No Strings Attached ('N Sync album)

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No Strings Attached
Studio album by 'N Sync
Released March 21, 2000
Recorded February 1999 - January 29, 2000
Genre Pop, R&B
Length 47:08
Label Jive
Producer Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Kristian Lundin, Jake Schulze, Rami Yacoub, Riprock 'n' Alex G., Teddy Riley, Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Richard Marx, Veit Renn, Guy Roche, Kevin Antunes
'N Sync chronology
  • No Strings Attached
  • (2000)
Singles from No Strings Attached
  1. "Bye Bye Bye"
    Released: January 17, 2000 (2000-01-17)
  2. "It's Gonna Be Me"
    Released: June 13, 2000 (2000-06-13)
  3. "I'll Never Stop"
    Released: June 26, 2000 (2000-06-26)
  4. "This I Promise You"
    Released: September 12, 2000 (2000-09-12)

No Strings Attached is the second studio album by American boy band 'N Sync, released on March 21, 2000 by Jive Records. Looking to distinguish their music from that of their labelmates, its music incorporates pop and R&B styles. Prior to the release of the album, 'N Sync separated from their management Trans Continental and their label RCA Records; its title is a play on the idea of independence from corporate control. Contributions to the album's production came from a wide range of producers, including group members Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez and new collaborators Kristian Lundin, Jake Schulze, Rami Yacoub, Teddy Riley, Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Richard Marx, Veit Renn, and Guy Roche.

After several delays due to legal battles, No Strings Attached was met with generally favorable reviews from music critics. The album debuted atop the U.S. Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 2.4 million copies, setting the record for one-week sales in the country; the group still holds the record today. Four singles were released from the album. Its lead single "Bye Bye Bye" is credited with creating the hype for the album's eventual landmark success.

Overview[edit]

Most of the songs on the album are mainly performed by Justin and JC. Chris raps with Justin on "Just Got Paid". JC performs solo on "Bringin' da Noise". All five members perform together on the song, "I Thought She Knew", which is an A cappella track and is also the first time that each member has their own verses.

Background[edit]

The title of the album alludes to puppets and the idea of independence 'N Sync earned following a legal battle between its then management.[1] 'N Sync was signed by Trans Continental Management to Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) in Germany, due to a pre-existing deal, and its distribution rights in the United States were automatically bought by RCA.[2] In 1999, 'N Sync sued Trans Continental and financier, Louis J. Pearlman, due to illicit corporate practices. They cited Pearlman's defrauding the group, which, according to MTV, was more than fifty percent of their earnings, rather than his promise of only receiving one-sixth of the profits.[3] The band, whose self-titled debut album and its quick follow up had commercial success, insisted "they have not seen enough of the profits" that they had generated by selling eight million albums in the United States alone.[2] On October 12, 1999, Trans Continental, along with RCA's parent, BMG Entertainment, filed a $150 million suit in a federal court to bar 'N Sync's transference to Jive and from performing or recording under their current name. The suit also forced 'N Sync to return masters recorded in 1999 in preparation of their second album.[2] With an undisclosed settlement in 2001, 'N Sync finally severed its contract with Trans Continental and switched labels from RCA Records to Jive Records, which releases its contemporaries such as the Backstreet Boys and pop sensation Britney Spears.[1]

The titling of the album is similar to the Backstreet Boys' who also had legal wrangling with Pearlman which concluded to a settlement in October 1998 that was not disclosed. The Backstreet Boys "took a shot" at Pearlman by titling their 2000 album Black & Blue.[4] Meanwhile, the title No Strings Attached was announced in September 1999, during when the legal battle was still ongoing.[5] 'N Sync's member, Chris Kirkpatrick, revealed that the title and the album's cover art have a personal meaning to them. According to him, the album was designed to show that they felt they were puppets stranded in strings, which alludes to their destiny being controlled.[6] In an interview, he further explained the relationship of the strings to the album:

We enjoyed working on this album with the producers, and the only reasons that the strings are still attached on the album is so people can get the whole feel of the vibe of, you know, No Strings Attached. That's what we mean by the strings, so they'll understand that we're not puppets.[6]

Recording and production[edit]

Some of the songwriters and producers for the album including Max Martin came from Cheiron Studios (pictured) in Stockholm, Sweden.

While the legal suit was underway, 'N Sync kept on recording songs for the album.[7] Despite the band switching label, it still retained its manager and mentor from Trans Continental, Johnny Wright. With Jive, the band was introduced American record producer Teddy Riley, who would remake Johnny Kemp's 1988 "Just Got Paid" with them, and Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, who produced "It Makes Me Ill" for the album.[7] One of the recording sessions for the album took place in a tiny studio in Burbank. The ballad "That's When I'll Stop Loving You" written by Diane Warren was recorded there under the production of French-born producer Guy Roche.[8]

Accordingly, 'N Sync insisted that they choose producers and songwriters for the album.[1] On No Strings Attached, the band commissioned Swedish and German songwriters and producers, who had produced songs for the Backstreet Boys. Aside from getting the album number one on the chart, they wanted to distinguish their music that had been attuned to the styles of the Backstreet Boys, having shared the same producers. For that direction, they told the Swedish team of Cheiron Studios to change the band's tune. Wright recalls, "We basically told them, 'We like your concepts for songs and we love the way you produce. But you're gonna have to do it in a different way so that it conforms to how we want our sound to be."[9] This direction resulted to harder-edge songs such as "Bye Bye Bye", which production was handled by the Swedish team.[9] Max Martin, who also came from Cheiron and known for producing songs for 'N Sync's label mates, also contributed to the album by co-writing and producing the single "It's Gonna Be Me".[7]

Despite the new direction the band had wanted to take, early recording process found some of the producers and writers submitting tracks which were "in the vein of 'N Sync's earlier, softer sound".[9] The band thought that if the collaborators could not produce what they were looking for, they would find it themselves. This resulted to some of the band's members contributing to a number of tracks which made it to the album.[9] On specific songs, songwriter and producer Veit Renn collaborated with band's member JC Chasez,[1] who co-authored the album's title track and three other songs.[9] Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake helped pen and produce a song called "I'll Be Good for You", which also made it to the album's track listing.[1]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Justin Timberlake said that the album is a diverse body of work that explores dimensions of R&B within the pop. He added that the album "goes totally mainstream and it goes into some dance- and club-style songs".[6] Although there are few mid-tempo and ballads in the album, songs on No Strings Attached are mostly up tempos, a direction which was a result of the band's wanting to have a fun album.[10] Despite of it, the album retained the pop style of its predecessor.[1] According to Entertainment Weekly, the album's musical style is that of Top 40, with a funky beat.[11]

On its article for The New York Times, Jon Pareles wrote in 2000:

Flush with artistic freedom, 'N Sync heads straight for the past: specifically the 1980s rhythm-and-blues that sought to balance pretty melody atop hip-hop's street-level beat. Like the Rolling Stones discovering 1950's Chicago blues, 'N Sync has latched onto the highly synthesized, jigsaw rhythms of 1980's phenomena from Michael Jackson to New Edition to Zapp. In a direct tribute to the new jack swing of the 1980s, 'N Sync remakes Johnny Kemp's 1988 hit "Just Got Paid" with its original producer, Teddy Riley.[1]

On the album, critics noted the song about video cybersex, "Digital Get Down". Accordingly, it is a clear indicator of post-pubescent consciousness of the group.[1] In the article "Parents' Guide" published in Entertainment Weekly, Lois Alter Mark analyzes the contents of new albums at the time, including No Strings Attached. Accordingly, the album's recurring theme is about puppy love, and has sexual content that is categorized as mildly suggestive and a language that is preteen friendly.[11]

Promotion[edit]

Originally, No Strings Attached was due for release in the fall 1999.[8] But because of the ongoing legal battle between the band and its management, it was delayed several times. Towards the end of 1999, it was reported that a settlement had been reached, putting aside the lawsuit that their management had filed. The settlement allowed the band to freely release the album under its current band name, with a March 7 initial schedule. "Bye Bye Bye" was solicited to radio stations on January 17, the same night the group would debut the song at the American Music Awards.[12]

Jive went on to various means in building the anticipation for No Strings Attached. To promote the album, the group appeared on numerous national television shows. Three weeks before the album's release in March 21, 2000, 'N Sync did more media, including appearances in MTV, Good Morning America, Saturday Night Live, and the Oscars.[13]

The music video to "Bye Bye Bye" was heavily rotated,[7] which the Rolling Stone magazine called a "seemingly every other half hour" on MTV.[14] MTV Networks' then Chairman and CEO Tom Freston said, "'N Sync's clear accessibility means that they've been featured not just in heavy video rotation and mini-biographies but backstage, at the Super Bowl, and in looser studio settings like Total Request Live. Anything we can do to allow them to connect with their fans in a non-video environment."[7]

Present TRL's studios in Times Square. The band made multiple appearances on the show in promoting the album.

Leading to the release, tracks from the album were illegally leaked onto the internet. Despite the leaking, it was seen by Johnny Wright as an aid in helping the band reached the sales record that the album held. Wright thought the early and unofficial release was the opportunity for the listeners to hear more than what the radio was playing. He surmised that the Internet "helped a lot" for the album.[13][15]

No Strings Attached Tour[edit]

In support of No Strings Attached, the band embarked on their second tour, No Strings Attached Tour, The national tour, sponsored by MCY.com and Nabisco and produced by SFX Touring, began on May 9, 2000, at Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.

During the first day the tickets went on sale, the tour, according to Billboard, was believed to have set a single-day record . More than one million tickets were sold, and 51 of the 52 shows slated for the tour sold out during the day. In gross, the tour racked up US$40 million.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[16]
Entertainment Weekly C−[17]
Robert Christgau (1-star Honorable Mention)[18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[19]

On mainstream reception, No Strings Attached received positive to mixed reviews. According to Entertainment Weekly' David Browne who gave the album a C- rating, "No Strings Attached is overstuffed with tracks clearly concocted with the concert stage in mind." He further criticized the songs as "synthetic-funk spectacles". He, however, added that the group's best performances on No Strings Attached "arrive only when they drop the pretenses".[17] Browne's rating the album C- received a reaction from 'N Sync fans. One fan, in its mail to Entertainment Weekly, felt that Browne's review of the album was "totally uncool".[20] Stephen Thomas Erlewine, senior editor of Allmusic, wrote, "To cynical critics, they very well might sound the same as ever, yet this really blows away their previous record."[16] He, who gave a rating of four stars, said that the album "pulls away from the standard dance-pop formula".[16] Robert Christgau gave the album a one-star honorable mention and defined the beats as "their statement, the ballads their way of life."[18]

Leading up to the 43rd annual Grammy Awards, the album earned the band a nomination in the Best Pop Vocal Album category.[21] At the 2000 Billboard Music Awards, the album earned the band four awards including in the categories such as Album of the Year and Top 40 Artist of the Year.[22]

Commercial performance[edit]

Many retailers around the United States had predicted that, "with an impressive show of sales strength", No Strings Attached could "culminate into the biggest first week ever in the SoundScan era".[23] Jive Records had already shipped 4.2 million units of the album, and reorders were already made shortly after the album's release in record stores.[23] At online retailer Amazon.com, advance sales for the album were the biggest at the time. Meanwhile in the West Coast, orders for the album were aggressive. Some stores stayed opened until midnight specifically for the album.[23]

According to Jon Pareles of The New York Times, "The sales statistics are a tribute to Jive Records' skill at building anticipation for No Strings Attached."[1] The strength of the album's lead single, "Bye Bye Bye", its music video, along with Internet song previews for the album, provided for that build up.[1] Both Jive Records and the band's management credited the album's early success to the anticipation amassed over the two years since they released their self-titled debut album, the highly publicized legal battle and the media blitz leading up to the release.[14] Despite the mania that No Strings Attached stirred in the wake of its debut, MTV reported the "record week may not have been simply the result of a wide fan base and effective marketing".[24] Accordingly, many of 'N Sync's fans were spotted buying numerous copies of the album. That trend of buying was, for some, "simply to have more than one, and others to specifically help the group break the Backstreet Boys' sales record".[24] In 1999, Backstreet Boy's second studio album, Millennium, sold more than 1.13 million copies in its first week.[25]

In total, No Strings Attached sold in the United States over 2.4 million units in its first week. It set the record for the first album to have sold more than two million copies in a single week, since the chart adopted Nielsen SoundScan data in May 1991.[25] This record, which was later recognized at the 2000 Billboard Music Awards,[22] is still held by 'N Sync.[26][27][28] The figures surpassed the album's successor Celebrity's debut sales of over 1.88 million units, retaining the recognition as the band's highest-debut in their career.[29] Chartwise, the album debuted on the Billboard 200 at number one.[30] It topped the chart for eight consecutive weeks,[31] becoming one of the longest-running number-one albums of 2000.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified No Strings Attached seven-times platinum on April 19, 2000, becoming the highest-certified single disc album in the initial RIAA audit in that year. It broke the record previously set in 1993 by Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard soundtrack, which was certified six-times platinum in the RIAA's first audit.[32] The album shipped 10 million copies domestically in 2000 alone, of which 9,936,104 were sold, according to Nielsen Soundscan.[33] This made No Strings Attached the bestseller album in 2000 in the United States.[34] At the end of the decade, No Strings Attached led as the second top-selling album with 11,112,000 units sold, according to the list released by Nielsen SoundScan on December 8, 2009.[35] Worldwide "No Strings Attached" sold 13.2 million copies in 2000 and was the 4th best selling album worldwide.

Legacy[edit]

By status, 'N Sync was considered as a Backstreet Boys clone. With the success that the band attained with No Strings Attached, that notion was obliterated, even calling them as serious rival with their label mate.[36] Late into the year No Strings Attached was released, the Backstreet Boys issued its follow-up to Millennium, Black & Blue, their third studio album in the United States. It sold 1.6 million in its debut week in the U.S., beating Millennium. Despite setting a world record by selling 5 million copies worldwide in its debut week,[37] it was still outnumbered by No Strings Attached domestically.

According to Richard Skanse of Rolling Stone, the album gave the group its landmark achievement. For Janet Kleinbaum, Jive's then-Vice President of Artist Marketing, the "yardstick is definitely extended",[14] referring to the record by which future releases of Jive would have to be compared with. After No Strings Attached, Jive's other popular artists at the time such as Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys were each releasing an album.[13] Kleinbaum thought, "We know now what the possibilities are. We're not going to compare a Britney Spears record to 'N Sync, or Backstreet Boys. However, 'N Sync has shown us what can be done."[14]

Referring to the first day sale of the album with 1.1 million units, Josh Wolk of Entertainment Weekly said that it was "perhaps the greatest mass spending of allowances in history".[38] Craig Seymour of the same publication said, "What has the industry buzzing is not only that 2.4 million fans rushed to the stores, but that teen-pop behemoth Jive Records was in a unique and almost unprecedented position to meet the stores' demand." This demand on physical copies of the album was met by Jive by shelving up millions of units leading to the album's release date. The label was able to ship 4.2 million copies for the album's March 21 official release date, then couriered another 2.3 million in reorders on March 22.[13] Retailer Grandoni said, "If they hadn't been ready for it, stores would have sold out after a couple days which would have limited their first-week sales."[13]

Track listing[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of No Strings Attached.

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Bye Bye Bye"  
  • Lundin
  • Jake
3:19
2. "It's Gonna Be Me"  
Rami 3:11
3. "Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)" (featuring Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes)
  • JC
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
4:21
4. "Just Got Paid"   Riley 4:09
5. "It Makes Me Ill"  
3:26
6. "This I Promise You"   Richard Marx Marx 4:43
7. "No Strings Attached"  
  • Greggs
  • Daymond
  • Chasez
  • JC
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
3:50
8. "Digital Get Down"  
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
  • Renn
4:23
9. "Bringin' da Noise"  
  • Renn
  • Chasez
  • Renn
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
  • JC (co.)
3:30
10. "That's When I'll Stop Loving You"   Diane Warren Guy Roche 4:50
11. "I'll Be Good for You"  
  • Timberlake
  • Antunes
3:56
12. "I Thought She Knew"   Robin Wiley Wiley 3:20
13. "If I'm Not the One"  
  • Fredrik Thomander
  • Anders Wikstrom
  • Gary Carolla
  • Peter Ries
3:21
14. "I'll Never Stop"  
Lundin 3:26

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Release Date
United States March 21, 2000
Europe March 20, 2000
Germany March 26, 2000
Australia April 10, 2000
United Kingdom
Japan
Asia
May 9, 2000
United Kingdom
(Special UK Edition)
October 9, 2000
Asia (reissue) February 13, 2001

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c Boehlert, Eric (1999-10-13). "N Sync Slapped With $150 Million Lawsuit". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-08-19. 
  3. ^ Manning, Kara (1999-11-24). "'N Sync Scores Small Victory As Legal Battle Begins". MTV Networks. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  4. ^ Bliss, Karen (2002-10-17). "Carter, Pearlman to Settle". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
  5. ^ Sinclair, Tom (1999-09-27). "Jive Talkin'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
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  51. ^ THE FIELD id (chart number) MUST BE PROVIDED for NEW ZEALAND CERTIFICATION.
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