In the late 90s, boy bands reigned supreme. But while many predictably came and went like the changing of the seasons, two quintets had staying power: *NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys. Each group had millions of fans worldwide and sold countless records.
One of the defining traits that gave boybands their power was that each member fit a specific mold within the overall microcosm of the group. No matter who you were or how old you were at the time, there was someone for everyone.
We all had our favorite member whose pictures we ripped from the pages of Tiger Beat and Teen Bop. We memorized their favorite movie and color, squealing when we discovered that we too loved grilled cheese—just another solid fact pointing out that you two were soulmates.
Full disclosure: I started out as a Backstreet Boys fan. They were edgy and older. Their harmonies were smooth like whipped cream cheese. But that affinity quickly dissipated one afternoon when one of my friends asked me to swap cassette tapes (yes, cassette tapes) with her during a bus ride to the planetarium. It’s like any undying love—you remember just where you were the day you met.
So bust out your fan fiction and your mint-condition “Bye, Bye Bye” marionette and settle in for a blast from your teenage past. Let’s talk about our favorite *NSYNC crushes.
Chris Kirkpatrick—The Crazy One
Poor Chris. With his JNCO Jeans and silver faux dreads, he was undeniably the least fawned over and most underrated member. But, let’s face it, there has to be one in each group. What’s most unfortunate is that Chris had some great, but often overlooked, qualities. He could be funny and sincere. He was the oldest member of the group (nearly a decade older than Justin), so he often packed some wisdom about growing up and had that glint in his eye like he knew this wouldn’t last forever. And who didn’t love when he regaled us with stories of working at Universal Studios as a member of the Doo Wop group, The Hollywood Hi-Tones?
Chris was the prime choice for delightfully oddball girls, the ones who couldn’t resist the whole boy band shtick, but who also couldn’t stand the whole cutesy cookie cutter thing. He was *NSYNC’s solution to fill the A.J. McLean bad boy voice. Those who liked Chris marched to the beat of their own drum, took risks, and craved attention. It’s also likely that you begged your parents for a nose ring and tried dying your hair black at least once.
Joey Fatone—The Funny One
Joey. Joey. Joey. Remember when we thought his name was pronounced “Fat-One” instead of “Fa-Tone”? What was with all the musically-based names? Fatone. Bass. Anyway, Joey provided some comic relief to the tired goody-two-shoes facade synonymous with boy bands. He was the big, goofy, Italian meatball with a heart of gold. Whether you liked his fire-red tips, his peroxide phase, or his brown spikes, Joey reminded you of just a normal guy at your high school—most likely the class clown. He helped keep the boys grounded and feeling real.
If you liked Joey, they you’re someone who’s always up for a good time and laugh. You’re just as comfortable in a crowded club cracking jokes and busting out an ironic funky chicken as you are at a small, low-key dinner party making polite, quiet conversation. And also, you can probably plan some fantastic bachelorette parties.
J.C. Chasez—The Sweet One
With the classic good looks of a Hollywood actor of the 60s, J.C. stole the hearts of many girls. He was sweet, but serious. You couldn’t help but feel like J.C.’s thoughts ran deep, that there was more going on behind those baby blues than meets the eye. If we were to compare the popularity of the *NSYNC members, J.C. would undoubtedly come in second place, which is a position he was quite used to. He was a great and talented singer, but he was often overshadowed by superstar-to-be Justin. If it ever bothered him, he never let it show.
Like J.C., his fangirls were sweet, pensive, and thoughtful. They were also confident enough to play second-fiddle to the Justins in their life and not break a sweat about it, even though they know they’re technically more proficient. Why? Because they have a phenomenal understanding of teamwork and excel at it. They don’t have to be the center of attention; they’re fine with just being a part of something big.
Lance Bass—The Quiet One
Full disclosure (again): I was a Lance fangirl. With those puffy chipmunk cheeks, grass-green eyes and infectious smile, how could I resist? I was a pre-teen girl surrounded by squeaky voiced boys meandering their way through unkind puberty. And there was Lance, a deep-voiced sweetie with all the manners of a southern gentleman. He was always down for a laugh without actually creating the laughs himself. There was something so dreamy about those over-sized sweaters he always wore.
If you fell for Lance, like me, he was likely not the only gay man you had a crush on over the course of your teen years. You’re sweet and shy and have an undying love for the marks of manhood like a deep voice and large Adam’s apple. You like being around the funny, center of attention type (the Joeys) without actually being the center of attention yourself. But that’s okay. You’ll still go on to be the second most famous member of the group, most likely because you’ll try to catch a ride on a Russian spaceship. Or, you know, something like that.
Justin Timberlake—The Heartthrob
It’s crazy to me that many people don’t remember that J.T. got his start fronting *NSYNC after starring as a Mouseketeer. I mean, no one really fronted *NSYNC because they were all equally important, or at least that’s what Lou Pearlman wanted you to believe. Yeah, and Beyoncé wasn’t the Sun to Kelly Rowland’s Earth either.
Justin was the boy band’s undeniable eye candy while exuding a special brand of innocence. Joining the band at 14, he was the same age as the bulk of their fans, which was a big draw. Growing up in the band, he went through just as many phases as his fans (cornrows or peroxide afro, anyone?), which made him relatable. Not to mention that he was a triple-threat: singing, dancing, and acting. What was not to love about J.T.?
If you liked Justin, you are a powerhouse, an unstoppable tour-de-force. You’re the complete package and everyone knows it. Yet, you manage to show-off without seeming desperate for attention. You’re funny without being obnoxious. You may or may not have longstanding beef with Britney Spears.
Remember how adamant we all were that our crush choices were the best, like we just knew something about him that the other girls just couldn’t see? But let’s be honest, we were secretly really glad they didn’t get it. That just meant we got our pick all to ourselves.