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‘N Sync and ‘N our hearts: respecting former pop stars

While all the talk has been about Miley Cyrus’s now infamous VMA performance with Robin Thicke that aired August 25th, a far more important event occurred the same night, which was largely overshadowed by the former Hannah Montana star’s unconventional performance.

*NSYNC  at the 2002 VMAs (Getty Images)
*NSYNC at the 2002 VMAs (Getty Images)

I’m speaking of course about the reunion of ‘N Sync, a boy band that undeniably encapsulates what it meant to be alive in the late  1990s and early 2000s. The group only released three albums; their first, in 1997, self-titled *NSYNC, debuted on the charts at the #2 position. No Strings Attached, released in 2000, is a modern masterpiece that is irrefutably on par with such albums as The Beatles’ White Album or Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.

That’s what makes the group’s performance, one that lasted a little over a minute in the middle of Timberlake’s fifteen minute mini-concert, an unsatisfying and disrespectful event for both the viewer and for Joey, Lance, JC and Chris. Not that it is uncommon for artists who have gone solo to snub their former band mates in this way: Beyoncé’s recent Superbowl half-time show featured appearances from other Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Though the show was touted as a reunion, it certainly fell short of expectations. Much like ‘N Sync did for their gig at the VMAs, Destiny’s Child emerged from their cryo chambers, sang a medley of their hits for a blip of time, then exited stage left and right, or in the case of Joey and the boys, were lowered back into their holding tanks where they will remain until Justin calls upon them again.

It seems there is a pattern of one member breaking away and leaving the others behind with nothing but a half-filled Wikipedia page  — notion that isn’t necessarily true. More commonly not one of them really becomes a solo superstar, but instead a group of B-list names likely to appear on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Take the Backstreet Boys for instance — if asked to name one of the boys from the Backstreet, the likely first answer is Nick Carter and that’s only because his little brother, Aaron, released the single “That’s How I Beat Shaq” and it is the greatest jam of all time. Similarly, Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block can claim some of his fame to the success of his younger brother, Mark, who’s known for being that guy who produced “Entourage” and has three nipples.

The ambassadors of girl power, the Spice Girls, break this mold, having not one but two moderately successful flavors delighting the palate of mainstream culture. Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) solidified her name in the media and secured a place in the palace by marrying walking underwear catalogue and soccer player David Beckham (but also by being crazy fashionable) and Mel B (Scary Spice) is now a judge on “America’s Got Talent.” Despite being the notable names of their respective music groups, none of these talents are their group’s equivalent of a JT or a Queen B, which is not necessarily a negative thing. In today’s world, if you’re not at the absolute top, you’re a loser with no career, which is a narrow way to look at success.

These celebrities who have “fallen by the wayside” of Hollywood’s standards have accomplished more in entertainment than most aspiring musicians ever dream of. No Strings Attached was one of the longest running number one albums of 2000, Spice (1996) is the biggest selling album by a girl group, selling 28 million copies worldwide, and you’ll always have “Everybody (Backstreets Back)” stuck in your head.

So, when you see Donnie Wahlberg in Saw XVI or the Backstreet Boys’ twentieth reunion tour roll through your town, don’t roll your eyes. And when Justin Timberlake announces that he’s letting the boys out of their pods to perform with him for his 100th Grammy Win-A-Palooza show, write him a strongly worded tweet demanding they get three minutes of stage time instead of one and a half.