It has been 17 years since ‘N Sync released a new album, but you would never know it from the volume of screams on Monday afternoon, when all five members of the group made a rare appearance together as they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
At the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, thousands of fans lined up hours early so they could see Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone united again. The boy band, which became an international sensation after launching in 1995, is still quite the draw.
“This is one of the most enthusiastic crowds we’ve ever had,” gushed Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, as he ticked off the group’s accomplishments: 30 million albums sold in the United States and 42 million more sold worldwide. They charted a dozen singles on charts from Top 40 to country; toured the world in arenas and stadiums; and “redefined” the boy band as they collaborated with “grown-up” artists such as Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion and Richard Marx.
Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres gave a brief speech that turned into a roast: “Of course, the band is made up of the cute one, the bad boy, the sensitive one, the sexy one and Joey,” she deadpanned. Fatone seemed to find it hilarious, even as loyalists in the crowd did not. “We love you, Joey!” several people screamed.
The dunks on Fatone continued. Carson Daly, the former MTV TRL host, helped rocket ‘N Sync to fame in the United States when their singles “I Want You Back” and “Tearin’ Up My Heart” were already popular in Europe in 1998. Daly made fun of the band’s former look — Kirkpatrick’s cornrows, Timberlake’s perm — and added that he spent the most time with Fatone, who was “25 years older than the rest of the guys.”
Again, the audience started chanting Fatone’s name in support. But Daly was mistaken: Kirkpatrick, at 46, is actually the oldest in the group; Fatone is 41. On stage, Kirkpatrick appeared to try to remind Daly of this, but it was a lost cause.
Finally, the guys were allowed to talk. “I didn’t know it was going to be a roast,” Timberlake said. Then he got sentimental.
“For all of you who came from far and wide to share this moment, this really means the world to all of us,” he said. “These four guys mean so much to me, and we’re really a family. The memories that we have and the times that we’ve shared and the families that we’ve built from it, I don’t really think I could put into words how much the four of you mean to me. Just through hard times, through unbelievable times, through times when we were going ‘What the …?’ I just love you all so much.”
This all culminated in a group hug. Chasez paid tribute to songwriter Robin Wiley, the group’s vocal coach, who died of cancer in 2006, and credited her as “the apostrophe” of ‘N Sync. Kirkpatrick and Fatone also spoke, as the latter joked that “you can also see me performing at Chuck E. Cheese.” And Bass gave a particularly heartfelt speech as he talked about being terrified to tell anyone he was gay during ‘N Sync’s years in the spotlight.
“At the time, I thought I’d never be able to tell anyone,” Bass said. “I thought if I had come out, ‘N Sync would be over. So out of fear, I kept my secret.”
The massive cheers and applause that followed showed that ‘N Sync doesn’t have to worry about losing fans anytime soon. As the five guys posed for pictures with their star and their families, fans started yelling, “Reunite! Reunite!” and “Sing! Sing!”
So, Chasez took it upon himself to give the crowd what they wanted. He jumped back onstage and sang the group’s most famous line, which has also become a meme: “By the way, in case any of you didn’t know,” he said, “Tomorrow, it’s gonna be May!”