Why did NSYNC break up? It's a question that's probably haunted your dreams for the past decade and a half, the same dreams that heavily feature floating ramen and are for some reason hosted by Carson Daly. Dreams that ache for the turn-of-the-millennium, for the dirty pop that populated our radio waves. Dreams of listening to the radio. You may be dreaming of NSYNC to join forces again, you may be mumbling "I Want You Back" in your sleep every night. But we can't offer you the solace that this will ever happen. We can only offer closure.
So is it a matter of battling band members? Is there a dramatic conspiracy theory behind the breakup? Or did Justin Timberlake legit just want to go solo?
No strings attached, guys, this is what we know… and, let's be honest, how we feel following their unceremonious dissolution.
The Dark Secret: NSYNC Never Broke Up
Maybe the Mandela Effect is at work if you recall the day that NSYNC broke up, because, um, there isn’t a tangible date in mind. Directioners from the next boyband generation remember Zayn Malik leaving One Direction like it was their Kennedy assassination. But there isn’t a clear-cut moment in history that formally marks the dissolution of NSYNC; as a technicality, they’ve been on indefinite hiatus for the past 15 years.
On November 1, 2002, Justin spoke with the New York Post to address some post-breakup rumors… regarding the former LOHL Britney Spears. That, kids, was the talk of the town at the time. There are countless articles where JT declares his eternal heartbreak, including one melodramatic LOLZ-worthy time he declared to Fox News, "I may not ever get over her, I do have to come to the realization that I might never [recover]. But I still love her. I really do still love that girl." Bless.
But we digress. Justin was asked about his current relationship status and he started diverting. "Women are great," he said. "You want to know who I’m seeing?" After The Post exhaustively urged him, yes, Justin, please tell us, he announced. “Her name is Justified.”
Anyway, The New York Post pressed Justin about whether his solo career and his career with NSYNC could co-exist, and he was insistent that this was a break, not a breakup. "To say I’m not going to do another solo album would be stupid," he said. I’m definitely going to do another one. Just like we are going to do another NSYNC record.” Maybe that came with earnest intent. Later, though, he says something more suspect:
"The break we’re on was a conscious move. We all wanted to do it, and we were ready to do it. Performing at stadiums every night for 50,000 fans takes a little out of you. I was 14 when we started, and we’ve been touring for the last seven years. The time was right; we were all in the same zone. This album is what I wanted to do."
We’re convinced that the was album is what Justin wanted to do. The other stuff, about everyone being ready to stop the NSYNC train… well, we’re less inclined to believe.
A Boy Band Divided
Fastfoward to 2017 and mega-star Justin is shrugging off the NSYNC breakup to Hollywood Reporter. "I was growing out of it,” he said. “I felt like I cared more about the music than some of the other people in the group." Whoa. Pump the breaks. "Cared more about the music than some of the other people in the group?" Want to clarify?
"He didn’t think any of us was operating in the best interest of the band," Lance confessed. "I asked him what he meant by that, and he said, ‘Well, you know, when y’all did your movie,’ meaning Joey [Fatone] and me [in the 2001 film On The Line]… I couldn’t believe it. That sounded like the lamest excuse imaginable. Joey and I looked at each other in amazement…" Lance admitted feeling betrayed, especially since Justin had done 2000’s Model Behavior the year before.
Lance also defended the band following Justin’s Hollywood Reporter comments. “I mean, I don't think it's true," he told E! Online. "Obviously, we cared about the music, but I understand where he’s coming from for sure."
Honest to God, there is no part of us that believes that just because Lance or Joey Fatone, who killed it in My Big Fat Greek Wedding that year, was angling for a serious acting career. Also, Joey just seems like he would’ve been the best NSYNC member to bring home to dinner and we love him.
So where does that leave Chris Kirkpatrick and JC Chasez? Was Justin intimated by them? For some reason there’s doubt; we often forget Chris was in NSYNC to begin with, his only other claim is singing "My Shiny Teeth and Me" as Chip Skylark on The Fairly Oddparents. Maybe Justin saw Chris really had a future in children’s cartoons and wanted him to set sail. Maybe. Probably not.
As for JC, well… we’d understand if Justin wanted to sever ties there because of musical differences. And if you need receipts, please look at this:
JC is 110% the Zayn of this dynamic.
So listen, did Justin Timberlake murder NSYNC and hide the body?
That’s what we’re thinking. Or it more likely seems like a crime of passion committed by Justin Timberlake’s solo career.
The clear-cut truth is that Justin was thrust into the entertainment world — first with the New Mickey Mouse Club and then with the band — at such an early age. "I have some faint images from my childhood," he told Hollywood Reporter. "But no, I can't really remember not being famous." If you're thrust into the spotlight that early, you're going to crave for more and more. And if you hold that mentality when you're still so young — Justin was only 21-years-old when he embarked on his solo career — it's easy to internalize your desire to break free and project it onto your bandmates.
We’re not angry, Justin, we’re just disappointed.
You might think that in the wake of the ‘90s revival there could be a chance of reconciliation — after all, people love money. But, that’s a far-off chance. When you look at the pop acts that have formerly reunited (Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, and so on) you’ll note that they’re bands that were stronger as a unit. There wasn’t a breakout star who reached the same epic proportions and could thrive without them.
If Justin didn’t hit it out the park with Justified, if he didn’t form an admirable side-career as an actor (so hypocritical, but it’s fine), if he didn’t become a beloved SNL guest host, this article would never happen. He might’ve come crawling back to NSYNC. We might be sitting here listening to their sixth, seventh, eighth album.
But that didn’t happen. So for now, we’ll have to say bye bye bye to the dream that they’ll ever reunite.