Song: ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’
US chart peak: 1
Release date: June 13, 2000
Writers: Max Martin, Andreas Carlsson, Rami Yacoub
Producers: Rami Yacoub
Quintessential Max moment: “It’s gonna be mae-y”
Video synopsis: Terribly-styled pop dolls come to life in a Toys R Us
As is the way with things like capitalism and pop music, once something reaches a mass audience and starts making a shitload of money, people want to replicate and reproduce it. That’s all very well if it’s an actual product that can be mass-produced, but pop stars – despite what you might think – are real people and they get tired and bored and cover themselves in awful tattoos as thinly-veiled cries for help.
After it took so long to get the Backstreet Boys off the ground, manager and currently incarcerated mogul Lou Pearlman not only realised he needed to capitalise on the wave of boybands that would follow in their wake, but also wanted a back up option should the original malfunction. So, without telling the Backstreet Boys, Pearlman put together *NSYNC (there are so many variations on their name but I’m sticking to *NSYNC, so there), even recruiting the same manager, Johnny Wright (also without telling them).
*NSYNC were quickly put to work with writers and producers from Cheiron, their first two singles – 1996’s ‘I Want You Back’ (US Number 13) and 1997’s ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’(Number 59) – both featuring in-put from Max Martin. Once again, the band focused on Europe to start with, waiting until 1999 to have their first US Top Ten with dreary ballad, ‘(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You’. By their second album, 2000’s ‘No Strings Attached’, however, they started overtaking the Backstreet Boys as America’s premiere boyband, with the latter releasing the lacklustre and tellingly-titled ‘Black & Blue’ that same year. It would be their last album for almost five years.
‘No Strings Attached’’s lead single ‘Bye Bye Bye’ – thought to be a kiss off to Pearlman who they’d parted ways with – was created by Cheiron regulars Kristian Lundin, Jake Schulze and Andreas Carlsson. A US Top 5 it was then eclipsed by follow-up ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’, the band’s first and only US Number One single (one more than the Backstreet Boys). From the very opening second, ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ feels like vintage Cheiron – that opening jackhammer synth riff; the bubbling percussion that softens it all slightly; the way melodies seem to tumble over melodies as Justin Timberlake stops and starts throughout the first verse. There’s also a beautiful sense of dynamics too – it softens (“But I’m not like them”; the almost choir-like middle eight) then hardens (“Guess what? It’s gonna be me”) on a dime, with the chorus’ tempo constantly speeding up and then falling away. It also features the other Max Martin calling card of that era – the overly nasal vocal, Timberlake relishing being able to draw out “me” into an almost comically long “ma-ey” (it’s now become an internet meme of course because, well, the internet).
Oh, also, towards the end there’s a second chorus that is just as good as the first as JC Chasez and Justin take the song to pop heaven as they coo “all that I do, is not enough for you” like petulant angels.
Released just after Britney’s ‘Oops I Did It Again’, at a time when Stockholm had become inundated with A&Rs looking for the next big hit, in a way ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ represents the last hurrah for that particular sound, with Max scoring just one more US Top Ten hit before his pop-rock epiphany in 2004. Thankfully it’s a delirious, almost suffocating assault of perfect melodic wonderment.