Monday, March 25, 2013

My Long, Serious History With Justin Timberlake


Two of my all-time favs - Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z - are going on EFFING TOUR TOGETHER. It's almost like they're doing it JUST for me. This is like the last 14 years of my musical life mashed together into one concert experience, and my mind has practically just blown right out the side of my head about it all.

But before I hyperventilate or just drop completely dead, I'd like to go back to the beginning for a moment or two... and reflect on the origins of my fandom.

I still remember the first music video I ever saw Jay-Z in... It was Foxy Brown's "I'll Be" and I was in 8th grade. It was around the same time that Jermaine Dupri's Life in 1472 album was out, with Jay accompanying him on Money Ain't A Thing. I was a little late to the Jay-Z party, having totally missed Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime, Volume 1... but by 9th grade, I'd copped Hard Knock Life, Volume 2 and was totally versed in "Hard Knock Life" and "Can I Get A..." In fact, I relished the latter coming on over the speakers at high school dances because I could school everyone on every lyric from Jay's to Ja's.

Becoming a fan of Jay-Z was easy for me, since I'd been a fan of hip hop since about 2nd grade. I had the 1992 Kris Kross Totally Krossed Out cassette, watched plenty of BET (my parents had blocked MTV on our televisions), was a fan of Queen Latifah, Zhane, SWV and En Vogue, and could not get enough of the "Nuthin But A G Thang" music video. Man, what a party that looked like.

Boy bands and Justin Timberlake fetishes, on the other hand.... those started out as more of a joke. It's time for this story to take a dark turn, as we delve into a detailed account of my long, serious history with Justin Timberlake. Hold onto your hats.

Oh sure, I dabbled in NKOTB as a youngster... I owned an NKOTB sleeping bag and a set of "I (heart) Jordan" earrings, but I was really too young for them to have any real lasting impact on me. I was like four years old.

Fast forward to 1999 when I went to an 'NSync concert with my friends Rachel and Patrice and my sister Mallory. Rach was obsessed with boy bands at the time, and the rest of us thought it was hysterical. When 'NSync was set to perform in Albany, NY, we thought we'd entertain Rachel by going to the concert with her.

JOKE'S ON ME, as it turns out, because I was immediately turned into a teenybopper during that show. The dancing. The heartbroken pop songs. The outfits. It was all too much. I blacked out and woke up with an 'NSync t-shirt on and a self-titled 'NSync CD clutched tightly in my fist.

From there, things deteriorated pretty rapidly.

I listened to the CD constantly. I'd bring a CD player into the bathroom with me and play the album while I showered. I was buying Tiger Beats by the dozen, scrutinizing entire racks of teenybopper mags for seriously a half hour before deciding which ones to buy. Soon, friends were giving me those ENORMOUS jumbo pencils (super popular in the late 90s/early 2000s) with 'NSync pictures on them and I had my mom rushing home from work to record Rosie O'Donnell appearances for me.

And Rosie O'Donnell was really just the tip of the "TV appearances to record" iceberg. There were stacks upon stacks of VHS tapes in my house, each with the same threatening message scrawled across them: "*NSYNC TAPE - if you tape over this I will KILL you!!!!"

VHS tapes of Nsync TV performances
.  exhibit A  .
I wasn't joking either. Ask any member of my family.

Each tape was also meticulously labeled with details of which performances could be found on it:

VHS tapes of Nsync TV performances
.  exhibit B  .
My one 'NSync CD somehow turned into fourteen 'NSync CDs. Yes, fourteen. You may ask, "'NSync had FOURTEEN albums????" To which I'd reply, "They've got even more than that if you're digging into their expensive import albums and singles released overseas in Sweden before they were even famous in America."
nsync albums, nsync CDs
.  yikes  .
My bedroom walls and ceiling became covered - and I mean COVERED - with 'NSync pictures and posters. It was a big room, too, so there were a lot of freaking pictures. (I shared the room with my little sister, too, the poor thing. She had absolutely no identity in the bedroom except for the lone Britney Spears poster that I conceded to allowing on the ceiling. Sorry, Markie.)  God knows how much money I spent on magazines and pictures to hang up on my walls and inside my locker. Oh yeah, inside my locker, too. You think this addiction stopped at the door of my home?! Nope. Everyone who knew me knew I'd become freakishly obsessive about this boy band.  I was doing 'NSync-based projects at school, amassing a nice stockpile of 'NSync-inspired ceramics, short stories and essays.
drawing of nsync logo
.  i made this  .
This was all pre-Facebook, obvi, so Internet chatrooms were the proper outlet for me to compare myself to other girls in terms of how "serious" each one REALLY was about 'NSync. And there was a hierarchy, ladies... so if it's the year 2013 and you're not writing a blog about 'NSync then I'm pretty sure it's obvious who the "Queen of That Shit" is.

collages of nsync pictures

collages of nsync pictures

Other Internet-related 'NSync fan activities included reading legit fan fiction (you have no idea the seedy underground involved in this one, people), searching out the very best photos of the fab five (and using every expensive ounce of ink inside my parents' printer cartridges to print out what must have amounted to hundreds of them - please see above and below examples), reading chat transcripts from AOL-sponsored 'NSync/fan chats (pre-Twitter, this was your only chance to interact online with a celebrity), weeding through fake Justin Timberlake AIM accounts, and trolling eBay for ultra-expensive concert tickets.

collages of nsync pictures

I ultimately ended up at nine of those concerts, by the way. Many of which I paid an insane eBay price to see from the world's shittiest seat.

nsync making the tour videoOnce in 2001 I made my mother drive me to Long Island, NY to see 'NSync perform at the Nassau Colosseum and then threw an absolute FIT on the highway when we got a flat tire and would only end up getting to the performance two hours early, rather than the five or six I was aiming for. In the parking lot that day, I participated in a radio-sponsored dancing contest for front row seats and backstage passes. I didn't win.

Speaking of dancing, did I mention that I knew the choreographed dance moves for all their songs and am pretty confident I could still perform them to this day, thanks to the wonders of muscle memory? Because that's true. 

Also speaking of concert-related contests, here's a heart-breaking tale:

In the summer of 2003 my friend Jamie and I heard about a contest for backstage passes and front-row tickets to a joint Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera concert that would be coming to Albany. The contest was easy enough - just make a cool sign and then come on down to the arena that night to try to win the tickets. Jamie and I made the most incredible banner - not just a sign, a BANNER - using tons of small photos of Justin and Christina to write out the radio station's frequency - 102.3 - in huge, 3 foot tall numbers. For good measure, we added hundreds of cut-out pictures of lips to the rest of the banner - representing the KISS 102.3 radio station. We spent weeks on this thing and it was good.  I've never in my entire life been so sure that I was going to win something. We KNEW we were going to win. There was absolutely no way we couldn't. We told our friends and family to stay tuned, because the next time they saw us they'd be staring at two chicks who just watched Justin Timberlake perform from the front freaking row... and off we went to New York to claim our well-deserved prize, giddy as we could possibly be.

Long story short:  KISS 102.3 gave away the tickets to practically every shitty fan there except for us. In a "salt in the wound" move, the final set of front row tickets was given to a little girl and her mother - neither of whom EVEN HAD A SIGN. THEY DIDN'T HAVE A FUCKING SIGN!!!

nsync and britney spears your #1 video requests and moreJamie and I were disgusted. Dis. Gusted. The entire thing was a sham. I could not believe that we hadn't won. We literally threw our banner into the back of the radio station's white van (we didn't even want to look at that stupid sign anymore), told them to eff off, and contemplated just driving straight home to Pittsfield with our heads hanging in shame and our proverbial teenybopper tails tucked between our legs. Instead, though, we scalped a couple of (again, super expensive) tickets from some old guy who was out in front of the arena taking advantage of the assortment of devastated contest-losers, and we went inside to see the show. It was great. But it would have been a lot better if we'd gotten backstage or been in the front row. Curse you, 102.3. Curse you.

It wasn't the only time I was slighted in my quest to be 'NSync/Justin Timberlake fan Numero Uno. Lesser fans than myself made it onto MTV's FANatic show to meet 'NSync, that's for damn sure. Don't think for one second I've forgotten about that, MTV. If MTV were a boy, it would be a boy who should be sleeping with one eye open. 

For a year or so of my 'NSync obsession, I pretended that Lance was my favorite. I didn't want to be as generically "into" Justin as every other girl on the planet was at the time. But I knew the real truth. Justin was the cute one. And the funny one. And the one with the best dance moves. And the best cornrows. Wait, what?? Yeah, I stuck by his decision to rock the occasional cornrow hairstyle. Shit, I rocked it myself now and then in high school. Clearly, with the bounty of white flav between the two of us, we were kindred spirits. I had it in my head that surely - SURELY - someone who was as big a fan as I am must at some point meet their idol. Right?? At some point the stars must align and the boy band gods would shine down on me with a beacon of light that would lead me, coincidentally, right into the same {book store / movie theater / mall / NYC street corner / airport terminal} that Justin was chilling in. 

To this day I'm still waiting for that to happen.

And so here we are, fourteen years after my first 'NSync concert, still talking about it. To my family, I really want to say... I'm sincerely sorry for everything I put you through because of Justin Timberlake from the years 1999 to 2003. I hope that someday we can all look back and laugh about it.

Ha... ha... right?

UPDATE: Well after I wrote the bulk of this blog (and bought my tix to the Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z Vancouver concert!) I discovered I won't be able to attend due to some super ultra important scheduling conflicts. And just like that, the dream is dashed!!! Wish me luck in my solution to this issue ;) The quest to meet my idol lives on.

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  1. hah! oh dear you just killed me with this one. i remember rushing to the mall in between school and softball practice with you and Rach and whoever was driving (Kayla?) on the day No Strings Attached was released. just for fun not due to any obsession of mine, because I wasn't quite as lame, ehem I mean cool, as the two of you.

  2. One of my favorite parts of writing this was knowing that I'd have several witnesses to confirm everything. Thank you for still being friends with us Angie! :)

  3. Haha I love this! You were SERIOUS girl! I mean, I liked Nsync, I had a couple of their cds, I bought JT's first single album and I still think he's a talented and funny guy, but WOW nothing compared to you! :)

  4. I loved reading this because I was such a teeny bopper as well! (although I was more of a BSB fan!) I love your references to Rosie O'Donnell's show...used to love watching that! And all those VCR recordings! Hahaha!

  5. Wow! You're right-- I CAN totally relate... except my obsession was with 98 degrees! I had many of those VHS tapes labeled with "DO NOT TAPE OVER" too! Hahaha!!


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