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A few weeks ago, NME.COM trumpeted the return of *NSYNC with a review of 'Pop' which concluded that if 'Celebrity' followed in that first single's footsteps it stood to be the most sophisticated pop album ever made. Well, the results are in. And...

Well, 'Celebrity' fails to disappoint on virtually every level, and if *NSYNC are really following in Jacko's footsteps as much as 'Pop'suggests then they won't have any problem emulating his technique of releasing six singles off one album. 'Celebrity' will leave Jive spoilt for choice while other pop acts' greatest hits albums will suddenly seem like a shoddy collection of B-sides.

In fact, it's not too much of an overstatement to say that 'Celebrity' could very easily be one of the most exciting, futuristic pop albums ever made. Talk of rivalry between *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys must stop now: *NSYNC have set their sights even higher, and if the Michael Jackson album is better than this he's a very, very lucky man.

1: 'POP' (3.57)
Written by: Justin Timberlake/Wade J Robson
Produced by: BT/Justin Timberlake/Wade J Robson
You may already have heard this one. Apparently MTV have played the video once or twice. Here 'Pop' takes its full-length form - ie the one in the video - which means we get (a) More gratuitous axe action in the middle eight, (b) More chorus at the end, (c) Justin's human beatbox extravaganza shoved on the back of it all. All three of these are very cool indeed and since the length of the song is still only four minutes you kind of wonder why it wasn't the single version. There are some strange people at work in the music industry.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: **********

2: 'CELEBRITY' (3.17)
Written by: Justin Timberlake/Wade J Robson/J Valentine
Produced by: Rodney Jerkins/Justin Timberlake/Wade J Robson
As the Spice Girls proved, any old fool with a bit of cash in their bank account can wheel out Rodney Jerkins for a bit of knob-twiddling, but this mid-tempo number comes off better than a lot of the Jerkster's recent offerings, and Britney's already had him (on the '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' cover) so it's about time Justin and co. got a bit of his attention. "I've been thinking about the things that satisfy you," Justin muses at the start, "I'm beginning to wonder what you see in me." Turns out it's all about Justin being famous! "If I couldn't buy you diamond rings and all those other expensive things, would you be so into me, if I wasn't a celebrity?" he continues. Now nobody needs paranoia in a relationship but Justin is quite famous and quite rich. Then again so is Britney so the argument sort of falls a bit flat. There is much scratching in the background, there are camera sound effects (because celebrities very often have their photographs taken), there is crowd noise, and there's a bit where they sing "j-o-b" like Gwen Guthrie in 'Aint Nothin' Going On But The Rent', which of course is a masterstroke. Anyway by the end of it Justin decides that he's had enough of it, concluding "Now I'm leaving you behind - I've found somebody who can love me for me". Which is nice for him.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: ********

3: 'THE GAME IS OVER' (3.25)
Written by: JC Chasez/Alex Greggs/Brad Daymond
Produced by: Riprock 'n' Alex G/JC Chasez
Game over for the Backstreet Boys! Produced by top-notch remix outfit Riprock 'n' Alex G (their 'Oops! I Did It Again' reworking is a blinder), 'The Game Is Over' is one of the highlights from the current Pop Odyssey tour and stands up just as well without all the bells and whistles. (Not that there are many bells on Pop Odyssey. Explosions, yes. Bells, no.) "You act like everyone revolves around you," sing The Sink. "Baby, you're droppable and the game is through... You're tryin' to play both sides, you got caught up in your lies and now you're running out of time." All good. Also: vocoder bits of a man repeating the phrase 'Game over, game over' in the chorus. Then there's a sort of 303 axe solo in the middle eight as the band wail "how could you think that you do me like that?" over a mental breakdown bit which collapses and then kicks back in for a load more chorus at the end. One of the various good things about *NSYNC is that they know precisely how many times to do choruses at the end of the songs. 'The Game Is Over' comes complete with computer game blips - but not just any computer game. Oh no. It is the daddy of all computer games, ie Pacman. *NSYNC actually credit the sample! How cool is that? (Answer: almost unspeakably.)
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: **********

4: 'GIRLFRIEND' (4.13)
Written by: Justin Timberlake/Chad Hugo/Pharrell Williams
Produced by: The Neptunes
Peculiar song: if you're expecting The Neptunes ' production on 'Girlfriend' to be the big old spaz-out hiphop stomperama that frequently makes them so ace, you could be a little disappointed. BUT! If you're hoping for a nice little mid-tempo number about nicking someone's girlfriend then you're in luck. "He doesn't even know you're there," *NSYNC declare. "He don't love your eyes and he don't love your smile. The middle of the night, is he gonna be by your side?" A good question. *NSYNC suggest no. "Does the man even know you're alive?" *NSYNC's plan here is to get the girl to dump her current boyfriend. "If you were my girlfriend I would be your shining star," *NSYNC announce. Possibly a difficult offer to turn down, to be honest.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: *******

5: 'THE TWO OF US' (3.50)
Written by: JC Chasez/Alex Greggs/Brad Daymond
Produced by: Riprock 'n' Alex G/JC Chasez
Jordan Knight's 'Give It To You': unexpectedly ace. *NSYNC's 'The Two Of Us': expectedly ace, and rather a lot like 'Give It To You'. Though we can probably sleep safe in the knowledge that *NSYNC will not be appearing in woolly jumpers if this ends up having a video made for it. "When we started baby we were friends, but that's not how this fairytale is gonna end. I was think then it clicked one day - that no-one else has ever made me feel this way." This song appears to be about deciding that you fancy your best friend which isn't really a terribly bright idea unless, possibly, you happen to be Justin Timberlake and Britney, in which case shacking up with your childhood chum has numerous plus points. "I toss and turn when I'm alone," we are also informed. Which, if you're going out with <Britney, is as good as it'll get this side of marriage.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: ********

6: 'GONE'(4.51)
Written by: Justin Timberlake/Wade J. Robson
Produced by: Justin Timberlake/Wade J. Robson
You sometimes wonder whether, apart from the fact that they give you a chance for a bit of a breather when you're performing live, *NSYNC actually like doing ballads very much. They can be a little boring. However! This one is not boring. Starts off with lots of vinyl popping noises - not a particularly innovative idea, but you can't really go wrong with them - and a snatch of the music that accompanies the silent movie they play before performing this live. Fairly stripped-down production (acoustic guitar, pattering beats, violin during middle eight) works well with the theme of the song, which is basically that a relationship has gone tits up. "I've been sitting here, can't get you off my mind, I try my best to be a man and be strong. I drive myself insane wishing I could touch your face, but the truth remains. You're gone." A clock ticks about two minutes into 'Gone'. Nice effect.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: ******

7: 'TELL ME; TELL ME ... BABY' (3.36)
Written by: Max Martin/Rami
Produced by: Rami
Basically as we know, Cheiron (the team of writers and producers responsible for most of the greatest pop music of the past half-decade) have gone their separate ways now but the Max Martin/Rami duo have come up trumps here. Obviously the familiar stops and starts, enormo chord changes and ringtone factor are all in place but Rami's obviously having a right old laugh producing this. The intro, in particular, is an all-effects-blazing blinder (including a bit where it whirrs to a halt and a Syncer chirps "Hold on - you know what? Can we back it up just a little bit?" before it all kicks back in again) while the song itself is a lot more sophisticated than even Cheiron's later output. You will also notice that the title 'Tell Me; Tell Me ...Baby' employs not only a Britney-esque '...' but - that holy grail of all pop punctuation! - a semicolon. Semicolons are brilliant.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: *********

Written by: JC Chasez/Justin Timberlake/Alex Greggs/Brad Daymond
Produced by: Riprock 'n' Alex G/JC Chasez
Upbeat, spunky, full of twinkling sound effects and wibbly bits; one of the best tracks on 'Celebrity'. (Note use of semi-colon in last sentence. See? We were right! They're ace!) Storyline thus: *NSYNC go to nightclub. *NSYNC notice beautiful lady. Beautiful lady "took my hand, never said a word at all". And bangs *NSYNC against a wall! Now there's a thought. In another bit, "she turned around and worked in the worst way". NME.COM is unsure precisely how to interpret this line, but if it's what we think it is then we have only one word, and that is crikey. "What more do I have to say?" they sing. Well, quite. Loads of "we don't, we don't care at all" chanting, then the song goes into a big old "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the cutest one you saw?" nursery rhyme bit, concluding "She's underneath the disco ball, disco ball, standing next to strobe lights". Disco balls? Strobe lights? Surely second and third only to dry ice in terms of brill things that can happen in nightclubs!
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: **********

Written by: Justin Timberlake/Larry 'Rock' Campbell/Wade J Robson
Produced by: Justin Timberlake/Wade J Robson
Another standout track on 'Celebrity'. Seems a lady of some sort has been cheating on *NSYNC (perhaps she's been grinding up against blokes in nightclubs). Chorus: "Look into my eyes, tell me what you see - you see a man who thought you loved me, you played me for a fool but I see right through you. I look into your eyes, I'll tell you what I see. I see a girl who ain't been lonely, you thought me had me fooled but I see right through you." Good lyrics. But they get even better! "These games they've got to stop. About to get pissed off." Yes, hold every front and/or homepage on the planet - *NSYNC use the phrase 'pissed off'. By this point in the album you sort of realise that *NSYNC are getting a bit moody these days, which is brilliant because most pop bands are so busy smiling and jumping off chairs in photoshoots that they forget they're real people who get annoyed - or, indeed, pissed off - about things. This is another upbeat number, and it instantly sounds like a classic. Imagine, if Dane Bowers had managed to get hold of this song he'd probably be able to get a hit single without having to witter to the press about 'haters' in a desperate attempt to generate publicity. Then again, The Bowers Boy wouldn't be allowed within a million miles of a song this good, because he is quite literally Dane Bowers , ie Not The Sink. To be honest the only bad thing about this song is that it's so short. Bring on the extended 12" version!
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: **********

10: 'SELFISH' (4.19)
Written by: JC Chasez/Jolyon Skinner/Veit Renn
Produced by: Brian McKnight
SOUND THE BALLAD SIREN! Not much to say about this little number, really: could have appeared on either of *NSYNC's other albums, but would have been better served as a b-side. Quite a good chorus ("You can call me selfish but all I want is your love, you can call me hopeless baby 'cos I'm hopelessly in love") but it does rhyme "love" with "love" (SOUND THE COPOUT SIREN!) and the verses aren't up to much. There's one bit where the line "If love is a crime, punish me" comes up and you think for one awful moment that the line "If loving you is wrong I don't want to be right" is just around the corner. It isn't, fortunately. Not a future single, one would hope.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: ****

11: 'JUST DON'T TELL ME THAT' (3.02)
Written by: Kristian Lundin/Jake/Andreas Carlsson
Produced by: Kristian Lundin/Jake Schulze
Look, this is just a bloody corker. More of *NSYNC's old Cheiron chums, which should already start 'TUNE' signs flashing in front of your eyes, and yet more grumpiness from The Sink. Another end-of-relationship effort, and "even if you did say you were gonna be there I don't want you back cos it's not about love - just don't tell me that." If it's not about love, what could it be about? Could it be the ice around the collective *NSYNC neck? Or could it all be about sex? Obviously not, as nobody in their right mind would want to do rumpo with Justin. THEN! The song pretends it's Air's 'Sexy Boy' for approximately two and a half seconds. The best bit is when the backing drops out and the chorus "You're. Not. Going. To. Love. Me" is spelt out with a big bang for each word. Probably the track on 'Celebrity' that most resembles anything from 'No Strings Attached'.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: **********

Written by: Justin Timberlake/Robin Wiley
Produced by: Justin Timberlake Robin Wiley
Ballad. Stevie Wonder on harmonica. Blahdy blah.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: ******

Written by: Kristian Lundin/Jake Schulze/Andreas Carlsson
Produced by: Kristian Lundin/Jake Schulze
Not ballad. No Stevie Wonder. Bring it on. Kicks off with trademark *NSYNC harmony showy-off bit then sets the scene - collective *NSYNC monster sees a woman "six feet ... from the catwalk". ie Not ugly. How will they get the girl? Well that's the problem. "How can I get next to her? Tell me how it's gonna be done - will I win or lose this one? Don't care about the fact that she's in a different league. Say it's no use but I try." Now let's just take a short reality check here. Justin Timberlake: the man who has snogged Beyonce and done all sorts of things that aren't sex with Britney. Precisely what 'different league' can this six-foot woman
possibly be in, except perhaps from a different basketball league? That aside, 'That Girl (Will Never Be Mine)' is probably the best song on 'Celebrity', apart from the ones we've already established are the best.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: **********

14: 'FALLING' (3.48)
Written by: Chris Kirkpatrick/Bryan Poppin/Gary Brown/Ira Schickman
Produced by: Roy 'Royalty' Hamilton
Well, we're heading towards the end of the album now so things have slowed down a little bit for all the lovers in the house, or whatever. The best ballad on 'Celebrity', 'Falling' does quite bizarrely actually sound like the PJ & Duncan song of the same name, which you'd imagine is something of a coincidence. You can probably guess the lyrics but the chorus runs a bit like this: "I'm falling, falling, girl I'm falling for you and I pray you're falling too. I've been falling falling ever since the moment I laid eyes on you." Notable for the line "I don't know what's come over me," which is something we can all associate with.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: ********

15: 'DO YOUR THING' (4.19)
Written by: James Moss
Produced by: PAJAM (Paul 'PDA' Allen & J. Moss)
All in all quite a peculiar end to 'Celebrity', a sort of half-ballad half-stomper which has vocoders and includes a spurious bit of harmonising, which maybe isn't such a bad thing. This is a 'Pop Ya Collar'-style song about getting on with what you want to do and not letting the haters get you down. "You're doing your thing and you're doing it well," they insist, which is quite nice. Good rap bit at the end.
*NSYNC-type asterisks out of 10: *******

Not much evidence of Joey contributing much to the writing or production; perhaps he fell down a trapdoor on the way to the studio.

Peter Robinson (