‘It’s *NSYNC’s World, We Just Live in It’: An Oral History of ‘No Strings Attached’ Selling a Historic 2.4 Million First-Week Copies in 2000
Following our Billboard staff-picked list of the 100 greatest songs of 2000, we’re writing this week about some of the stories and trends that defined the year for us. Here, we flash back to late March of that year, when one of the biggest groups in pop music released their much-anticipated sophomore album — and set a record-breaking mark for runaway success that stood for 15 years to come.
Twenty years ago, pop heartthrobs *NSYNC set an industry standard with their sophomore album, No Strings Attached. The LP sold a whopping 2.4 million copies in its first week in March 2000, doubling the record their boy band contemporaries the Backstreet Boys had set the year before with their own blockbuster sophomore effort, Millennium.
For *NSYNC, the timing of their second full-length release couldn’t have seemed more perfect: Big pop acts were beginning to take over the music industry, with the prior few years seeing the rise of boy bands, as well as teenage darlings Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. CD sales were at an all-time high, as artists of all genres (Dixie Chicks, Kid Rock, Santana) were reaching diamond status around the turn of the century; meanwhile, MTV’s Total Request Live was at its peak, giving those young stars a platform to connect with fans (and promote the hell out of whatever project was coming next).
But while the scene was set for *NSYNC, the new millennium marked a period of uncertainty for the group, as they were coming off of a highly publicized legal battle with their initial label, Trans Continental/RCA Records, and now-disgraced mogul Lou Pearlman. The fivesome — Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick and Justin Timberlake — sued Pearlman for defrauding, nearly losing their group name (and $150 million) before a judge ruled in their favor in November 1999. The decision allowed *NSYNC to sign with Jive Records, an independent label that was home to Spears and, ironically, the Backstreet Boys.