible for fans not to think of the song as also being about *NSYNC cutting loose from Lou Pearlman and Trans Con. It felt like a new start, and that’s exactly what it was. With this single, the group was taking more control and breaking away from their previously softer, more sterilized sound.
I’ll be back soon with “It’s Gonna Be Me”, the second song on NSA and I hope you’ll all be along for the ride. *NSYNC fans out there, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
In the meantime, if you’re feeling a little rusty on your dance moves, don’t forget that “Bye Bye Bye” choreographer Darrin Henson broke it all down for posterity in Darrin’s Dance Grooves. You’re welcome.