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’N Sync reunion at MTV Video Music Awards: Rumor or reality?

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the Backstreet Boys just finished a tour with Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees. The third band on the tour was New Kids on the Block.

What does it mean that ’N Sync might reunite for Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards? Or that the Internet is gabbing about the prospect even though there’s really no proof that it’s a possibility?

It means the world, burdened by so much already, must grapple with more difficult questions: Does Justin’s solo career really need this kind of stunt? Did Lance issue a non-denial denial yesterday? What are the names of the band’s other three members? Can’t we leave the boy band thing to One Direction, whose members caused a real-life frenzy in London’s Leicester Square this week at the premiere of their 3D film, “This Is Us”?

The ’N Sync reunion chatter was triggered by the New York Post, it seems, whose sources told Page Six that the band would perform at the Barclay Center to celebrate Timberlake, who will receive the VMA’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

Other media outlets, including The Washington Post, posted their own news stories about the reunion, citing Page Six or each other, then “updated” those posts as it became clear that the reunion might be more fiction than fact.

On his SiriusXM show Tuesday night, erstwhile ’N Sync member Lance Bass, 34, implied that the reunion was only a rumor that stemmed from his Instagram account, where he posted a photo of himself and two other former bandmates at one of Timberlake’s shows last week in Florida, the state that served as an unholy hatchery for the boy bands of the late 20th century.

The online frenzy over reunion rumors was “so nice to see because, you know, when we ended things 10 years ago, there was no social media,” Bass said on his show. “So I mean, there was no Twitter fans, that type of stuff, but it’s so cute to see how many people are supporting [us]. ’N Sync was even trending.”

Trending on Twitter, though, is not quite the same as trending in real life, which ’N Sync used to do in a major way. The boy band had two of the top five Billboard-ranked albums in December 1998, a feat last accomplished 30 years before by the Beatles.

Remember December 1998?

Of course you do.

Bill Clinton was facing impeachment.

Julia Roberts was “Stepmom.”

Kosovo was falling apart.

And the boys were singing.Don’t wanna be a fool for you

It’s tearin’ up my heart when I’m with you

But when we are apart, I feel it, too . . .

’N Sync equaled millennial puberty: shiny skin, shinier clothes, bad accessories, worse hair. And yet that over-harmonized, over-produced sound has come around again, nearly a generation later. The trio behind Destiny’s Child brushed off reunion rumors and then, whaddayaknow, reunited during the Super Bowl in February and made late-20-somethings feel like they were back at prom. The brothers Hanson — all of whom are fathers now — released a new album in June. New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees (Wikipedia describes them as an “adult contemporary boy band”) just finished their joint reunion tour this month. Britney Spears, 31, releases her new album next month.

So whether or not it actually happens, an ’N Sync reunion seems written in the faded stars, especially because Timberlake has an album, tour and ego to promote.

And so what? If the Rolling Stones can perform in their 70s, why can’t ’N Sync reunite and perform in their 30s? History repeats itself even as time marches on, creating a kind of cultural whiplash, and we numb ourselves by redefining repetition as nostalgia. If ’N Sync does reunite Sunday, there will be screams in the Barclays Center as people joyously relive their youth and inwardly realize how old they are.

Dan Zak is a feature writer and general assignment reporter based in the Style section. He joined the Post in 2005, after stints as an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a city-desk reporter and obituary writer at The Buffalo News.



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