JACKSONVILLE, Florida 'NSYNC have found themselves in a pickle. The group's forthcoming album, Celebrity, has been shelved until mid summer. The Backstreet Boys' most recent record, a bellwether for Celebrity if ever there was one, wasn't quite the huge success the Boys' previous two were, causing some observers to even decree teen pop dead. And come to think of it, no one in 'NSYNC is even a teen any more.
What's a boy band to do? Well, creating the largest musical production in
concert history is one solution.
The PopOdyssey Tour began Wednesday in Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium with a
video montage chronicling the history of 'NSYNC to date: here's how they
met, here's how they started, here's how they sued for control of their
careers and here's how they became
After the video, the five song-and-dance superstars emerged from a
translucent pod at the center of the stadium. From there they pranced down a
catwalk and ascended their stage, a metallic fortress replete with
video screens, conveyor belts and elevators (
They opened with "Pop," the first single from Celebrity. It's the latest in
a long line of 'NSYNC rave-ups, noteworthy for a couple of reasons. Fans
call the song "Dirty Pop," in reference to the much-repeated refrain. Thing
is, it's no dirtier than many of the old, vaguely suggestive 'NSYNC songs.
By keeping the word "dirty" out of the title, the song stays
parent-friendly, but by keeping the word "dirty" in the lyrics, it makes the
group seem edgier. A nice example of having it both
"Pop" also represents Justin Timberlake's unofficial ascension to group
leader. In addition to singing all the verses, he remained the focal point
for 'NSYNC's high-concept dance choreography throughout the song. Come to
think of it, he was center-stage throughout just about every song. He's
always been a fan favorite, but it looks like his bandmates are finally
giving him a larger share of the spotlight.
After "Pop" came a brisk spin through "Tearin' Up My Heart,"
and soon after that member Lance Bass addressed the crowd.
"Tonight is very special for us," he said, "because you're going to get to
hear most of our upcoming album, Celebrity, before anyone else in the
And with that, they dove into ... "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on
You," from their 1998 debut album.
Later in the show the band actually did reveal some of Celebrity, to the
shrill delight of the young female audience. The songs tend to borrow from
the accessible end of electronica, co-opting the basic principles of
two-step or drum and bass, then sanitizing them and making them a little more pop-friendly.
They're certainly catchy this is 'NSYNC we're talking about and the
audience loved them, a good sign for the folks back at Jive.
The show featured a number of costume changes, presumably
intended to represent the different faces of celebrity. The band became
everything from Prohibition-era dandies to cowboys in matching chaps.
During "Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)," the guys rode five silver mechanical bulls, which
lovingly bucked them as they waved their arms above their heads.
Afterward, it was hard to tell whether member Chris Kirkpatrick was kidding
when he ripped off his chaps and said, "These are the most ridiculous things
I've ever seen in my life."
Every so often, another video would roll. Once it was a silent film parody,
another time it was JC fighting with his gold-digging girlfriend. And at
various points fireworks exploded, smoke poured, lasers flashed and 'NSYNC
glided across the stadium on a rip cord.
Part commentary on fame, part multimedia indulgence, the concert certainly
proved 'NSYNC's resolve. They're not ready to quit, and they're determined
to turn their third record into a hit. By the time the tour is
over, we'll know if they succeeded.