The below article appears on Apple Music.
Joey Fatone and JC Chasez share the wisdom gained from their swan song.
A longside the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC—JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, Justin Timberlake, and Chris Kirkpatrick—were the poster children for everything a boy band should and could look like during their global domination in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Each member had his own personality, own style, own dance moves. Young fans fawned over each member, obsessing over every piece of information available in magazines and on TV, plastering bedrooms with posters of their favorite members. Not much older than their core fanbase at the time, *NSYNC were mostly teens when things really kicked off. So not only were they learning to grapple with the fame and attention of being the biggest pop group in the world, they were also simply growing up and learning how to be adults. “Lance and Justin were the really young ones,” JC Chasez tells Apple Music two decades later. “I was in my late teens when we were starting to get momentum. So for me, it was like a college experience. But for Justin and Lance, it was high school.”
By the time *NSYNC released their final album, Celebrity, in 2001, they were the biggest pop group in the world. Chasez and Timberlake co-wrote most of the tracks, and they’d started experimenting with hip-hop, dance beats, and other sounds and styles that intentionally expanded beyond the boy-band sound they’d become so famous for. Their previous album, 2000’s No Strings Attached, had become the fastest-selling album of all time, and Celebrity came in at a close second. “It was like a roller coaster,” Fatone tells Apple Music. “You go on that roller coaster, it’s going really fast, and when you eventually stop, you’re just like, ‘Wait, what just happened?’” For the group, who unofficially disbanded a year or so later, it took a while before they were able to stop and properly reflect. “When you’re in it, it’s a totally different thing,” says Fatone. “There’s so much you can forget. We were touring, we were constantly writing. We were constantly shooting videos, we were rehearsing for performances for award shows. For me personally, it was only when you stopped, when we finally took a break, that you could start to look at everything and go, ‘Holy shit.’” To celebrate 20 years of Celebrity, Fatone and Chasez look back to the turn of the millennium, sharing the life lessons they learned from their time in one of the biggest pop groups in history, and from the time they knew it was just about over.
Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open
Fatone: “Celebrity really was all about learning. As far as grabbing some things from Europe, samples, those beats, that’s what it made it different and exciting and unique. For Justin and for JC, it was a time for them to really dig into writing. We had a lot more of a hand in these songs. It wasn’t necessarily a coming of age, but it’s more or less going, ‘This is what we like, this is the sound that we want, and we’d love to try to bring that out.’”
Keep Things Interesting
Chasez: “We always had the mindset of, like, ‘Whatever we’ve just done, now we have to do it better.’ With success comes a bit of ego, and ego brings that confidence. So I felt pretty comfortable trying different things, but there was a purpose to it as well. I didn’t want to make the record that I made before when I was writing, because I already made it. I always liked it when my favorite artists would hit me with something totally different and excite me in a new way. If you have people’s attention, you have their attention for a reason. If there’s something they like, you don’t want to backhand them and not give them what they want. If you go to a concert, you want to hear your favorite. You want to grow and you want your audience to grow.”
Study the Game Tape
Fatone: “Every day, you’ve got to focus, you’ve got to perform. You’ve got to keep it all fresh in your mind. I think that’s why we worked so well as a group. There were times right after the show where we’d get on the bus with a VHS tape and we’d look at the show. I remember JC, Justin, and Chris were on one bus, me and Lance were on the other. They’d watch the show, and when we pulled over they would take it out, hand us the VHS tape, and say, ‘Hey, look at what we did. Did we do something wrong? What was it sounding like?’ We were always critiquing ourselves just to make sure we were that much sharper than everybody else, because that’s what we prided ourself on.”
Learn to Sleep Anywhere
Chasez: “When you’re in the thick of it, you really have to have an endless amount of energy, because you have to show up. If you don’t, people call you out on it. It’s just the reality of the world. You are your reputation, and the way to make your reputation is showing up with the goods. Over and over and over again. If you have a bad night, that’s what gets picked up. You can have 100 great shows, but if you have one bad show, what’s the press going to pick up on? That’s just the reality of it. And to keep that energy up, you’ve got to learn to sleep anywhere. I am a trained specialist in the artistry of sleeping. I can do it anywhere, anytime.”
There’s Always a Bigger Wave
Fatone: “It was always like, ‘Don’t kid yourself—no matter how famous you are, there’s always somebody more famous.’ We might’ve been the biggest pop group in the world, but we were opening up for Janet Jackson. When you get offered a stage with another band that’s big in their genre, you go, ‘Wait a minute—So this is what big looks like.’ You think you might be a big wave coming in and all of a sudden you see what a real big wave looks like. I remember a night off when I went and saw The Rolling Stones play. That’s what a big wave looked like.”
Look Out Behind You
Chasez: “I’m always happy to talk to the younger bands, but of course I can’t in any way, shape, or form try to tell somebody how to live. These people are on their own journey. I can tell them, ‘Hey, this felt wrong to me, this felt right to me, so keep that in the back of your head for what it’s worth. Obviously you’re successful for a reason, because you’re doing you. So that’s probably what you should keep doing. If there’s anything you feel unsure about and feel like there’s an answer out there and you think it could be here, I’m easy.’ What worked for me might not necessarily work for someone else, but I’m happy to share whatever experiences I’ve had.”
Fatone: “The whole music industry has changed so drastically that the advice that we might give them might be obsolete now. It’s interesting to see the whole social media thing, because we never had that. You’d rely on what you saw on TV, and unless it was TRL, it wasn’t instant gratification as far as seeing it live right then and there. You had to go out to concerts and things. Now you can just pop on your phone and see a video or a concert. You’ve got groups like BTS now, a different kind of boy band, but it’s amazing to see what they’re doing. When we first started out, we were inspired by all the people we looked up to throughout the years. It’s interesting to see these younger artists looking up to us now. I’m like, ‘Why are they looking up at us for?’ But it’s the music they loved, the vocals, it was everything that was driving them. It’s very humbling for me. It’s very admirable, and it’s weird, but it’s amazing.”