Title track ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Digital Get Down’ follow the forceful, lively style of ‘Bye Bye Bye’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’, and aid in carving out a distinct sound for the group, shifting from the torch-song direction the Backstreet Boys were headed toward.
It is unfortunate, because based on the writing Timberlake later displayed on Celebrity and Justified he is clearly a capable composer
‘Bringin’ Da Noise’ is a useless stadium romp which might excite a sports crowd but does little to stimulate the musical mind. ‘That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You’ is a passable ballad, but it falls in the same disappointing category as fellow ballad ‘This I Promise You’. Despite being composed by ballad genius Diane Warren (‘Unbreak My Heart’, ‘I Turn to You’, ‘How Do I Live?’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ etc.), considering what she is capable of, the song is inadequate. ‘I’ll Be Good for You’, Timberlake’s only co-write on the album, gives a premonitory glance to the R&B and soul influences he would display more prominently on his solo release, but these influences don’t gel very well with Nsync’s style. ‘I Thought She Knew’ is a deflating ending, though it is quite a competently approached a cappella attempt. It also features the only main vocals by Chris and Joey Fatone. Lance Bass never gets the click now vocal spotlight. This is probably a good thing.
Unlike their rivals in the Backstreet Boys, Nsync never attempted to share vocal duties. Throughout this record, it is quite clear that Justin and JC Chasez are the frontmen. Both are excellent singers, and though JC can oversing and Justin has an odd tone (and that’s not how you pronounce ‘me’, buddy), both are quite distinct and though boy bands were abundant during this time period, unless you’re utterly unschooled in pop, I don’t think you could mistake an Nsync song on the radio.
Get the greatest hits, follow Justin’s career, and forget about all the rest
Though Justin and JC had notable writing prominence on No Strings Attached’s follow-up, 2001’s Celebrity, on this record their co-writes are few and far between. Justin only has one, JC only three. Musically, this record is very much someone else’s show. Still, it is best not to lament what could have been.
Is No Strings Attached deserving of its place in the annals of pop music? Probably not. It has a few outstanding pop tracks, and little to no filler. It is enjoyable from start to finish, and Timberlake and Chasez show unbridled promise on this record which, in Timberlake’s case, came to fruition soon enough. The pair are talented frontmen, but the rest of the group is just so bland and ordinary. Granted, this album is a vast improvement on their debut, and a necessary stepping stone for Celebrity and, indirectly, Justified, but it isn’t amazing or awe-inspiring in the way that pop records can be. After listening to this group endlessly over the past six or seven years, it is clear that, though their records are not below-average or disappointing, Nsync are best remembered as a singles band. You won’t be pained by listening to this record (‘Makes Me Ill’ and ‘No Strings Attached’ are fabulous), but there is better music to vest your energy in. Like B*Witched.
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