1995–97: Formation and debut
Chris Kirkpatrick, who had missed the cut for the Backstreet Boys, met with Lou Pearlman in 1995 to talk about forming a second group. Pearlman said that he would finance the group if Kirkpatrick would find other young male singers. This prompted Kirkpatrick to call Joey Fatone, a friend he had met while working at Universal Studios. Then, Fatone and Kirkpatrick approached Lou Pearlman for more suggestions. Pearlman looked through some tapes they had, and one of Justin Timberlake from The Mickey Mouse Club caught his eye. Timberlake soon joined the group and recommended his friend JC Chasez, who also was a cast member on Walt Disney Channel's Mickey Mouse Club. Soon, they decided to even out their sound by recruiting Jason Galasso as their bass singer.
NSYNC received its name after Justin Timberlake's mother commented on how "in sync" the group's singing voices were. The group's name is also a play on the last letter of each of the initial members' names: JustiN, ChriS, JoeY, JasoN, and JC.
After several weeks of rehearsals, the group set up a showcase and began planning to officially sign with Pearlman's Trans Continental Label. However, at the last minute, Galasso dropped out. He was not fond of the group's musical direction, claiming that being a teen idol was never a goal of his. In need of a bass, the group auditioned several people without success. Timberlake soon called his vocal coach, who suggested a 16-year-old from Mississippi named Lance Bass. Bass flew to Orlando to audition and was immediately accepted into the group. He was nicknamed "Lansten" so they could keep the name 'NSYNC.
From there, Pearlman set the five boys up in a house in Orlando, Florida, where they rehearsed constantly, learning dance routines and vocal parts, and working on promotion for their first public performance at Pleasure Island on October 22, 1995. Pearlman hired Johnny Wright, manager of the Backstreet Boys, to manage the group. NSYNC sent him a two-song demo-tape including "I'll Be Back for More" and "We Can Work It Out", which impressed him. The group performed for him and a group of BMG executives. Although the record company had some concerns with the band's name and Bass's dancing abilities, they agreed to sign the group to BMG Ariola Munich with Wright as their manager.
After being signed to BMG Ariola Munich, the group was sent to Sweden to begin working on their debut album with the help of producers such as Denniz Pop, Max Martin and Andreas Carlsson. The album's official lead single, "I Want You Back", was released in Germany on October 7, 1996, and entered the top 10 in Germany on November 18, 1996. With a record deal finally secured, the boys began touring first in German-speaking countries and later in other European territories. Their self-titled debut album was initially released by BMG Ariola Munich on May 26, 1997, in Germany, and peaked at number one in the second week after its release. The group soon became an overnight success throughout much of Europe. The album also charted successfully in both Switzerland and Austria eventually selling 820,000 units in GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria) region and Eastern Europe. The group released its second and the third singles, "Tearin' Up My Heart" and "Here We Go", both of which managed to reach the top-10 in numerous countries in Europe.
1998–99: Breaking the American market and legal battle
NSYNC captured the attention of Vincent DeGiorgio, an A&R rep for RCA Records. After seeing the group perform in Budapest, he eventually signed them to RCA in 1998. The American label had the group record some new tracks to adjust their album for the US market. The group released its debut American single, "I Want You Back" on January 20, 1998. It reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. An album called NSYNC followed on March 24, 1998. Album sales were sluggish, debuting at No. 82 on the Billboard 200, but were helped when the Disney Channel aired a concert special on July 18, 1998. The concert was first offered to the Backstreet Boys, but they had to back out due to member Brian Littrell needing heart surgery, later doing their own special in 1999. Three weeks before the concert, the album sat at No. 85 on the albums chart; three weeks after the concert, the album reached number nine. The group's profile continued the rise with subsequent single release "Tearin' Up My Heart", which became a hit on pop radio and one of the "100 Greatest Songs of the 90's" according to VH1. Regular touring, including an opening spot on Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope Tour, and television spots on shows like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch also bolstered sales for the album, which was eventually certified diamond for shipments in excess of 10 million units.
On November 10, 1998, the group released a holiday album, Home for Christmas. The album peaked at No. 7 and sold 2 million copies. With this, NSYNC achieved the rare feat of having two albums in the Billboard Top 10 at the same time. The group scored its first top 10 on the Hot 100 with their third single, "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on You", which peaked at No. 8 in February 1999. Country group Alabama later re-recorded the song and released it as a single that featured vocals from NSYNC. The fourth and final single from the album, "I Drive Myself Crazy", was a modest chart hit, but a mainstay on Total Request Live. In September 1999, the group collaborated with Gloria Estefan on a song for the soundtrack for her movie Music of the Heart. The track "Music of My Heart" reached No. 2 on Billboard's Top-100 single chart and served as a stopgap between album releases.
In 1999, NSYNC entered a publicized legal battle with Lou Pearlman, due to what the group believed were illicit business practices on his part. NSYNC sued Pearlman and his record company, Trans Continental, for defrauding the group of more than fifty percent of their earnings, rather than his promise of only receiving one-sixth of the profits, similar to his promise of one-sixth of the profits with the Backstreet Boys. The group threatened to leave and sign with Jive Records, which prompted Pearlman and RCA to countersue NSYNC for US$150 million and the use of the name. Pearlman's request for a preliminary injunction against the band was denied. After reaching a settlement out of court, NSYNC signed with Jive.
2000–01: Groundbreaking success and No Strings Attached
With their legal woes behind them, NSYNC refocused and worked on tracks for its second album. In January 2000, the group released "Bye Bye Bye", an upbeat dance track, which shot into the top 5 of the Hot 100 and spent 5 weeks atop the Hot 100 Airplay chart. The song is often considered the group's signature song.
The accompanying album, No Strings Attached, was released on March 21, 2000. It sold a record 2.42 million in its first week of release. By the end of 2000, it had sold over 9.9 million copies. No Strings Attached was both the best-selling album of the decade and top-selling album of 2000. As of August 2012, No Strings Attached was the eighth best selling album of the SoundScan era which received a Diamond Certification from RIAA for sales of over 11,099,000. The album was all-time bestselling pre-ordered album on Amazon.com.
The second single, "It's Gonna Be Me", became the group's first No. 1 single in the U.S. and peaked at No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100 from July 29 to August 11, 2000. The third and final single, "This I Promise You" reached the Top-5 on Billboard's Top-100 single chart. They performed the Spanish version of this song, "Yo Te Voy Amar" at the Latin Grammys in 2001. The group also embarked on a World No Strings Attached Tour that year. The adventures of preparing for the tour were featured on an MTV special "Making the Tour", which was later released on DVD. The tour was then featured on a HBO special, which aired the same week the group's song "It's Gonna Be Me" hit No. 1 on the charts. The group then went on the second leg of the tour in the fall and performed one last show in 2001 for the "Rock in Rio" concert. The group also released Live From Madison Square Garden, a home video release of its HBO Special.
2001–02: Celebrity and hiatus
The group's third album, Celebrity, released on July 24, 2001, produced three singles: "Pop" (#19 U.S.), "Gone" (#11 U.S.) and "Girlfriend" (#5 U.S.). The album featured much more creative involvement from the group, especially Chasez and Timberlake, who wrote and produced several of the tracks. The album sold 1,879,955 copies in its first week, making it the second-fastest-selling album in SoundScan history at the time, only behind the group's previous album No Strings Attached. To promote the Celebrity album, the group embarked on a four-month stadium tour entitled the PopOdyssey Tour. The tour earned over $90 million, becoming one of the biggest tours of 2001. In 2002, the band promoted their album further by embarking on the Celebrity Tour, which earned nearly $30 million. Following the tour, the group went on a hiatus. While it was initially meant to be temporary, the group never recorded music or toured together again.
2003–present: Occasional appearances
The group still attended award shows and events together, and regrouped at the 2003 Grammy Awards to sing a televised Bee Gees medley in tribute to that band. They were slated to begin work on a new album in the fall of 2003, but it never materialized. They performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at the 2004 NSYNC Challenge for Children. According to Bass' 2007 memoir Out of Sync, written after Bass won the Human Rights Campaign Award for his work in the gay community after his coming out, a meeting was held in the summer of 2004 to discuss the band's future where Timberlake announced his decision to leave the band. In 2005, the members regrouped again for the last NSYNC Challenge for the Children, but did not perform. In the fall of 2005, NSYNC released a greatest hits album. It included one song, "I'll Never Stop", that had previously not been released in the US. In 2007, Bass confirmed the group's breakup. In January 2010, the band released another album, The Collection, consisting of singles released only in the UK. On August 25, 2013, the members of NSYNC regrouped for a one-off performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. They performed a medley of "Girlfriend" and "Bye Bye Bye" during Timberlake's 15-minute set leading up to his acceptance of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Their introduction included non-vocal elements of "Gone" in the background. After the performance, Bass said that the group does not have any plans at the moment for a reunion tour or new music.
On July 29, 2014, a compilation of *NSYNC's hits and unreleased songs titled The Essential *NSYNC, was released. Bass said of the album on his radio show, Dirty Pop: "There's a lot of these songs I don't think I've ever heard, I remember recording them but I've never heard them before, so I'm interested in just hearing them." Chasez tweeted about the album's release, stating: "I had the strangest dream last night that some old friends and I had a top 10 record on iTunes. Crazy right..." Kirkpatrick said of the album; "It's great to release some of the songs that had never made a record before! I'm glad our long time fans get some new music!" Fatone also said; "Pretty interesting this album comes out, which I really had no idea, and it's in the top of Amazon and iTunes... we owe it to our fans. Thank you." Fatone and Kirkpatrick starred in Dead 7, a western zombie film written by Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter. The film premiered on April 1, 2016 on the Syfy channel.
On April 30, 2018, NSYNC reunited to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.