Once upon a time, maybe 20 years ago, I loved NSYNC. Maybe not as much as my older sister, who had the screen name “justinsgirl309” on AIM, but I was as big of a fan as a 7-year-old could be. NSYNC officially disbanded in 2004, Justin Timberlake went solo, and the rest of the groupmates scattered to the wind, appearing on various random shows. (Chris Kirkpatrick playing Chip Skylark on The Fairly OddParents meant a lot to me as a kid.)
I was skeptical when I saw NSYNC getting back together on shows like Hot Ones and making silly TikToks together. Lots of old boy bands have been reuniting to tour and cash in on nostalgia. Maybe it’s elitist of me to say I didn’t want my old, fond memories of NSYNC washed out by the kinds of new promotions that feel like cheap cash grabs. I was even more concerned when people started commenting on the group’s TikToks, saying, “They’re only together for the Trolls movie.”
For the TROLLS MOVIE? Yes, I knew Mr. Timberlake voiced one of the two main characters in the 2016 animated movie Trolls and its 2020 sequel, Trolls World Tour. But I only really knew about the Trolls films through my nieces: Back in 2016, I was talking to my cousin about her daughters’ interests, and she said, “Oh, they’re just obsessed with the Trolls movie right now.” I didn’t think anything of it. I had no particular desire to watch Trolls. I’d heard it had a great soundtrack, but I wasn’t in the right age bracket for these movies, and that’s OK.
This all changed in the last week, when my TikTok For You page was flooded with clips of the new movie Trolls Band Together. At this point, it almost feels like I’ve watched all the important scenes from the movie via TikTok. I’ve seen every song that the Betty Spaghetty-like villains Velvet and Veneer sing. I know they ate every song. (How many letters are in “DEVOURED”? Eight. They ate. This is what all the TikTok comments on these videos say.) I have not watched the actual movie — only a massive amount of TikTok clips.
By the time Trolls took over my TikTok feed, I had admittedly forgotten about the NSYNC promotion videos I saw two months ago — until I scrolled and got smacked in the face with “Better Place,” the song the boy band made for Trolls Band Together. And it’s good. It’s really good!
I know NSYNC was mainly just Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez singing. I know Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick literally had zero individual lines in most NSYNC songs. And it seems like the line distribution in “Better Place” repeats that pattern. I realize that apparently I’ve just been wanting Justin and JC to sing together again. But something about the song tickles my brain just right. I can’t get it out of my head. I keep humming and singing the chorus whenever I do anything.
There is actually also another version of the song that Branch (Timberlake’s Troll character) sings with his brothers toward the end of the movie. Some people think that version is better. I don’t know if I agree with that. The harmony is nice and Kid Cudi kills it with the ad libs, but I just like the more upbeat pop-y version better.
“Better Place” alone made me go back and watch the previous Trolls movies. Trolls is on Netflix, and Trolls World Tour is on Peacock, though I wound up paying $7.99 for a digital copy instead. My professional opinion? Trolls World Tour is better than the original Trolls. Where does Trolls Band Together rank? Based on TikTok clips and that soundtrack, at least, it might be better than Trolls World Tour. I’ll find out eventually.
“Better Place” has been playing in my house 24/7. I fear my partner is getting annoyed with me. But he should be happy, because this means he doesn’t have to listen to me complaining about how NSYNC came back for a damn Trolls movie and created a garbage song. They did it right.