No Strings Attached


Jive / Arista Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez


After this, I never want to hear from any "Daily Vault" reader that I refused to go to the deepest recesses of hell for a review. Foregoing my better judgement, I entered the halls of teenage girls' heroes and picked up the latest smash from boy band *NSYNC. The scars I carry from my trip I will wear never reveal, for they are much too gruesome to the sight and senses of normal human beings.

When the glory days of New Kids On The Block and Debbie Gibson came to an end, many of the then-new groups took refuge in the fair lands of Europe. There, they established careers and gained the training that would help them conquer their native land when the proper time arose. In the late 90s, the opportunity presented itself and, within months, the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC released their debut albums to the waiting masses of teenagers that were tired of alt-rock. Both groups became instant successes and while Top 10 singles and multi-platinum records followed, they worked their hardest at achieving some sort of critical recognition.

The five members of *NSYNC (all the girls scream now: JC, Chris, Joey, Lance and Justin!!!) felt that, to gain this critical acclaim, they would have to part ways with the man who had created their group, the Backstreet Boys, New Kids On The Block AND New Edition, Louis J. Pearlman. (Man, should this guy be hunted down or what?) A heated legal battle ensued between the boys, Pearlman and their record label, RCA. Both wanted the rights to the name 'N Sync and to the master tapes of their follow-up, No Strings Attached. In the end, a settlement was reached and the 'N Syncers left for Jive Records -- home to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears -- and their album was relesed to the kind of success that often solidifies careers for good.

Now, a dark day has come for them. That's correct, I am going to review their album.

Many of us non-interested parties are quick to bundle all of these boy bands together and, in a sense, we're right. Their simply-crafted pop is designed for quick comsumption and mass appeal. It is designed by a team of writers, producers and musicians to stick in your head and not leave until you're forced to buy the album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

*NSYNC apparently understood this and decided that they were going to mix a stronger blend of beats into their songs. Mixing in some hip-hop sounds, the group tries to stand apart from their counterparts. It works on a few tracks, most notably on the lead single -- and smash hit -- "Bye Bye Bye." Their response to Destiny's Child and TLC is designed to be a hit and is annoyingly catchy. Unfortunately, it's about the best track here.

Now, let me note, not all of this pop is bad. Their cover of Richard Marx's "This I Promise You" is well-done, as is the more-standard "That's When I'll Stop Loving You." However, the majority of the tracks range from average to bad. How bad? Well, "yippee-yi-yay" is about the worst lyric I've heard since "comeoniwannalayya" found its way into Ricky Martin's "Shake Your Bon-Bon." That lyric (the yippee) is found in "Space Cowboy (Yippee-Yi-Yay)," one of the poorer strikes by this album -- even with Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes along for the ride. Along with it, there's "Digital Get Down" -- which I thought was about to become about cyberporn -- and "Just Got Paid." They all mix some hip-hop beats with their pop overtones to create DISCO!! (Don't believe me? Hear the beginning of "Just Got Paid," a cover of the 1988 hit by Johny Kemp or the forgettable "I'll Be Good For You." What is that if not disco?)

The bulk of the album though is mostly average - designed for passing glance and rapid dissapearance. From "It's Gonna Be Me" (or is that Meeayy!) to the techno-lite sounds of the title track and to the standard "Bringin' Da Noise" (they're only bringing the noise, because they can't bring in the funk), the album is not meant for deep consideration. At a little over forty-seven minutes, no track ever reaches the five-minute mark. Call this guerilla music, because it comes out, shoots and dissapears before anyone saw what happened.

Now, before anyone launches a Scud at my home, saying that this is not meant for me and I did not get it, calm down. I'm no stranger to pop music. I grew up with Michael Jackson and with Menudo. I understand that pop music is designed to be lite and fluffy and speak of broken hearts and puppy loves. That it must have catchy choruses and danceable beats. I also know that these bands dissapear as soon as their fanbase outgrows them. Which is why I guess *NSYNCc tried a preemptive strike with this album, by mixing in harsher beats to their lite sounds.

Is No Strings Attached a bad album? No, it's not the worst album I've ever heard. However, it does not inspire anything - no fun, no attitude, no style. At its best, it is just another pop album that teenage girls can buy before they go out to get their learner's permit. If the members of *NSYNC were trying for that and nothing more, then I guess they could all go home happy. If, on the other hand, they truly wanted to prove they could create something more meaningful beyond what it is, then the the *NSYNCers and their army of cohorts failed like Battlefield: Earth. No Strings Attached fails to separate them from the boy band pack. Ten million records may fill the pockets, but ask Vanilla Ice and he'll tell you that money can never pay for the ridicule you stand later.

Rating: D

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Alfredo Narvaez and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jive / Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.