July 25, 2016


*NSYNC's 'Celebrity' Anniversary: Ranking Every Song 15 Years Later

2001 Zomba Recording LLC
2001 Zomba Recording LLC

2001 was a confusing year for boy band fanatics, one where Backstreet Boys (who were riding high on the success of Millennium) released their fourth album Black & Blue. On the other end, their competition was slowly backing away from the spotlight. On July 24, *NSYNC unveiled their third and final record, aptly titled Celebrity.

It was clear a hiatus was imminent, as Justin Timberlake surpassed JC Chasez as the lead singer and began to take more creative control, co-writing and co-producing many tracks on the LP. *NSYNC disbanded in 2004, leaving fans without an explanation about the decision. So in honor of the 15th anniversary of Celebrity, a self-aware album about their fame, get into our personalized ranking of the songs.

1. “Gone” 
While JC Chasez was (and still is) my favorite member of the group, you can't deny the rising superstardom that Justin Timberlake showed in songs like "Gone." He co-wrote and co-produced the heartbreaking ballad alongside choreographer Wade Robson, and finds him getting surprisingly emotional. You can almost hear Timberlake choking up as he tries to figure out why the love of his life abandoned him. The timeless nature of "Gone" proves just why JT went on to be a major solo artist. Rating: 10/10

2. “The Game Is Over” 
Despite the outdated whirring pinball noises and electronic glitches, I stand by the fact that "The Game Is Over" is one of *NSYNC's most underrated tracks. The mix of video game effects with a pissed-off JC and JT yelling at their cheating ex-lovers is strange, commanding and brought them out of the teenybopper comfort zone. Rating: 9/10

3. “Pop” 
I love that *NSYNC, one of the biggest boy bands of all time, decided to shove their legendary status in everyone's faces with Celebrity's lead single and LP opener "Pop." The wacky dance/techno/pop hybrid shines the light on critics refusing to take the band's craft seriously. JT's message for the haters? "Just worry about yours, 'cause I'mma get mine." Preach! Rating: 8.5/10 

4. “Celebrity” 
This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, since it blatantly calls out the band's groupies who are only chasing the guys for their cash instead of their hearts. It continues the record's theme of fandom, which is laid over a grumbling beat courtesy of Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins. You definitely feel the sting when JC exclaims: "It would be different if you had something / Maybe like a J-O-B / You need to get your thing together." Ouch. Rating: 8/10

5. “The Two of Us” 
I admit it: I'm being absolutely biased by putting this in the Top 5. During this era, JT was slowly creeping in as the Beyoncé of the group, a position that belonged to JC. The latter didn't get enough credit for his songwriting and production skills, which were highlighted in songs like "The Two of Us." Both members have equal singing parts on this track, but JC's soulful inflections and passion are incomparable. Rating: 7.5/10

6. “Girlfriend” 
It's a shame that "Girlfriend" was chosen as the third and final single off Celebrity, because the album had plenty other (and better) songs that could've ended the band's era. Nevertheless, the song featured one of The Neptunes' smoothest productions to date and found *NSYNC finally owning their R&B-influenced sound. Plus, those harmonies are on point! BSB who? Rating: 7/10

7. “Selfish” 
Need help proving that you're an R&B-pop band? Call on Brian McKnight! The soulful artist produced this touching ballad, which once again places JC's affectionate and warm vocals to the forefront. Seriously, listen to those belts at the 3:05 mark and I dare you to tell me that JT can do the same! Rating: 7/10 

8. “Tell Me, Tell Me…Baby” 
Honestly, what's an *NSYNC album without a little Swedish invasion? Max Martin and Rami are the masterminds behind this glitchy track, which is a sophisticated version of that loud Europop the band was releasing in their early days. Rating: 6.5/10

9. “Up Against the Wall” 
Remember that time I said JC is my favorite *NSYNC member? Well this futuristic song is further proof! He co-wrote and co-produced it, and it highlights his love for R&B, two-step and New Jack Swing. Yes, it sounds a bit cheesy when re-listening to it 15 years later. But that's the fun of pop music. Rating: 6/10 

10. “Do Your Thing” 
Fun fact: this album closer was written by Detroit gospel singer J. Moss. But one would think it's meant for the club's afterparty rather than a church praise, thanks to the blippy electronic vibes and the raspy (and random) rap bridge. This will always be a fun listen for me. Rating: 6/10

11. “Something Like You” 
There are very few ballads on this record, but this one always got a skip from me. The brass-filled production sounded a little too country, and it was just a weird sonic experience. Also, leave the cheesy lyrics like "You must be heaven-sent, I swear” to those other boy bands. You're better than that. Rating: 5.5/10

12. “Just Don’t Tell Me That” 
I really want to meet the girls who ticked these guys off, because they are getting ANGRY on this album. It's just too bad JC's opening lines "You like to be seen at every party at the Playboy Mansion / Fun, sad / I know I gotta draw the line" gets lost under yet another loud-ass Swedish production. At least JT's infamous "MAY!" yelp gets a resurgence halfway through the track. Rating: 5/10

13. “See Right Through You” 
This R&B cut finds JC and JT pissed off once again, but the end result is more try-hard tough guy than genuinely aggressive. It's one of those middle-of-the-road tracks you can sweep under the rug and no one will ever notice. Rating: 4.5/10

Watch Joey Fatone tell Fuse about how fans didn't understand his personality in the *NSYNC days: