FFWDing to the Best Part: “Pop,” ‘NSync (2000)

The Beatles v. The Rolling Stones.  Jay-Z v. Kanye.  Led Zeppelin v. The Who (if that’s a thing). Bryan Adams (the Canadian Bruce Springsteen) v. John (Cougar) Mellencamp (the Indianan Bruce Springsteen). And … Backstreet Boys v. ‘NSync?

This last debate very nearly ended friendships around the turn of the millennium, and I was always on the Backstreet side, so to speak.  I liked more of their songs, they were better dancers as a collective, Nick Carter was cuter than JT, Chris Kirkpatrick’s whole getup freaked me out, Max Martin played a bigger role in BSB song production, and they hit the collective consciousness a tiny bit earlier.

Of course, the ‘NSync legacy has multi-hyphenate and all-around amazing talent god Justin Timberlake to prop it up, while the Backstreet Boys keep churning out vaguely harmonious soft rock. (Nick did date Paris Hilton, if that ups his Q rating at all.)

But just as I — a Beatles devotee — can appreciate the hell out of the piano bridge in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” I can find my toe tapping at the occasional NSYNC effort. Including this, the first single off their third and seemingly final album, Celebrity.  Often mistakenly referred to as “Dirty Pop,” the song title is actually just one word. Like the U2 album or Michael Jackson kingdom.

Best part? At 2:41 , JC Chasez demonstrates why he is (and perhaps always will be) the better vocalist than the infinitely-more-successful Timberlake. Making vocal runs seem pretty darn easy, he calls back to the lyrics of the chorus in a new, literally elevated. The smooth flow of his descant is a nice offset to the staccato, almost robotic feel of the regular chorus.

 

Why do I have this bootleg video here? You ask. Well. It’s because the “official” video subs out JC’s runs as described above with a decidedly sub-par attempt from JT! Right there, at 3:06! His entire life of privilege began in this moment!

 

In the fall of 2013, I purposely tuned into the VMAs in real-time for the first time since Britney wrapped herself in a python.  Rumors were all over the Twitterverse that the five original ‘NSync members would be reuniting.  And reunite they did. For about 45 seconds, with Lance/Chris/Joey/JC acting as four white-boy Supremes behind Justin Timberlake, who was in the midst of an 11-minute tour de force.  It was awkward. Making it more awkward still was poor, poor JC, who insisted on doing a presumably unrehearsed flourish of notes as his former “band’s” portion of the performance drew to an abrupt close. his performance on “Pop” is everything this wasn’t — confident, necessary, and polished.

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My Oscar Wish List (In Which I Pick My Own Best Actors)

Sunday night’s Oscar broadcast was fine, I suppose. It was nice to see Billy again, even though much of his scripted material felt flat and hacky. Meryl was humble and deserving (though I not-so-secretly rooted for Michelle) and you gotta love Jean Dujardin’s victory. Though my friends Beth and Anne said “He didn’t even have to say anything!,” I argued that this fact made his job that much more challenging.

I recalled, however, the 2009 Oscars, when my beloved Kate Winslet nabbed her first golden statue (Best Actress, The Reader) on her sixth nomination. I was legitimately swelling with happiness for her. “It’s about time,” I thought, even though she was only 34 at the time. I may have cried a little, okay? It was memorable.

This year’s Oscars? Not so much.

Last year’s Oscars? Other than Melissa Leo acting a fool and Corey Haim being snubbed from the “Those we have lost” montage, there was nothing much to write home about. At least not from where I was sitting.

Once again, I’d like to see an actor I really root for nab the grand prize, even while I acknowledge that these prizes in actuality mean very little (see: two Emmy plus two Golden Globe nominations and Sheen, Charlie). ANYHOO, here are five Oscar winners I would love to see one day. Soon.

1. Leonardo “Leo” Di Caprio.  

Awards-season history: Three Oscar nominations, for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, and Blood Diamond. One Golden Globe win (The Aviator) and a slew more GG nominations: Gilbert Grape, Titanic, Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, Blood Diamond, Revolutionary Road, and J.Edgar. He probably should have scored at least a few extra Oscar nominations there as well.

Leo has come bursting out of the pretty-boy stereotype, taking on challenges like the occasionally terrifying Frank in Rev Road and the complex tortured titular character in J. Edgar. He never phones it in, he always immerses himself, and perhaps his greatest (only?) flaw is taking himself too seriously.

Rumor has it that ‘The Academy’ didn’t approve of his late-20s shenanigans with the so-called ‘p*ssy posse.’ C’mon, folks. He was a good-looking, rich, talented A-lister. He’s NOT supposed to be a player?

2. Justin Timberlake 

Awards-season history: Nothing. Yet.

So Ronald Reagan went from matinee idol to California governor to two-term President. FINE. But going from Mickey Mouse Club alum to Oscar nominee?  Wait … Ryan Gosling already did that? FINE. So going from Mickey Mouse Club alum to boy-band alum to pop idol to wardrobe-malfunction participant to Oscar WINNER? Epic journey. JT is bursting at the seams with acting talent, as evidenced from his very first SNL hosting gig. If he stretches his chops beyond silly rom-coms, he will astound people. Just you wait.

3. Richard Gere 

Awards-season history: Two Golden Globe nominations for Pretty Woman and An Officer and a Gentleman. One Golden Globe win (Chicago). No Oscar nominations.

In 2003, Chicago was the talk of tinseltown. And when the Oscar nominations came out, every principal in the cast was nominated: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly. All except Gere, who had won the Golden Globe and who was — in many critics’ and fans’ eyes — the best part of the film. Dude learned to tap dance, for God’s sake (see below).

Now, ten years before that, in 1993, Gere was banned from being an Oscar presenter after using the awards show to proselytize about Tibet, denouncing the Chinese government in the process. Perhaps not the venue, but certainly other actors have followed suit (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Sally Field, etc.)

If this remains true (not to mention the Leo rumors), it really makes me wonder. Are these ‘offenses’ really worse than A) giving Quaaludes (allegedly) to a 13-year-old before hooking up with her or B) cheating on your partner with your common-law stepdaughter? Because both those guys? Have recently won Oscars.

So while Richard isn’t necessarily one of my favorites, I’d like to see him turn in a performance so moving that the Academy is forced to acknowledge (and reward) it. He is still owed such a superlative from his performance as Billy Flynn.

 

4. Michelle Williams 

Awards-season history: Three Oscar nominations, for Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, and My Week With Marilyn. One Golden Globe win (Marilyn). Also GG nominations for Brokeback and Valentine. 
Michelle is the new Kate Winslet. Super young, enviably talented, and an Academy darling. Throw in some personal tragedy (remember when she was just Mrs. Heath Ledger?) and a sugary start in the business (The WB’s Dawon’s Creek), and she has future-Oscar-winner all sewn up. Better make a place in your Brooklyn brownstone for at least one of those statues, my dear. Side note: I love how she always brings Busy Phillips (now on Cougar Town but we all know her from Freaks and Geeks and/or Dawson’s) as her date to award shows. Yay for BFFs!
5. Glenn Close 
Awards-season history: Six Oscar nominations: The World According to Garp, The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liasons, Albert Nobbs. Four Golden Globe nominations: Maxie, Fatal Attraction, 101 Dalmatians, and Nobbs.  No wins, though she does have 3 Tonys, 2 TV-related Golden Globes, and three Emmys.
Poor Glenn Close is often thought of as the poor-man’s Meryl Streep. Both are aging gracefully with unpredictable wavy flaxen locks. Both have masculine-sounding names. Both are fabulous, and yet Glenn comes up short. Think she is not one of the greatest working actresses of our time? Watch Season One of Damages, a brilliant series on fX. Her portrayal of Patty Hewes makes Attraction’s Alex look like, well, Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek. 
Honorable mentions: Alicia Silverstone, Corey Feldman. What I wouldn’t give to see Cher Horowitz or Edgar Frog up at the podium, thanking their loved ones and blinking back tears. But first — as I’ve mentioned before — we need to jump-start their careers.
Riddle me this: Who gets your vote for future Best (Supporting) Actor/Actress?