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No Strings Attached (NSYNC album)

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No Strings Attached
Nsync - No Strings Attached.png
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 21, 2000
RecordedFebruary 1999 – January 29, 2000
Genre
Length47:15
LabelJive Records
Producer
NSYNC chronology
The Winter Album
(1998)
No Strings Attached
(2000)
Celebrity
(2001)
Singles from No Strings Attached
  1. "Bye Bye Bye"
    Released: January 11, 2000
  2. "It's Gonna Be Me"
    Released: June 12, 2000
  3. "I'll Never Stop"
    Released: June 26, 2000 (International)
  4. "This I Promise You"
    Released: November 25, 2000

No Strings Attached is the third studio album by American boy band NSYNC, released on March 21, 2000, by Jive Records. Looking to distinguish their music from that of their labelmates, the band chose to incorporate pop and R&B styles. Prior to the release of the album, NSYNC 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, Teddy Riley, Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Richard Marx, Veit Renn, Babyface, 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; a record that lasted 15 years, until Adele surpassed the first-week sales record in 2015 with her third studio album 25. 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. It was the best selling album of 2000.[1] The band promoted the album by the No Strings Attached Tour, being one of the highest-grossing tours of the year.

Background[edit]

The title of the album alludes to puppets and the idea of independence NSYNC earned following a legal battle between its then-management.[2] NSYNC 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.[3] In 1999, NSYNC 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.[4] 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.[3] On October 12, 1999, Trans Continental, along with RCA's parent, BMG Entertainment, filed a $195 million suit in a federal court to bar NSYNC's transference to Jive and from performing or recording under their current name, and also to force NSYNC to return masters recorded in 1999 in preparation of their second album.[3] With an undisclosed settlement in 2001, NSYNC 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 Britney Spears.[2]

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.[5] Meanwhile, the title No Strings Attached was announced in September 1999, during when the legal battle was still ongoing.[6] NSYNC'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.[7] 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.[7]

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, NSYNC kept on recording songs for the album.[8] Despite the band switching label, it still retained its manager and mentor from Trans Continental, Johnny Wright. With Jive, the band was introduced to 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.[8] 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.[9]

Accordingly, NSYNC insisted that they choose producers and songwriters for the album.[2] 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."[10] This direction resulted to harder-edge songs such as "Bye Bye Bye", which production was handled by the Swedish team.[10] Max Martin, who also came from Cheiron and was known for producing songs for NSYNC's label mates, also contributed to the album by co-writing and producing the single "It's Gonna Be Me".[8]

Despite the new direction the band had wanted to take, the early recording process found some of the producers and writers submitting tracks which were "in the vein of NSYNC's earlier, softer sound".[10] The band thought that if the collaborators could not produce what they were looking for, they would find it themselves. This resulted in some of the band members contributing to a number of tracks on the album.[10] On specific songs, songwriter and producer Veit Renn collaborated with band member JC Chasez,[2] who co-authored the album's title track and three other songs.[10] Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake helped pen and produce the album's track "I'll Be Good for You".[2] Lastly, another song that made the record was "Digital Get Down", a song about videophone sex that TV Guide described as "hailing the joys of cybersex. Do they think the braces brigade in 'N Sync's audience will recognize the R-rated oomph?"[11][12]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Justin Timberlake said that the album is a diverse body of work that explores dimensions of R&B within pop music. He added that the album "goes totally mainstream and it goes into some dance- and club-style songs".[7] There are few mid-tempo songs and ballads on No Strings Attached, a result of the band's desire to have a "fun" album.[13] The album did, however, retain the pop style of its predecessor.[2] According to Entertainment Weekly, the album's musical style is that of Top 40, with a funky beat.[14]

In his 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 1950s Chicago blues, 'N Sync has latched onto the highly synthesized, jigsaw rhythms of 1980s 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.[2]

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.[2] 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.[14]

Promotion[edit]

Originally, No Strings Attached was due for release in the fall 1999.[9] 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.[15]

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 on March 21, 2000, NSYNC did more media, including appearances on MTV, Good Morning America, Saturday Night Live, and the Oscars.[16]

The music video to "Bye Bye Bye" was heavily rotated,[8] which the Rolling Stone magazine called a "seemingly every other half-hour" on MTV.[17] MTV Networks' then chairman and CEO Tom Freston said, "NSYNC'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."[8]

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.[16][18]

No Strings Attached Tour[edit]

In support of No Strings Attached, the band embarked on their second tour, titled 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. The tour became an instant success, with all 50 initial dates being sold out, selling one million tickets within the first day.[19]

When the tour ended in December 2000, it became the second highest-grossing tour in North America, earning more than $70 million.[20]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[21]
Christgau's Consumer Guide(1-star Honorable Mention)[22]
Entertainment WeeklyC−[23]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[24]
Sputnikmusic3.0/5[25]

On mainstream reception, No Strings Attached received mixed to positive reviews. Entertainment Weekly's David Browne who gave the album a B 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 the album "arrive only when they drop the pretenses".[23] Browne's rating the album B received a reaction from NSYNC fans. One fan, in its mail to Entertainment Weekly, felt that Browne's review of the album was "totally uncool".[26] 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."[21] He, who gave a rating of four stars, said that the album "pulls away from the standard dance-pop formula".[21] Robert Christgau gave the album a one-star honorable mention and defined the beats as "their statement, the ballads their way of life.".[22]

Leading up to the 43rd annual Grammy Awards, the album earned the band a nomination in the Best Pop Vocal Album category.[27] 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.[28]

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".[29] Jive Records had already shipped 9.2 million units of the album, and reorders were already made shortly after the album's release in record stores.[29] 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.[29]

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."[2] 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.[2] 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.[17] 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".[30] Accordingly, many of NSYNC'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".[30] In 1999, Backstreet Boys' second studio album, Millennium, sold more than 1.13 million copies in its first week.[31]

In total, No Strings Attached sold in the United States over 2.4 million copies 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.[31] This record was later recognized at the 2000 Billboard Music Awards.[28] The album held the record for 15 years after its release, only to be surpassed on November 23, 2015 by the album 25 by Adele, which sold over 2.433 million albums in the U.S. within three days of its release [32] 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.[33] Chartwise, the album debuted on the Billboard 200 at number one.[34] It topped the chart for eight consecutive weeks,[35] becoming one of the longest-running number-one albums of 2000.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified No Strings Attached nine-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.[36] The album shipped 10 million copies domestically in 2000 alone, of which 9,936,104 were sold, according to Nielsen Soundscan.[37] This made No Strings Attached the bestseller album in 2000 in the United States.[38] At the end of the decade, No Strings Attached led as the second top-selling album with 11,112,000 copies sold, according to the list released by Nielsen SoundScan on December 8, 2009.[39] According to Billboard, No Strings Attached was the top album of the decade.[40]

In 2000, No Strings Attached was ranked as the number one album of the year on the Billboard 200.[41]

Legacy[edit]

By status, NSYNC were considered a clone of the Backstreet Boys. With the success that the band attained with No Strings Attached, that notion was obliterated, even calling them as a serious rival with their label mate.[42] 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 domestically, alongside selling 5 million copies worldwide.[43]

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",[17] 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.[16] Kleinbaum thought, "We know now what the possibilities are. We're not going to compare a Britney Spears record to NSYNC, or Backstreet Boys. However, NSYNC has shown us what can be done."[17]

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".[44] 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.[16] 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."[16]

No Strings Attached was ranked as the 111th best album of all time on the Billboard Top 200 Albums of All Time.[45]

Track listing[edit]

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[46] All lead vocals provided by Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez.

No Strings Attached — U.S. Edition [46]
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Bye Bye Bye"
  • Lundin
  • Schulze
3:19
2."It's Gonna Be Me"Rami3:11
3."Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)" (featuring Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes)
  • Chasez
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
4:21
4."Just Got Paid"Riley4:08
5."It Makes Me Ill"3:26
6."This I Promise You"Richard MarxMarx4:43
7."No Strings Attached"
  • Chasez
  • Greggs
  • Daymond
  • Chasez
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
3:50
8."Digital Get Down"
  • Chasez
  • David Nicoll
  • Renn
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
4:23
9."Bringin' da Noise"
  • Chasez
  • Renn
  • Renn
  • Riprock 'n' Alex G
  • Chasez[b]
3:30
10."That's When I'll Stop Loving You"Diane WarrenGuy Roche4:50
11."I'll Be Good for You"
  • Timberlake
  • Antunes
3:56
12."I Thought She Knew"Robin WileyWiley3:20

Notes

  • ^a signifies a vocal producer
  • ^b signifies a co-producer
  • "I'll Be Good for You" contains portions of the composition "Believe in Love", written by Teddy Pendergrass, Reginald Calloway, Vincent Calloway, Steve Beckham and Keith Robinson, and performed by Teddy Pendergrass.[46]

Personnel[edit]

NSYNC

Featured performer

Additional musicians

  • Michael Railton – keyboards
  • Michael Thompson – guitar
  • Esbjörn Öhrwall – guitar

Production

  • Richard Marx – arranger, producer, vocal arrangement
  • Teddy Riley – producer
  • Guy Roche – arranger, keyboards, producer, drum programming
  • Diane Warren – executive producer
  • Robin Wiley – arranger, producer
  • Veit Renn – producer
  • Jake Schulze – producer
  • Bradley 'Riprock' Daymond – producer, mixing
  • Kristian Lundin – producer
  • Kandi – vocal arrangement, vocal producer
  • Rami – producer
  • Alex G. – producer, mixing

Technical

  • Jez Colin – drum programming
  • David Cole – engineer, mixing
  • Mick Guzauski – mixing
  • Scott Humphrey – engineer
  • Mario Lucy – engineer
  • George Mayers – engineer
  • Pat McMakin – mixing
  • Carl Nappa – engineer, mixing
  • Dushyant Bhakta – engineer, mixing
  • Chris Trevett – engineer
  • Michael Tucker – engineer, mixing
  • Franz Verna – engineer
  • Tom Bender – mixing assistant
  • Charles McCrorey – assistant engineer
  • Cesar Ramirez – assistant engineer
  • Jason Piske – mixing assistant
  • Chaz Harper – mastering
  • Dag Gabrielsen – assistant mastering engineer
  • Adam Barber – engineer, vocal engineer
  • John Amatiello – Pro-Tools engineer
  • Joe Smith – engineer, mixing
  • Brady Barnett – digital editing
  • Ok Hee Kim – assistant engineer
  • Joe Woods – assistant engineer
  • Shane Stoneback – mixing assistant
  • Bray Merritt – assistant engineer
  • Toby Dearborn – assistant engineer

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[70] Platinum 60,000^
Australia (ARIA)[71] Platinum 70,000^
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[72] Gold 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[73] 7× Platinum 700,000^
Germany (BVMI)[74] Gold 150,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[75] Gold 100,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[76] Gold 75,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[77] Gold 40,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[78] Platinum 15,000^
Portugal (AFP)[79] Silver 10,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[80] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[81] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[84] 11× Platinum 14,500,000[A]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ As of March 2015, the album has sold 12,980,000 copies in the US according to Nielsen SoundScan, which does not count albums sold through clubs like the BMG Music Club, where it sold 1.52 million units as of February 2003.[82][83] Combined, it has sold over 14,500,000 copies in the United States.