The evolution of Justin Timberlake – part 1

Note: I swear to God, last night I wrapped up work on this post and scheduled it to publish at 3:00 today. Then this news broke, and I couldn’t hold it back any longer. Either I willed this reunion into existence, or this post has the most fortuitous timing ever. Enjoy!

Forgive me, folks, because until I get my writing mojo back, this blog might take a turn into Justin Timberlake fangirl territory. I can’t help it. I’ve loved him for half of my life.

Half. of. my life.

I realized that last week, when I was trying to figure out how many times I’d seen him in concert. Because I didn’t get the Disney Channel until I was already in high school, I missed out on the whole Mickey Mouse club era. He finally came into my life in the summer of 1997, in a super cheesy Disney Channel concert special that I recorded alongside whatever X-Files episode was on that week.

Proof that absolutely everything finds its way to the internet eventually.

So the other night, I was bored, and I don’t have cable, so I started watching old NSync videos, back from when MTV actually played music videos. (RIP, TRL.) And I just had to document my thoughts, because to go back as an adult and watch things you loved when you were younger is a bizarre, unsettling experience. (My girl Lindsay is doing something similar with the BSC books – I told her we should start a childhood nostalgia blog, but I think BuzzFeed probably has that covered.)

When I first started this post, I had a “what I thought then” and “what I think now” section, but “what I thought then” was basically all this:

So what follows is a 31-year-old’s running (mostly unfiltered) commentary on cheesy boy band videos and the evolution of Justin Timberlake, from curly blond hair to inexplicably straight brown hair, through sexy going away and coming back again, through the Britney years and the slutty years and the ugggh make a new album already years and the why the hell are you married to someone as boring as Jessica Biel years. I got so carried away with this that I elected to make it a two-parter, so today focuses on the NSync years – which, as you will see, provide plenty of material for (hopefully) witty commentary.

I Want You Back (1996)

What’s with this chick riding the bike to open the video? Is that really how you want to introduce – OH GAWD JUSTIN WHAT IS THAT HOOP IN YOUR EAR? Did I just forget that existed? Ah, the ‘90s, when men wore giant earrings and bleached their hair. Now here’s some choreographed dancing! I don’t pay attention to boy bands anymore, does One Direction do that? Oh, now they’re on jet skis. Boy bands having fun! At around 1:30 JC tries to get serious, but I’m too distracted by Chris Kirkpatrick’s hair. Did we ever figure out why there is a giant wall of aluminum foil behind them as they’re dancing on the street? Slow breakdown time, following the ‘90s boy band formula to a tee. Despite the uber blond hair and giant pirate earring, JT still comes out of this looking like the coolest one, so I’m guessing it was love at first sight for me.

Tearin’ Up My Heart (1997)

Oooooh that’s right, this is the one where they’re in the warehouse trying to be all serious. Wow, Justin, that is a tight tee shirt. Now JC is singing while someone is punching a punching bag behind him. WTF, we thought this was cool? Chris’s hair is slightly better in this one, but JC’s is infinitely worse. Um, now they’re all laying on the floor singing. Ok then. Ooohhhhh yeah, the Justin in the white tank top laying in bed shot. Yeah, I remember that. I definitely remember that. That made me feel things when I was 16. Joey, Lance, and Chris are getting no screen time in this one. I mean, less so than usually. If anything, just go straight to the last five seconds of this video, because the ending shot is fantastically, terribly ‘90s. (And for bonus viewing, check out the VMAs performance with Britney, which was flipping awesome.)

(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You (1998)

They’re all wearing white suits in this one, since it’s an important ballad. We also get the beginnings of curly haired Justin, and thankfully the giant pirate hoop earring has been replaced with some diamonds. I don’t understand this video at all. Is it supposed to be about the kid and his mom? I honestly don’t know if I paid attention to that when I was 16, because I was imagining Justin and JC were personally serenading me. Oh, now the kid is grown up? And going off to war? Oh yeah, there’s a shot of a newspaper with “WAR!” on the front page, in case we didn’t catch on yet. Also, I just noticed that the boys are standing around something that looks like the pensieve from Hogwarts. OMG, this is so. cheesy.  Please, make it stop.

Thinking of You (I Drive Myself Crazy) (1999)

They really loved the parentheses in their song titles, didn’t they? Anyway, you may remember this one as the one song when they let someone other than JT or JC take a verse. The guys are apparently in an insane asylum (‘cause they drive themselves crazy, get it?) and they’re all wearing silk pajamas and singing in a padded room. Justin’s curly hair is getting longer. And blonder, I think. Trust me, if there is one of these videos, you watch, make it this one, especially starting around 1:45. This video is proof that Justin is not a very good actor and should probably just stop trying. Wait, is the therapist trying to get with Joey Fatone? That seems unethical. Spoiler alert, the boys get out of the asylum and all their ex-girlfriends are going in. Great message you sent us impressionable teenagers, there.

Bye Bye Bye (2000)

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. The marionettes. The curly fro. The choreography.

I don’t think I’ve forgotten a second of this video over the years, but let’s watch it anyway. Chris’s hair is somewhat normal, and he and Joey Fatone are running on the top of a moving train for some reason that’s never really explained. Oooooh so many curls, Justin. I’m fairly certain his second verse in this one was when he went from “ooh, he’s a cutie” to “whooooaaa, Justin is hot.” Even with curls that look like ramen noodles. There’s a reason this video was #1 on TRL for approximately 800 bajillion weeks. And now JC and Lance are now in a car chase. Apparently the same girl is chasing all of them? What’s the point of that? Even though I don’t really understand the premise of this video, I will say this is pretty much the quintessential boy band video of the early 2000s. I still love it, and I don’t care what you say.

It’s Gonna Be Me (2000)

I remember nothing about this video, so this should be a fun one. OOOOH now I do. It’s the one where they’re dolls!!! They look SO CREEPY. Seriously, I’m curious, does anyone do choreography anymore? They were really good dancers, you guys. Was this Wade Robson’s stuff yet? I know one of my friends reading this will know, and I’m too lazy to look it up myself. Ooooooh now the weird dolls are going over to party with the Barbies. This video is so strange. Also, by this point, this band has definitely become “Justin… sometimes JC… and those other guys we let dance behind us.” At the end, I actually laugh out loud, because now the cashier is scanning the dolls and they’re all coming to life. Wow. Y2K, everybody.

This I Promise You (2000)

While I will gladly rewatch choreography over and over again, the NSync ballads just bore me now. This is the one where they’re all in a giant forest for some unknown reason, and Justin is wearing a giant turtleneck sweater. And there are bubbles, or something. Lance is maybe wearing a leather blazer? OMG, so many tight turtleneck sweaters. Why are all the random people in this video looking at their watches? Did I miss an important plot point? At like 2:50, JC is in the bubble and then floating over a bridge and then they’re all magically singing at an outdoor café. What?

Why did we like this shit??? Why?! If a table of five grown men started singing at a café near me now, I’d throw my mimosas at them. (Kidding, I would never waste a mimosa like that.)

Pop (2001)

Not gonna lie, I still love this song. I still remember the Making the Video for this one, you guys. This is definitely Wade Robson, because he’s filling in for Joey Fatone in the dance scenes because Joey got hurt. Hey, Justin shaved his curls! He’s starting to look like the JT we know and love. This is officially when every girl went from #TeamJC to #TeamJustin (if they weren’t there already), because JC is looking terrible. His hair is just… gross. Gawd, this video is like a bad trip. There is waaaay too much going on. This dirty pop club is my nightmare. Oh wait, it’s not over. We get a Justin beatbox. Yep, that’s happening. Justin, honey. No.

Gone (2001)

AKA, the point at which everyone gave up trying to fight Justin and just let him run the show. Seriously, there’s about a minute where the other members of the band just don’t exist. Not that I’m complaining.

JC does look like he’d take out Justin, though, if given the chance.

Girlfriend (2002)

Had I know this would be the last NSync video we’d ever get, I would have appreciated it a little more. Justin lets the rest of the guys do some stuff again, which was awfully nice of him. This is the one that takes place in a Fast & Furious movie, or something, but a musical version where men dance on top of cars. No wonder MTV doesn’t play videos anymore. Most of them are incredibly stupid. More choreography on top of cars, and then Justin is apparently racing another dude? Justin wins the race, of course, and everyone comes over to congratulate him and dance a little more, and then Justin is like, peace out suckas, I’m off to do my own thing now.

Not enough JT for you? Don’t you fret. There’s still 11 years of singing, dancing, revenge songs and videos, “A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool?” and dicks in boxes to discuss. Part two will be here later in the week (once I peel myself away from my new FutureSex/LoveShow DVD long enough to actually write – best $3.99 I ever spent).


One thought on “The evolution of Justin Timberlake – part 1

  1. Bren….I still know pretty much every one of these dances…I will be more than happy to bust them out in NYC in October 🙂

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