Quite frankly, they never really had any sudden rift or bad blood. It's just been a very busy 13 years for each of them. You can't really blame the breakup on Justin alone. The other 4 guys were actually successful in their own careers also. You can choose to become a school janitor instead of a solo artist, and you could still become successful at it. They just wanted to do something new based on their own interests. Lance Bass has his own radio show and gets to party with A-listers all the time. Joey Fatone has a steady film and television career. JC Chasez has gone from reality competition judge to songwriter and producer. And Chris Kirkpatrick continues to work in the independent music department. So, yeah, the guys have been very busy over the past 13 years. So busy that they never got the memo that their record label wanted to produce a two-disc hits album for the Essential series using their songs.
Normally, hearing about a new release in their catalog without giving the record label their consent would bother the guys completely. However, they took notice that the fans were purchasing like the good old days. I, myself, was such a total nerd that I convinced my parents to drive over to a nearby Wal-Mart or K-Mart to purchase an *NSYNC album on the day of its release, and I wasn't the only kid that got that kind of transportation from their parents. No Strings Attached and Celebrity both sit at the top 2 spots on the best opening sales week numbers ever at 2.4 million and 1.88 million respectively. Nowadays, you're just lucky if your album sells that many in its lifespan. Another thing that I ate up was the merchandise. If I spotted one of the merchandise items at a store, I only need to blink one time, and it would be in my possession. Now, considering my passion for being an *NSYNC fan, I was hesitant at first to check it out, since I already purchased all the albums. However, I checked to find that all my original copies were worn out. And given the fact that the fans were going crazy over an album that they had no idea was going to come out, I gave in and checked out The Essential *NSYNC. After all, I was curious to see how the record label put together a two-disc hits album with only a small catalog of songs to choose from. How was it?
To put it simply, everything that I loved about *NSYNC's music is on this album. It's an amazing collection. You not only get all the best songs on here, but they also throw us a bigger surprise with the back half of songs. This compilation gives you everything you knew about *NSYNC and then some things that you never knew at all.
First, let's talk about the hits. All the singles are present on the first disc. You got the four US singles from the 1998 debut album, *NSYNC: I Want You Back, Tearin' Up My Heart, God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You, and the underrated I Drive Myself Crazy. Plus they also got two songs from that album that got released as singles internationally: Here We Go and For the Girl Who Has Everything. Those all make up the first 6 songs on disc 1. Track 8 is Music of My Heart, their duet with Gloria Estefan for the Music of the Heart movie. Now, tracks 9 through 11 are all the hits released from No Strings Attached, including Bye Bye Bye, It's Gonna Be Me, and This I Promise You. All three of those singles peaked in the top 5 on the Hot 100, with It's Gonna Be Me as their only #1 hit, and Bye Bye Bye becoming their signature song. Disc 1 closes out with all the hits from the Celebrity album. That includes Pop, Girlfriend (the remix with Nelly), and Gone, which is a song that Justin recently admitted was written for Michael Jackson.
Now, I just mentioned 13 songs. There are 17 songs on the first disc altogether, and another 17 songs on the second disc bring the total to 34 songs featured on The Essential *NSYNC. This brings us to the part where this album really gets you. The rest of the songs are deep cuts, soundtrack songs, and songs that have never been released before. If you loved the singles, then you're equally going to love these other songs on here. The other 4 songs that you'll find on the first disc are as follows: track 7 is Are You Gonna Be There, a song that was cut from the No Strings Attached sessions. It's a ballad that falls in between the debut album and NSA and really captures their harmonies. You can even identify each guy's vocals on there. Track 13 is titled I Believe in You. It was a duet with R&B singer Joe on his album, My Name Is Joe. This tune really caters to the band's R&B stylings and influences. Joe's one of the most true R&B singers from the early 2000's. Together, they put together a duet that really combines both forces. It's as Y2K R&B as you can get. If I'm Not The One, another song from the No Strings Attached sessions, appears on track 14. This song and Are You Gonna Be There both appeared originally on an joint EP with Britney Spears titled Your #1 Requests... and More!, which was only available in McDonald's Happy Meals during the summer of 2000. This is one of *NSYNC's best previously unreleased songs on the album. A hybrid of the turn-of-the-millennium pop songs by Britney, Mandy Moore, and the Backstreet Boys, it's an infectious mid-tempo tune that you can't help but try to choreograph a routine to. It showcases that acoustic/keyboard combo, those identifiable 5-part harmonies, and simplistic lyrics (even though it will take me a while to figure out why Justin's writing letters to his garbage can). I Thought She Knew was also featured on the EP, and it was the only one out of those three songs that actually made the No Strings Attached album. It appears on the first disc at track 12. Here, we hear the guys put their 5-part harmonies at something that they really do best: acapella. This song showcases their biggest talents at their finest, as they sing about forgetting to say "I love you" until it was too late.
By the time you get to the second disc, the rarities take over the entire track listing. The first 3 tracks are all unreleased recordings from the beginning of their career: two covers (More Than a Feeling and The Lion Sleeps Tonight) and an original song (Best of My Life). Having to forget that they are covering a Boston song is very easy, considering the fact that they once again go acapella. They put their own twist on the classic rock song with respect to the original. Tracks 4 and 5 are Sailing and Everything I Own, two deep cuts from the debut album, both of which are classic soft rock covers. Sailing originally came from Christopher Cross, and Everything I Own was originally a Bread song. Once again, they make these songs their own by doing what they do best: 5-part vocal harmonies. Track 6 is a re-recording of God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You with country group Alabama. The next 8 tracks are all songs recorded for movie soundtracks. Somewhere, Someday (track 7) appeared originally on the Pokémon - The First Movie soundtrack. Trashin' The Camp (track 8) appeared on the Tarzan soundtrack, which was recorded with Phil Collins. If Only in Heaven's Eyes (track 9) appeared on the Light it Up soundtrack. You Don't Have to Be Alone (track 10) was recorded for the Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas soundtrack. Tracks 11, 12, and 13 all appeared in the *NSYNC movie On the Line. Track 11, On The Line, only features two of the guys from *NSYNC: Lance and Joey. The song was a collaboration that they did with Mandy Moore, Christian Burns, and True Vibe, billing themselves as The On The Line All-Stars. Track 12 is That Girl (Will Never Be Mine), which happens to be the best of the unreleased songs on this album. It's a heavy, up-tempo dance track that really reflects the up-tempo songs on Celebrity. Falling appears on track 13, and it's a ballad co-written by Chris Kirkpatrick. The instrumentals give the tune an R&B edge that rivals Usher's U Got It Bad. Feel The Love (track 14) appeared in the movie Longshot. It was produced and written by manager Louis Pearlman, who launched the band into superstardom, and in return, they launched a lawsuit against the boy band Svengali. The guys made cameos in the movie alongside several other of Pearlman's artists, including Britney, O-Town, and LFO. Tracks 15 and 16 are two cuts from the Celebrity album: Selfish and See Right Through You. A few fun facts worth mentioning: Selfish features some help from top musicians such as Brian McKnight on keyboard, American Idol's Randy Jackson on bass, and Motown legend Stevie Wonder on harmonica. The final track is Believe in Yourself, which they performed on the classic kids' TV show, Sesame Street, back in 2000.
As exhausting as it was talking about all the tracks on this album, it really is an excellent compilation that captures everything great about *NSYNC. This release is a triumph for not only the band, but also the Essential series, which always covers the best that these artists have to offer. This time, they've really outdone themselves, throwing in all the hits and the songs from their back catalog, and then going beyond the catalog.
The overall average score for The Essential *NSYNC is a 95 out of 100, bringing it to 4.75 out of 5 stars. This actually bests all my scores for all their studio albums, if that's even possible. If we never get to hear new music from *NSYNC, I think it's something that I can live with. The fact that they were able to reunite at the VMAs brought some closure to a career that brought smiles to millions of people everywhere. Even better, we can always go back to listening to their 3 studio albums (plus Home For Christmas) whenever we want to, and now we got this that we can listen to repeatedly also.