Music Article

Pulling 'Strings'

EW Online explains how the guys developed their punchy new songs

With their album ''No Strings Attached'' selling 811,000 copies to remain at No. 1 for the second week in a row, 'N Sync is now hoping to hit their second target with fans and music critics. ''Our two goals with this album were to get a No. 1 album,'' 'N Sync's manager Johnny Wright tells EW Online, ''and to totally distinguish the sound between 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.''

To do this, the boys went to the Swedish team of Cheiron Productions -- the songsmiths behind such 'N Sync hits as ''Tearin' Up My Heart'' and such Backstreet staples as ''I Want It That Way'' -- and said they needed to change their tunes. ''We basically told them, We like your concepts for songs and we love the way you produce,'' says Wright. ''But you're gonna have to do it in a different way so that it conforms to how we want our sound to be.''

What resulted are harder-edged tunes like the up-tempo smash ''Bye Bye Bye,'' which some critics think refreshingly revs up the usually ballad-driven boy band sound. Entertainment Weekly music writer Rob Brunner calls the ''hip-hoppish'' song ''amusingly arrogant.'' And ''Bye'' caused the Village Voice's music editor Chuck Eddy to predict ''this is the year teen pop really starts to kick.'' The album also includes contributions from R&B hotshots Teddy Riley (Blackstreet) and Kevin ''She'kspere'' Briggs (TLC, Destiny's Child, Pink), who produced the groups' favorite cut (according to Wright) ''It Makes Me Ill.''

But the biggest change on the new album -- and indeed a radical break with the boy band formula -- is that the group went behind the boards themselves for a few cuts. Wright explains that early in the recording process some producers and songwriters were still submitting tunes in the vein of 'N Sync's earlier, softer sound. ''The guys said, 'Look, if we can't find what we're looking for, then we'll have to do it ourselves,''' says Wright.

In the end, group member J.C. Chasez wound up cowriting the title track and three other songs. And blond frontman Justin Timberlake coauthored and produced ''I'll Be Good For You,'' which EW music critic David Browne calls one of the most pleasurable and least contrived moments on the album. ''I'm not convinced that any of them are groundbreaking talents,'' says Browne, ''but the fact that Justin produced such a fine summer breeze of a song means you can't write them off entirely.'' Already more than 3 million CD-clutching fans agree.

Originally posted May 10, 2000
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