239. *NSYNC – ‘Pop’ (2001)

“Now why you wanna try to classify
The type of thing that we do?
‘Cause we’re just fine doing what we like
And we say the same for you”

Taken from the album Celebrity

UK #9, AUS #10, US #19

You know who I hate? Wankers. People who look down on other genres, or the fans of music they don’t like, or people that say “music” – you know, in inverted commas, as if because they don’t like something it doesn’t exist. The teen pop phase of around 1996-2002 was the victim of so much hate – some of it, admittedly, was justified because often the music was absolutely terrible – but some of it was brilliant. *NSYNC, who were otherwise almost completely shit, hit the nail on the head with ‘Pop’, a song rallying against da haterzz but also taking their own sound to new, more sophisticated and complicated heights.

The incredible production by BT on ‘Pop’ has to be heard to be believed. The beat is insistent, the vocals stutter all over the place – it’s like BT found every effect he could possibly cram onto one song and shoved them all in twice. The lyrics are amazing – “the ice around my neck” being particularly confusing for me as a child – and seem to perfectly and cheesily encapsulate everything exciting about pop and dance music. After Justin delivers the classic line “Man, I’m tired of singing…”, in comes the most ridiculous and energetic dance breakdown in the history of dance breakdowns (except for maybe Janet’s ‘Rhythm Nation’).

‘Pop’ still sounds like the future, but if you’d like a trip back to 2001, watch the video. JC’s hair looks like he took style tips from Joy Behar, Joey Fatone gets about 1.5 seconds of screen time, Justin Timberlake does the cringeworthy opening, Lance Bass looks confused and Chris Kirkpatrick (you could get your ass kicked) looks embarrassed. Every turn of the century music video cliche is there – bubbles, some guy on a bike for no reason, needless effects, people dancing, different rooms, the whole feel of being in a video arcade on someone’s birthday and you’re gonna be sick because you ate too many Skittles and ran around too much. As if aware that the visuals on this track were a bit overblown and crap, for their Video Music Awards performance, *NSYNC brought out Michael Jackson to dance with them. Michael. Fucking. Jackson. And all was forgiven.

All was forgiven anyway because this track can’t be ruined, but ironically ‘Pop’ was basically the end of pop, at least the teen movement of the late nineties. The single performed way below expectation in the US, and further singles from the album were in a completely different direction. By the end of 2001, Britney had released ‘I’m A Slave 4 U’, and in 2002 *NSYNC broke up, Christina went dirrty, Justin went R&B and the rest is history.

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