It was close to a decade ago that a young, impressionable Chris Kirkpatrick witnessed his future. As a student at Dalton High School near Orrville, Kirkpatrick was a member of the Ohio State Youth Choir, which opened for New Kids on the Block during the height of their fame at the Ohio State Fair. While most choral members would now retell that story with embarrassed pauses, Kirkpatrick, a founding member of 'N Sync, recounts the moment as if it were his most defining. "I just thought it was the biggest thing in the world," says the braided singer with a twinkle in his voice.
Despite the financial rewards--and there should be enough to set Kirkpatrick up for life--teen idols can't (or at least shouldn't) enjoy the same perks as rock or rap stars. The 27-year-old Kirkpatrick has to deal with the sobering reality that the majority of his fans spend most of their time adjusting their training bras, watching Felicity, and arguing about who is cuter, DiCaprio or Van Der Beek. "I'm always careful," Kirkpatrick says. "I go out with girls I know. I don't usually go out with the girls that I meet at the venues. So, it's not one of those things where I look around and go, 'Well, I could go out with her, but she looks too young' or anything like that. I go out and perform."
The lure is omnipresent. Though the younger members of 'N Sync could use the "I'm eighteen, she's seventeen" argument, Kirkpatrick isn't as fortunate. Seventeen could get him twenty. "Not at all," he says when asked if he has a babe-alert signal worked out with the roadies.
OK, so Kirkpatrick hasn't indulged in the fruits that many other snakes in his shoes have. He does, however, admit that while the mothers in the audience may not be as hysterical as their twelve-year-olds, they can be more persistent. "Sometimes, the moms are even scarier than the little kids," Kirkpatrick says. "Besides the fact of propositioning or whatever, they are actually more pushy, because sometimes they understand your status more than the little kid does." Yet the men of 'N Sync will not succumb to the temptation: "We don't sit here and go, 'Okay, here's my hotel room' and things like that. When we're on the road, we're very busy guys." Before you mistake Kirkpatrick for an Osmond, note that he does occasionally let down his braids and throw back a few beers with his buddies.
'N Sync's music is pretty much what you would expect: sappy tales of unconditional love, placed harmoniously over urban-based rhythms and dance-friendly beats. 'N Sync has puppy-love competition in the form of the Backstreet Boys; both groups are tutored by the same management and honed their song-and-dance routines in Europe before making it big in the States. Kirkpatrick says that the two bands enjoy a healthy rivalry, onstage and off. As appealing as a pay-per-view Backstreet Boys vs. 'N Sync Death Match might sound, the closest these pop princes have come to blows was a game of basketball a few years back in Europe. (Score one for the Backstreet Boys.)
Approximately midway through the three-year lifespan of a heartthrob pop band, 'N Sync seems to know that seemingly invincible empires fall apart sooner rather than later. While his mind prepares for the decline, Kirkpatrick's heart naively hopes for the best: "I'm not going to speak for those other groups, but I do know there are also exceptions to the rule. Look at groups like Boyz II Men, who were considered just a pop phenomenon when they popped out. And now they've had successful albums after that. I think we have the talent and staying power."
Kirkpatrick will have a chance to see the other side of staying power when his path again crosses with a New Kid's. Jordan Knight, attempting to resurrect his slumbering career, will open for 'N Sync on its amphitheater tour this summer.
'N Sync. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 24, CSU Convocation Center, 2000 Prospect Avenue. The show is sold out.