Justin Timberlake Needs an 'N Sync Reunion More Than 'N Sync Needs Him

What Women Really Think
Aug. 20 2013 3:49 PM

Justin Timberlake Needs an 'N Sync Reunion More Than 'N Sync Needs Him

Totally fine about "Blurred Lines"

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for BET

When reports broke Tuesday that 'N Sync will reunite onstage at this Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, high-octave shrieking (or its virtual equivalent) erupted from the grown-up fans of the most follicly ambitious boy band of the 1990s. If the reunion actually happens, it will be a rare high-profile performance for Lance Bass, who has spent his post–'N Sync years judging beauty competitions and advocating for closeted pop idols everywhere; Joey Fatone, who has served as an announcer for wrestling matches and game shows; JC Chasez, who just launched a new 11-member mega-girl-group called Girl Radical; and especially Chris Kirkpatrick, who just inked a deal to sign autographs at a minor-league baseball game in Bradenton, Fla.

A reunion is a great opportunity for the lesser members of 'N Sync to prove that they’ve still got some tightly choreographed sassy waves and oddly raunchy “surprised” faces in them. But it’s an even better one for Justin Timberlake, the sole breakout star to survive the '90s boy-band bust.


When Timberlake released his first solo album, Justified, in 2002, he all but cut ties with the group that launched his stardom. 'N Sync’s last televised performance as a group aired in 2003; when 'N Sync appeared in cartoon form on Robot Chicken in 2005, Timberlake declined to voice his own character. (Breckin Meyer stepped in.) Meanwhile, Timberlake has cemented his solo successes not only through his impressive recording and acting work, but also by poking fun at his roots. Timberlake’s Saturday Night Live boy-band send-ups like “Dick in a Box” and “Motherlover” helped him shake off the 'N Sync image and emerge as an authentic individual act. Meanwhile, Lance et al. were trapped in the '90s boy-band mold like a set of pleather-panted marionettes.

But at this point, perhaps Timberlake needs 'N Sync more than it needs him. Timberlake’s most recent album, the 20/20 Experience, was, by all accounts, a commercial and critical success. It debuted at No. 1; its first week of sales broke Timberlake’s personal record. Yet the only white-boy falsetto anyone seems to care about right now belongs to Robin Thicke, who beat Timbo at his own game with the summer megahit “Blurred Lines.” Record sales may indicate that Timberlake is on top, but Internet chatter says otherwise: Timberlake doesn’t know what “Take Back the Night” means; he toured this summer with Jay Z, another survivor of the '90s music landscape who got really cool but lately seems like he’s trying too hard.

An 'N Sync reunion would remind pop fans of how they fell in love with Timberlake in the first place and cement Timberlake’s reputation as a generous star who is willing to share the stage with old friends who haven’t fared so well. JT, I know just the song to serenade them with.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?