Today is my (Funmbi’s) 20th Anniversary as an *NSYNC fan and I have a lot of feelings. Walk with me down memory lane…
My friend Ruthy Clampett once said to me that she believes some people are just meant to be fangirls/fanboys. Perhaps there’s something in our DNA, the way some wires in our hearts and minds are crossed. But there is no in-between, moderate liking for us–when we fall, we fall hard, and it changes us irrevocably. This thing or person that we love becomes the center of our world (or pretty damn close) and our love grows by leaps and bounds, fueled by new friends across social media, fanfiction, TV and print interviews, screenings, signings, concerts, tours, conventions, meet-ups, etc. This is what I love so much about Fandom. It energizes us, opens new opportunities for connection and collaboration, and is just so flipping fun!
Today I celebrate my 20th Anniversary for my first Fandom Experience–my everlasting love for *NSYNC.
In the Summer of 1998, I was a pretty sullen 14-year old. Looking back on it, I was mostly bored and felt pretty isolated. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and siblings, but at that time I felt lonely and misunderstood, and I couldn’t see my way out of it. Welcome to teenhood, right?!
I was a massive DIsney Channel watcher, and at that time, the network had been doing their concert music specials for a couple of years. LeAnn Rimes had done one, Brandy and Ray J had done one together, too. In the Summer 1998, the big concert Disney Channel was promoting was for a relatively new band called *NSYNC. I remember seeing commercials and clips advertising the concert, but I didn’t give it much thought. All I knew about *NSYNC was that a couple of girls at school called them a “ripoff” of Backstreet Boys (another band that I wasn’t too familiar with). So, I really didn’t plan on watching *NSYNC’s Disney Concert or giving them any of my attention.
On July 18, 1998 at 7:00pm, I was in my brother’s room and we were watching Disney Channel, of course. I can’t remember what show or film had played in the 6:00pm-hour, but as it came to an end, I distinctly remember picking up the remote control and trying to change the channel to watch something else. My brother stopped me and suggested we check out the *NSYNC concert, instead. The special started, and from the opening notes of “Crazy for You” (the first song the guys performed) I was a goner. Hooked. Captivated. Enamored. Out-and-out OBSESSED.
For me, the music was amazing, so catchy and upbeat. The guys’ dance moves were on-point. But, in between, the song performances, the little vignettes introducing us to Justin, Chris, Joey, Lance, and JC, letting us see their friendship dynamic, stole my heart. These guys were SO FUN. I instantly wanted to be part of their world. I wanted to be in that audience, cheering and dancing along. I wanted to know them and their songs and share in the whole experience.
Ladies and gentlemen, I became an *NSYNC Fangirl for LIFE. My allowance all went to Bop and BB magazines for *NSYNC interviews and posters. My walls were completely plastered (my older sister, who I shared a room with, was not pleased with my side of the room, but she tolerated me). I bought their debut album, first on cassette tape and then on CD. And in November 1998, I would do the same with their Home for Christmas album. I listened to their music on repeat, nonstop, immersing myself in the lyrics, singing at the top of my lungs and dancing in front of the mirror.
MTV’s TRL became my afternoon ritual, and I kept a daily, written record of how the latest *NSYNC single ranked. I ordered their pay-per-view concert and recorded their TV appearances and awards show performances on video cassette so I could watch over and over and over again .(My favorite is still a tie between *NSYNC’s performance with the giant TVs at the MTV VMAs in 2000, and their rendition of Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” they did for MTV’s “Icons” series.)
*NSYNC was even my first concert experience–RFK Stadium in July 2000 and August 2001.
Keep in mind, this was Fandom at the onset of the wider democratization of internet. But I found fellow *NSYNC fans online who then introduced me to the fanfiction (my first dive into the fic world) and read different stories about the guys falling in love with childhood friends, with fans… with each other 😉
*NSYNC’s hiatus (they’ve never broken up, trust me!) hit me hard, but truth be told, the writings were on the wall with “Gone” and the “Girlfriend” Neptunes Remix, where only Justin joined Nelly to record the new parts of the music video. And, by that time, I was also moving onto college and leaving some of my teenhood things behind.
But I can say, unequivocally, that my Fandom experience with *NSYNC taught me about having confidence in myself and how to break out of my shell to connect with other people. *NSYNC opened up my love of pop culture that last until this day, and would be the foundation of my other Fandom experiences with Twilight, among others.
I will love these guys for always and be ever grateful for the joy and fun they introduced to my life. I still listen to Home for Christmas every Thanksgiving weekend… my Christmas season doesn’t start until I have! And whenever an *NSYNC song comes on playlist, my heart still gets so full with feels.
Truth be told, I’m still holding out hope for an anniversary album with one or two new tracks. Dare I even hope for an anniversary concert? Come on guys! It wouldn’t even have to be a tour… just one night only in any city in the world, and I WILL BE THERE.
But for now, I will bask in the glow of my many, merry memories. Thank you *NSYNC. Thank you, and Happy Anniversary.