As an impressionable 10 or 11 year old, I spent my time outside of school in a number of different ways. But looking back nearly two decades later, the one thing that really sticks in my nostalgia-fueled brain is being on the Windows 98 desktop computer (with like a 20 GB hard-drive) in my childhood home.
I played CD-rom driven computer games like every other kid, I wrote really terrible stories (it was mainly me just shamelessly copying Austin Powers and Simpsons bits, something I still do today). But, I spent an inordinate amount of time doing two things simultaneously – playing Space Cadet Pinball and listening to songs I had recently downloaded on Napster via Winamp.
It wasn’t really until college that I realized, ‘huh, I listened to a ton of late 90s/early 00s pop music growing up’, and ‘huh, I played the shit outta like two dozen songs over and over again for hours on end for a good year’ and ‘damn, like a dozen of those were by boy bands’ and ‘huh, my parents never seemed to mind.’
Looking back, it’s fascinating to me how much of my musical tastes today have been driven by those few songs. Of course, I listened to the classics: some Eiffel 65, some Britney, some Aaron Carter, a lot of Backstreet Boys hits, and some weirdly specific easy listening songs from the 70s, but, I’m pretty sure I listened to 4 or 5 N*Sync songs the most out of anything. One of those songs, the incomparable “It’s Gonna Be Me” was the legendary boy band’s only number one hit, reaching the top on July 29th, 2000 and staying there for two weeks.
Because the song is solidified with a good bit of nostalgia and was critical to my adolescence, it’s hard to do an accurate musical review of the song, and truth be told, it’s actually a relatively hard song to describe beat by beat except for the fact that it’s awesome and you know who it’s gonna be as soon as the song comes in with its descending computerized-six note intro.
Doing some research and watching the video seventeen years later (well, shit) has actually proven to be enlightening to me for two reasons:
- While N*Sync was a group of five, it was really only a group of two (Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez), with three backing singers (Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, sorry guys). While both JT and JC were good singers (JC was the one designated as the guy to hit the soaring high notes), JT has so much personality in his voice that it’s no wonder he’s been one of the most successful musician/performers of the last twenty years.
- This is a song written by Max Martin, so it’s no surprise that this song hit #1, and is so well known even today because Max Martin only makes hits.
But, this wouldn’t be a piece on “It’s Gonna Be Me” if we didn’t talk about the meme. Every April since 2012 (and every year for the foreseeable future), your Facebook feed will be full of posts like this one, making the obvious joke that, yes, it again, is going to be May.
Even Timberlake himself has gotten in on the fun (after being awkwardly pressured to do so), telling some British radio hosts that “Max Martin made me sing it that way…I think he just wanted me to sound like I was from Tennessee.” Thanks, Max. You not only created one of the most memorable boy-band songs of all time, but you spawned an internet meme for the ages.