'N Sync cares what the critics think? Who knew?
Celebrity (Jive Records), the latest and by far the darkest 'N Sync album yet, arrives in stores today, and it's not the same old boy-band formula. No, the mega-selling vocal group's watery crooning has been transformed into a fine whine: the agitated yelp of multimillionaires who have had enough of being called a "boy band."
The boys spell it out in the first seconds of the album, on the amped-up single Pop. It seems 'N Sync wants the one thing its record sales, sold-out stadium tours and MTV-fueled celebrity have not brought it: critical respect.
Now, a question: Can a multibillion-dollar industry built on a fantasy - of upwardly mobile yet impeccably chaste post-adolescent love - survive when its central characters grow up?
The problems of maturing are a major theme in 'N Sync's Celebrity, which finds the quintet of Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick critiquing the spoils of stardom.
The tone is agitated, aggrieved, anxious. Behind every pretty face lurks a gold-digger interested in the boys for less than pure reasons. "Would you be so into me if I wasn't a celebrity?" the boys ask on the title song.
Tracks such as "Up Against the Wall," "The Game Is Over," "Pop" and "The Two of Us" may not win any prizes for innovation, but they brim with trendy feistiness, crammed with enough sonic details to fulfill the mission of any fleeting pop thrill: to bring a smile to the listener's face.
Optimistically, Celebrity could represent a turning point in 'N Sync's career. Flawed as it is, the album points the way toward a more mature sound, more self-written songs, and the development of an actual personality to flesh out those airbrushed pinup-boy facades.
Or it could simply be the beginning of the end, because - as Leif Garrett, Debbie Gibson and countless other market-driven fad-jumpers have found - the problem with popularity is that it's harsher and more fickle than any music critic ever could be.
Greg Kot is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune
Following are the top nominations for the 2001 MTV Video Awards, announced yesterday. Awards will be presented Sept. 6 on MTV.
Best Female Video: Madonna, Don't Tell Me; Janet Jackson, All for You; Missy Elliott, Get Ur Freak On; Dido, Thank You; Jennifer Lopez, Love Don't Cost a Thing; Eve, Let Me Blow Ya Mind
Best Rap Video Eminem, Stan; Nelly, Ride Wit Me; Jay-Z, I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me); Ja Rule f/Lil' Mo & Vita, Put It On Me; Snoop Dogg, Lay Low
Best R&B; Video: Jill Scott, Gettin' in the Way; 112, Peaches & Cream; R. Kelly, I Wish; Destiny's Child, Survivor; Sunshine Anderson, Heard It All Before
Best Pop Video 'N Sync, Pop; Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink, Lady Marmalade; Britney Spears, Stronger; Backstreet Boys, The Call; Destiny's Child, Independent Women Part 1
Viewer's Choice Backstreet Boys, The Call; Nelly, Ride Wit Me; Destiny's Child, Independent Women Part 1; Limp Bizkit, My Way; 'N Sync, Pop; Eve, Let Me Blow Ya Mind