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With ‘No Strings Attached’ Turning 20, Is an NSYNC Reunion Any Closer to Reality?

Nine months since JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick and Lance Bass almost broke the internet with their show-stopping Coachella performance, a new year is bringing new anticipation for an NSYNC reunion. There’d be a strong hook for it: 2020 is an anniversary year for “No Strings Attached,” the album that set a first-week record by selling 2.4 million copies when it came out in March 2000, a mark that stood for 15 years before it was bested by Adele. Moreover, Chasez’s recent movements have heightened hopes that this will be the decade the group says Bye Bye Bye to being Gone and tears up our hearts with a long-awaited comeback.

The boy band, who went on hiatus in 2002, last performed as a five-piece while supporting Justin Timberlake as he received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2013 VMAs, then reunited for their Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2018. However, the unlikelihood of Timberlake setting his hugely successful solo career aside to take part in a reunion has remained a roadblock. Variety has learned the singer is planning to start recording new music in February, making his involvement even less likely. (A rep for Timberlake did not respond to a request for comment.)

However, when the band hit the stage as a foursome to perform with Ariana Grande at Coachella, the phenomenal response made a loud and clear statement that the world wants an NSYNC reunion — with or without Timberlake. That left comeback hopes heavily hinged on NSYNC’s other lead singer, Chasez, and his recent sightings have fans hoping he’s quietly helping hatch a comeback.

Shortly after Coachella, Chasez flew to London where he saw Take That in concert and had drinks with the band at Rosewood London. Just like NSYNC, Take That had two lead vocalists (Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow), and while Williams, like Timberlake, embarked on a successful solo career, Take That has succeeded without him.

In August, Chasez and his manager, Eric Podwall, attended the Backstreet Boys’ DNA World Tour in Los Angeles, just weeks after Howie Dorough shared that he had encouraged Fatone to keep *NSYNC going without Timberlake — like the Backstreet Boys did during Kevin Richardson’s hiatus — and discussed potentially touring together. “I’m like, ‘Dude, if we can do it with four of us, so can you!’” Dorough said. “Obviously, Justin was a lead, so it’s different. If it was Nick, AJ or Brian who had left [BSB], it might have been more challenging. But there are fans who would hate for them not to continue just because one person’s doing his own thing, so I’m always encouraging them.”

Chasez has also been hanging with hitmakers like Max Martin, attending the November opening of Martin’s London musical, “& Juliet.” Martin and his team worked on several NSYNC’s hits and Martin continues to churn out chart-toppers today, fueling hopes of a new collaboration.

Days prior, Chasez chatted with Simon Cowell backstage at “The X Factor,” with a source saying Cowell encouraged him to reunite NSYNC “regardless of Justin,” and noted that similarly to the Spice Girls (who reunited without Victoria Beckham), fans simply wish to hear songs they love and grew up with.

Chasez was also recently seen chatting with Grammy winner Diane Warren, who wrote NSYNC songs, at a party.

While it’s not unusual for Chasez to hang with industry and boy band peers, given that he has longstanding friendships with many of them and has penned songs for bands like the Backstreet Boys, his trail flares up hopes that the chances of a comeback are getting stronger.

Meanwhile, in-between television gigs like “Common Knowledge,” appearing in “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” co-hosting podcast “Two Cups of Joe” and running a hot dog business, Fat Ones, Fatone remains plugged into the boy band world — meeting fans on the convention circuit, performing with the Backstreet Boys, and starring in Nick Carter’s boy-bander-bonanza film “Dead 7,” alongside Kirkpatrick. Speaking to Billboard, he said the group isn’t “mentally” ready to reunite, but didn’t rule it out. “It’s not a no, but it’s not a yes, because we may come up with an idea that may not work for all of us.”

Bass, too, has a full plate with his restaurant, Rocco WeHo, booze endeavors like his mixers line, J.A.X, and show biz projects including a documentary, “Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story,” and “The Daily Popcast With Lance Bass.” But he told Variety that the door remained open for a comeback. “I love how passionate fans have remained,” he said. “Coachella was so unexpected. We didn’t expect that reaction. As far as a reunion goes, the door is always open. No conversations are being had at the moment, but who knows what the future holds.”

The update comes after Bass cautioned in June that any potential reunion would be slow-moving. “Since Coachella there’s been really crazy offers, and it’s the first time people have given us actual offers, so we’d be dumb not to talk about it,” he said. “You know how slow we are, so I don’t see this happening soon. But hopefully soon we’ll discuss it.”

Bass added that elevated demand from boy band peers had pushed the possibility to “another level.” In addition to Dorough’s encouragement, Donnie Wahlberg pulled Bass on-stage during New Kids on the Block’s Mixtape Tour in May, declaring it had been “too long without an NYSNC reunion.” “If you can’t get the fifth guy, do it with four— we’ll still all come!” Wahlberg said.

O-Town, who continued as four without Ashley Parker Angel, have also encouraged a reunion. The group’s Pop 2000 tour has been hosted by both Bass and Kirkpatrick, and Jacob Underwood has shared “many” conversations about reuniting without one member.

“We can all relate to the struggles of trying to rebuild something that was once such a well-oiled machine,” Underwood told Variety. “The great thing we always encourage them with is the massive demand they have, with or without five members.”

That demand is undeniable for Underwood, who has witnessed the “absolutely crazy” reception Bass and Kirkpatrick receive at Pop 2000 concerts, where Bass has joined O-Town on-stage as they cover “Bye Bye Bye.” “Hearing how loud fans scream, I couldn’t imagine how they’d respond when three, four or, lord help us, five get on-stage together,” Underwood says.

That’s something Underwood’s determined to bring to fruition with a plan involving getting Fatone to join the tour next. “We’ll slowly have 2-3 of them host together, then we’ve reunited three members, at which point I reach out to JC and say, ‘We have a few shows with three members hosting and it feels weird without you.’ JC would say, ‘Hell yes, I’d love to join!’ — because he’s a super-nice guy. At that point, word would’ve gotten out something really cool’s happening, so Justin will call saying, ‘I want in,’ and boom: I’ve accomplished two goals in one. I’ve reunited NSYNC, and O-Town’s opening!”

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