A Song That Is a Guilty Pleasure | I Remember What You Said To Me

14 Jul | 30 days of music / art / music / personal | 2 comments

I have to preface this: I don’t believe that anything should really be a guilty pleasure; I don’t believe we should feel guilt over pleasure.

I don’t know. Maybe it would make more sense if I were Catholic?


I always hated NSYNC. I hated their cookie cutter boy band style, I hated the fact that all the girls loved them, I hated the stupid contrived way the group name was formed from the letters of the members’ names. Most of all, though, I hated the music.

I was (and, I suppose, am) a pretentious bastard when it comes to music. At the time NSYNC were big, I was sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen. Prime years for a secretly jealous rockist teenage boy to knock on a boy band, and I didn’t yet understand irony.

As such things tend to go, their career started to wind down. Their appearances on Total Request Live were less frequent, their fans less fervent, their whole existence less offensive merely by dint of decreased ubiquity. It became harder and harder to muster the same hate. And then, one day, the hate was gone.

Because of “Gone”.

I heard this song and finally understood. Unlike many, probably most, of their peers, NSYNC had a decent amount of talent. Which is to say, frankly, that NSYNC had Justin Timberlake.

He was the cute one, the star of the band, from the very start. He was also criminally underused. “Gone” showed exactly how.

The song is his almost in its entirety. The rest of the band is there for the chorus and harmony. It is essentially the first Justin Timberlake song I heard.

In a related story, I am an unironic, unapologetic, and proud owner of both of Mr. Timberlake’s solo records. I think they are both excellent pop albums, something that I am literally incapable of believing my seventeen-year-old self could say. But my seventeen-year-old self had never heard this song and had that moment of clarity.

I suspect that “Gone”, by leading me in the direction it did, had a much more significant effect on my musical taste than I have ever realized. I certainly don’t remember having previously allowed for an unabashed appreciation of a great pop song, regardless of quote-unquote artistic merit. I don’t remember myself as the type of person who would eagerly await, say, Lady Gaga’s next move in the sheer hope that her spectacle, her status as the biggest star of the time, and her artistic acumen could in fact lead her to transcend pop and become an icon in the way of, say, Michael Jackson or Madonna.

My younger self would have scoffed at the very notion. My younger self would have knocked such an ambition, because really, who are Michael Jackson and Madonna?

Potentially crazy? Absolutely. Probably criminal? I’d believe it. But that I would have denied their power… that was a terrible, nigh unforgivable mistake.

That is one among many things for which my teenage self can never be forgiven. I’m just glad I was able to listen when NSYNC’s call came for me to wake up, that I was able to start getting better.


  1. Adi

    Ughhhhhhh. No can do. The sobbing sound in his voice makes me insane. My friend Soph, who is completely music-obsessed, LOVES JT and consistently tries to convert me, but I’m squeamish about giving him a real shot. I listened to the first minute of this track and had to turn it off.

    But then, I also hate Michael Jackson.