*NSYNC Talks Iconic and Never-Before-Heard Stories: Horse Rides, Music Royalty and Life on the Road
Joey Fatone, Lance Bass, JC Chasez and Chris Kirkpatrick share the stories behind some legendary moments in the band's career in celebration of their U.S. debut's 25th anniversary
It's been 25 years since Joey Fatone, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick were catapulted into pop stardom with the release of *NSYNC, their self-titled U.S. debut album as the celebrated five-part harmonizers.
And while the guys reflected on the album itself — which arrived a year after their Germany debut of the same name — in the March 27 issue of PEOPLE, not all of their memories made the cut in print.
So to further toast their March 1998 debut, and overall legacy as pop juggernauts, PEOPLE has compiled a few standout moments from interviews with Bass, Kirkpatrick, Chasez and Fatone for some added... pop.
From opening for Janet Jackson during her legendary The Velvet Rope Tour, to performing for Ariana Grande during a 1999 pay-per-view concert special, to falling off horses during music video shoots, *NSYNC's run has been full of memories just as worthwhile as the road to its debut. Here's a few that still shine as brightly as their voices.
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The 1998 Disney Channel In Concert Special
Perhaps the most important gig during *NSYNC's seven-year run came in 1998, just months after the release of the group's self-titled LP, when *NSYNC headlined the fifth Disney Channel In Concert special. While the network wasn't necessarily the children's programming giant it soon became, the show was still — for Kirkpatrick — something like a "Super Bowl."
After the album failed to gain charting success before the July release of the special, things seemed to be moving slowly for *NSYNC. But when the Backstreet Boys dropped out of the coveted spot, and *NSYNC took their place, it was a wrap. On July 18, 1998, *NSYNC in Concert arrived.
"It wasn't until after the show was in the can and the ads and the buildup to it started to come. And that's when I say the rumble really started to happen," Kirkpatrick, now 51, says. "And it was like it's sunny out and there's butterflies and everything's great, but you're looking off and you just see the darkest black storm coming. And not to say that this was a bad thing, but it was just that massive energy that you could see slowly. You could see it in the distance making its way to you, and you knew it wasn't going to miss you. You knew it was coming for you. So you're like, 'All right, we got to be ready.' We did all this work in Europe and getting developed as a band, as individuals for this moment."
Chasez, now 46, shares: "The immediate feeling after the Disney special was honestly one of relief. We put that show together very quickly and we were more focused on making sure our performances were up to our quality standards. Following that performance, there seemed to be this slow buzz that kept building more and more momentum, which was very exciting. That Disney special felt like a spark we needed to finally open the doors for us stateside."
Joey's Video Vault
By the time the guys earned some much-deserved fanfare from the Disney Channel special, Fatone, now 46, had already taken on a new role in the group: documentarian.
During his interview with PEOPLE to celebrate the anniversary of *NSYNC, Fatone gave an impromptu tour of his video recordings — from behind-the-scenes clips of the guys goofing off to a never-before-seen look at the making of the "It's Gonna Be Me" music video, shot by both Joey and his brother.
Fatone even carried a camera around in Germany, well before the U.S. debut. "Joey brought a video camera — this was the age before camera phones. Having a video camera, you had tapes and you had all this. So it was actually kind of work. And it wasn't just something like, 'Oh, that looks cool. Let me pull out my phone and record that,'" Kirkpatrick recalls. "This was making a conscious effort of, 'OK, we're doing this, let me film this' type of thing. And we'd go over there and he'd tape a lot of stuff. And I was always like, 'Dude, let me see some of that tape so I can show some people here what it's like.' So he'd give us VCR tapes or something. Friends would be around and you'd pop in this tape and it's like you're up there looking at their faces and suddenly they see this idiot who's been their friend forever, no big deal, walk out in front of tens of thousands of kids just losing their minds and doing all... Throwing stuffed animals and shirts. And hairdos that were all like ours."
"It is pretty crazy some of the stuff that I have," Fatone adds. "But again, we were looking through stuff because I'm trying to put some stuff together. So finding that has been interesting. But also, it's weird because I even have stuff of my kids. It's just random s-- everywhere, because it was all just on video disc, a lot of stuff. I haven't gone through all of it yet, but I've gone through some of it. It's pretty interesting."
As for the material that Fatone has in his possession, there's way more than just what he provided for the classic Reel N-Sync home video.
"I have stuff from when we were doing the actual photos of our Celebrity album. I have video footage of all of us doing the stuff in the grocery store on the cover, and then all the inserts where we were making the breakfast and all the other stuff — all that stuff is in there. So I have that, I have rehearsals with... Who do I have rehearsals with? With David Foster, we were doing a charity event," he says. "There's stuff where we're doing breakdowns of one of the songs, singing a cappella. I have one where Bill Clinton is playing the saxophone and BB King is playing guitar, which I don't even know what that was, when we were doing that — it was insane."
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Ariana Grande's Appearance in *NSYNC's 1999 Pay-Per-View Special
In mid-1999, the guys filmed their Ft. Lauderdale, Florida tour performance as part of a pay-per-view special, but little did they know at the time that a certain fan in the audience would go on to become one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.
During the show's performance of "Thinking of You (Drive Myself Crazy)," the camera cuts to a young Ariana Grande in the arms of her mother Joan for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment for the music history books. In the 24 years since that show, Grande has become a Grammy-winning titan and even brought four of the guys back together for a partial reunion at Coachella 2019, when she headlined the festival.
"It's the circle of life," Fatone says of Grande seeing them live. "It is, because now whoever's watching Ari is going to be like, 'I want to be that woman. I want to be up there.' And whoever's in that audience, that person is there at some point in time to get the chance — it's there. It's just a matter of finding the talent and getting the right connections, it is what it is. And it is weird to see... Actually a few people, or like I said, to see even celebrities come up and say, 'Listen, I used to listen to your music when I was 8, 9 years old.' You're like, 'Oh crap, I'm old.' But it's also amazing... I actually did what I said I was going to do. That's the most amazing and rewarding thing for me in my life. I really think it is because it's one of those things where a lot of people don't get a chance to live out their dreams."
Kirkpatrick adds: "We were not only enjoying it and hoping that our fans would enjoy it and doing it for them, but then now our fans are becoming these people as well. They're giving back and they're in the midst of... Ariana is in the midst of being Ariana. Some day she's going to get to a point where she can stop and go, 'Wow, look at not only what I've done, but who I've inspired.'"
Justin Horsin' Around on Set
How could anyone forget the "For the Girl Who Has Everything" music video? And how could anyone forget the sight of *NSYNC riding five horses on the beach?
While the video turned out to be something of a cult classic in the *NSYNC fandom, Joey tells PEOPLE about a specific moment on set where Justin's horse had a bit of an attitude.
"None of us ever rode bareback before," Fatone recalls. "I haven't even been on a horse for that matter. I'm like, 'I haven't been on a damn horse.' There's no saddles, there's nothing. You're holding onto the horse's mane and you're gripping with your thighs for dear life. There's one part where Justin actually falls off a horse — we have video of him falling off because it just started taking off. And he was like, "F— that." He fell off the horse on the sand."
Opening for Music Royalty
*NSYNC was also one of the few acts — a young, My Way-era Usher included — to open for Janet Jackson on her The Velvet Rope Tour in 1998, in promotion of their debut. As Bass, now 43, tells PEOPLE, it was a moment to remember as a teen.
"I think the thing I loved most about Janet's tour was being able to watch the show over and over," he says. "We got to learn how a tour really works. Janet was a huge inspiration for our future stage shows. She is the ultimate entertainer."
A Backstage Run-in with Paul Simon
Jackson wasn't the only icon to give the guys a co-sign before their hiatus began in 2002. As Fatone explains, Paul Simon even offered some props to *NSYNC when he felt they deserved them.
Before the 2001 Grammys performance of "This I Promise You," Simon gave Fatone quite a surprise. "We were doing a breakdown a cappella of the Grammys — we were at the Grammys, literally in our dressing room in a bathroom singing it because of the acoustics. So we're singing, we're doing this breakdown thing that's live, there's no background sweeteners or anything. And we're rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. And as all of a sudden, the door opens up and it's Paul Simon. So we stopped, and I was like, 'S---, it's f---ing Paul Simon.'"
"He's like, 'No, no, no.' He goes, 'Keep doing what you're doing.' And he goes, 'I came in here to listen to what you guys were doing. Really good stuff, intricate.'"
'People Are Still Wanting It'
While there's been no sign of a full reunion since the guys came together for their 2018 Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony (or since they last performed together for Timberlake's mega MTV Video Music Awards performance in 2013), Fatone has an idea of what things would look like if *NSYNC got back on stage as a five-piece.
"I think it's more of a celebration if we ever did something like that," he says. "It's more of a coming-together. I know people want to be like, 'Just do a reunion, do a reunion.' But I think we would want to do new songs. Why would we want to just promote... I get it, everybody loves it, but newer generations don't know who we are."
"It's amazing, the whole *NSYNC phenomenon when you think about it — after 25 years, people are still wanting it and listening to it when we haven't done anything as a group," Fatone adds. "We did little spurts here and there stuff, but we've never sat down and went, 'What do we want to do? Are we going to do it? How are we going to do it?' Because everybody, honestly is doing their own thing and figuring their own things out."
"So it's one of those things where you try to really figure out what you want in life. I mean, I'm 46 years old. You got to look at New Kids — half of them are in their 50s, and they're still doing it. Which means there is hope for us old people — there's hope for old people that can do things like this — we can only pray," Fatone jokes. "Doing this and listening to *NSYNC for 25 years is crazy."
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