NSYNC reunion talk has dominated music news this week, because everybody in America really, really misses the '90s, and despite a non-denial from Lance Bass it seems like there's still a good chance it actually happens, even if nobody at the VMAs was planning on it originally. (How could they pass up the free publicity now?) If you were once a fan of Justin Timberlake, J.C. Chasez, Lance Bass, and the other ones--okay I looked it up, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick--you are reading Buzzfeed's latest article about stuff only '90s kids know with a special kind of glee today, and I totally understand that; I get the same feeling every time Weird Al has another album coming out.
But the sheer mass of rumors about whether NSYNC will reunite threaten to overshadow the facts of their actual reunion. There's a simple reason for that: A very small proportion of the people who profess to be excited about this reunion actually cares at all what NSYNC does once they're reunited.
Don't get me wrong: If you press the non-diehards on it, they'll probably be able to tell you whether they preferred "Bye Bye Bye" or "It's Gonna Be Me." They'll probably have one song they'd prefer to hear over a bed of crowd screams. But nobody is talking about this reunion as though it's a vindication of the kind of music NSYNC made, and nobody's treating No Strings Attached like it's a lost classic.
That's because NSYNC is a monolithic symbol of the '90s, at this point--of everyone who's clamoring for their reunion's lovely, compact-disc-buying childhood--not a band. The marionette dancing and the frosted tips and the dated-looking toy store scenes are much more important than the actual songs.
And where the Backstreet Boys have already reunited, and made themselves one with the aughts, NSYNC's last album came out--think-piece writers beware--a couple of months before September 11th. A couple of months before the first iPod.
Timberlake and Bass aside, NSYNC is drawing this kind of reaction because they're frozen in dot-com-bubble, CDs-at-the-mall, full-employment amber. You can only crack that open once before everybody becomes associated with 2013 and the whole thing's ruined--just ask New Kids on the Block--but it'll be fun while at lasts, whether they play a song at the VMAs, just show up there, or only take the storm of anticipatory tweets and Facebook posts as inspiration to do a little touring later on.
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Because the important thing for all those tweeters and Facebookers is just whether they're reuniting at all.