It’s hard to imagine a world in which MTV viewers didn’t know who ’NSYNC is, but it’s even harder to imagine a world in which iPhones don’t exist. But an iPhone-less world was indeed reality back in 1999 when ’NSYNC first took the VMA stage in their debut performance.
Picture it: August 1999. The dawn of a new millennium was nigh. The Y2K bug was a thing — watch out, or your elevators might plummet through their shafts, and all ATMs may spew forth cash at exactly January 1, 2000. (Stupid metric system K!) Hawaii was barely a state! Anyway, it was a really long time ago, and most people’s phone still plugged into the wall, meaning you could only talk on the phone as far as its cord stretched. Yes, phones had cords.
Anyway, it was the 1999 VMAs, Eminem was still a fresh-faced young potty mouth from Detroit. Freaking Smashmouth opened the VMA Pre-Show. Sugar Ray was nominated for things! And NSYNC was already a pop powerhouse, having dropped their eponymous album the year before, but they weren’t like “Bye Bye Bye” big, global juggernaut/ Bieber big. Hard to imagine such a world where NSYNC might’ve elicited a “who” rather than an “OMFG JUSTIN! JOEY!
But it’s a world worth examining. Mainly so we can learn from history and never return to this NSYNC-less world. So let’s take a look at things that did not exist in the year 1999, when NYSNC first took the VMA stage.
It’s true. If you wanted to tell people random stuff, you either had to open the door and shout it and hope someone would hear you and validate your mundane musing, OR you had to use the phone, but that was connected to the wall. Or you just had to keep things to yourself. If you had been especially excited for, say, Korn, whose “Freak on a Leash” video was nominated for Best Rock Video (and won!), you would’ve had to express this enthusiasm by writing a letter. Or taking a white T- shirt and writing all over it in permanent marker. That was cool then. The technological ability to annoy the general public with your brief observations about lunch or television wouldn’t become possible until 2006.
Smilers! My VMA performance had 306.000 tweets per minute. That's more than the blackout or Superbowl! #fact.
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) August 26, 2013
If you had a cell in 1999, you were either a baller or a spy. If you did have a cell phone, it looked like this:
Nope. No Blue Ivy. Beyoncé was still a single lady.
The world was also not ready for this jelly.
Back in 1999, humans had to enjoy their ramen and their burgers separately. Maybe both in the same meal, but never the same entity.
There was no Kimye. Kanye wouldn’t release his debut album, The College Dropout, for another half decade. At this point he was still angrily folding jeans at the Gap. Then he quit. Y’all welcome.
“Orange Is The New Black”
I know, right? Nuts. While the real-life character upon whom the series is based actually smuggled a suitcase full of drugs in 1998, the TV show wouldn’t be developed for a full 15 years later.