We don't hate teen pop. Really. Actually, "I Want It That Way," "Genie in a Bottle," and ". . . Baby One More Time" were some of our favorite singles last year. But we gotta admit we really don't get 'N Sync. If any of these new teen pop sensations are headed for the Bay City Rollers/New Kids on the Block/whoever closet of forgotten daydreams, it's JC, Justin, Chris, Joey, and Lance. Of all their contemporaries, these five guys are the ones who look and sound as if they just stepped off a factory assembly line. But the little girls understand. 'N Sync's latest album, No Strings Attached, sold something like a zillion copies during its first week, and the group's summer arena tour sold out immediately.
But when one of the best things about your album is a song written by cheesy pop star Richard Marx -- you know you're in trouble. Then again, leaving a ludicrous song like "Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)" in the incapable hands of member JC Chasez and filling out No Strings Attached with tunes like "It Makes Me Ill," "Digital Get Down," and "Bringin' Da Noise" (as if those titles weren't bad enough) doesn't exactly top the list of "Things to Do If We Want to Matter Two Years From Now." Unlike the Backstreet Boys, whose robotic moves and sounds occasionally strike something of worth (like the aforementioned "I Want It That Way"), 'N Sync never really seems to latch onto a groove. Even when it approaches one, as on "Bye Bye Bye" and "It's Gonna Be Me," not only does it sound strained, the street vibe the quintet applies comes off phony. Like the suburban mall kid throwing down hand signals and stylin' as if he was middle-class rebellion's answer to Snoop Dogg, the 'N Sync boys are laughable. They give teen pop a bad name.