Interview promoting show not 'N Sync

Boy band: Super-selling album leads to muddled teleconference.

July 10, 2000|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

When 'N Sync's current album, "No Strings Attached," arrived in stores in March, it was a sensation even by the hormone-crazed standards of contemporary boy-band boom.

The disc sold 2.4 million copies in seven days, shattering the previous first-week sales record, held by teen-pop rivals the Backstreet Boys. That immediately made the group's tour - which plays RFK Stadium in Washington this evening - the summer's hottest ticket.

Subsequently, 'N Sync's record company, Jive, was swamped with interview requests from newspapers, magazines and radio stations. There was no way every request could result in a one-on-one interview. So the folks at Jive decided to hold a teleconference, during which dozens of interviewers would get to ask one question each over the telephone.

Intimate, it wasn't.

In fact, it seemed that the five members of 'N Sync sometimes felt like boys in a bubble during the teleconferences. Jive's operators were using a talk radio-style setup, where all the journalists could hear the guys in 'N Sync, but they could hear us only when the operator turned our line on.

This lack of real-time response made for some awkward moments, as when J.C. Chasez - apparently unaware that it was a one-way setup - made his "opening statement" to the press.

Chasez: Hi.

The Press: [Silence]

Chasez: Hello?

The Press: [Silence]

Chasez: Is there, like, a lot of people out there?

The Press: [Silence]

Chasez: Guess so.

The Press: [Silence]

Chasez: That was our opening statement.

There were two teleconferences, one featuring Chasez and Chris Kirkpatrick, and the other with Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Justin Timberlake (although Timberlake left early). Reporters were allowed to participate in only one of the two group-interview sessions, but Jive provided participants with tapes of both, so we could compare and contrast.

It's interesting to note the differences between the two confabs. Chasez and Kirkpatrick were a little more lighthearted than Bass and Fatone, goofing with the journalists and commenting to each other about the weirdness of the setup. (After one reporter was abruptly cut off, Kirkpatrick whispered sarcastically, "This is running smoothly.")

Bass and Fatone were a little more serious and much more practiced in the art of the interview. For instance, when they were asked how it felt to break the Backstreet Boys' record for first-week sales, Fatone deftly played up the group's humility. "We didn't really break the record," he demurred. "The fans broke the record. They're the ones who helped us do that. So we can't thank them enough."

Kinda makes you feel all warm and gooey inside, doesn't it?

But there were signs that these superstars, though no longer teens, are still very young men. For instance, Fatone happened to have his dog along for the interview. "It's a miniature pinscher," he said, as the pooch yapped excitedly in the background. "She won't shut up," he added helpfully.

Naturally, with two interview sessions, similar questions often produced very different answers. Take the song "Digital Get Down." Because the song flirts with the issue of cybersex, it represents the closest thing to controversy involving 'N Sync. So of course the group was asked about the song in both teleconferences.

According to Bass, there was nothing at all naughty about the song. "That song was meant to be for fun," he said. "It was actually written when a video concept came together, and the video concept is we're all having a party on the Internet, about having an Internet club."

"Almost like virtual reality," added Fatone.

"Yeah, a virtual reality club," agreed Bass. "You put the goggles on, and you're all on the dance floor, all just dancing and grooving. Now, the way that people take it is their own interpretation, and the way most of our fans take it is dancing at a club."

Not according to Chasez it isn't. When he was asked about the song (which he co-wrote) in the other teleconference, Chasez explained that the song was intended to be slightly controversial. "I just wanted to rock the boat a little bit," he said. "Actually, the song idea was referred to me by one of the co-writers. He was like, `I got this idea, everybody's talking about [cybersex].'

"All we're doing is saying something that everybody's thinking about. It's not like we're telling people to go out and do it."

Besides, the notion that 'N Sync shouldn't write about such things is based on a misconception about what sort of people listen to the group.

"Our audience has changed over the last four years," said Bass. "When we first started, five years ago, our audience was `Mickey Mouse Club' fans, so it was a young, teen audience. Then we went to Germany, and it was a variety of fans - the majority girls, but it was just of all ages.

"Then we came [back] to America, and started with clubs. All our fans then were over 21, guys and girls, because no one could get into clubs unless they were 21 and up. Then our fans grew to include teens and parents.

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