I saw the Pop Odyssey concert six times in person, so it’s understandable that I would have doubts about the Pop Odyssey concert video. When you’re sitting so close to the stage that Joey notices you’ve had the same seats two nights in a row, the same performance on a small screen – minus the opportunity to reach out and touch living, breathing popstars – just isn’t going to measure up. And I’m not even going to be coy and make you wait for my assessment: The video doesn’t measure up. Not even.
Pop Odyssey did have its moments. But, overall, the video feels like it was rushed into stores (despite multiple delays, and the even longer delay for the DVD). The packaging is shoddy, making the MSG and Making the Tour cover art look almost elegant. The sound, in most places, is akin to talking on a cheap cell phone just at the edge of your coverage area. And even though Joey, JC and Chris apparently had a hand in editing the footage, it is often disjointed. They’ve chosen to include some of the videotaped skits, and left out portions of others. The backstage footage is usually nothing more than See Lance walk backstage. See him walk back on.
Despite all this, it’s worth buying (like any hardcore fans weren’t going to, anyway). The boys are still hot, are still playful, and, if nothing else, it’s a nice souvenir of a live show that was infinitely better, at a much lower cost.
And because no bit of *NSYNC merchandise can pass without rambling PopGurl-type comments, here are mine.
Setting the Tone
The video begins in a very bizarre manner, with Chris standing alone in the hallway of an arena in a pair of tight pants. He looks both ways and says, “Everybody ready for a show? Where is everybody?” The screen goes black, and suddenly the loud clacking of a manual typewriter begins, and the word “popodyssey” appears on the screen, with the lame definition. This is, of course, the way the actual show began, except the original skit went further with Joey, The Nerdy Professor. It was better that way, and built more tension prior to the appearance of the infamous Punk!Sync – which might, by the way, be the best reason for the existence of the DVD, because you’ll be able to pause on them, all eyelinered and mohawked. Immediately you hear the opening strains of music, and the show starts. The entire opening, which takes about five minutes, feels cobbled together. Unlike the countdown in MSG, which makes your heart pound in anticipation, my mind was trying to piece all the parts together in a logical sequence, and I was completely caught off guard when The Boys appeared on my screen.
The D&G outfits, even on my 36-inch television screen, look horrible. I know they were necessary given the size of the crowds on the tour, but when you see them here, especially JC swimming in his long blazer, it begets a whole new appreciation for the Normal Boy clothes they’re wearing on the Celebrity tour. I’ve heard that the boys only filmed one concert for this video (and don’t even get me started on what a bad choice that was), and I think it’s clear that Lance understood this, and worked his hot ass off to make his dance moves as tight as possible. He’s all locking his arms like he thinks he’s JC or something. Speaking of JC, I’ll give a shiny nickel to anyone who will make me a GIF of the floorhump from this video. Because. Yes. The camera gets JC from the front, and he’s completely spread-eagled, and all the muscles in his arms are bulging, and you see him go down and thrust at the floor from the view of being between his arms. It makes up for the fact that the Diva Hips moment goes to Justin. Although I have to say, I’ve never seen Timberlake do it quite so well as he does here. (NOTE: I never watched Justin do it live, because, you know, JC.) And, finally, I have to bitch about the fact that, during the stripping of the shirts, the camera cuts away to the cheesy graphics on the jumbotron. I have needs, people! One of those being the sight of Lance tearing off his clothing.
Unlike some television appearances, where it would appear the camera guy has a big crush on Justin, I have to give kudos to the editors for making sure everyone gets equal screen time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chris so much in my life, which is good, because I realize he has his own set of fans, but bad because he opens the show in a sleeveless shirt. Now, there should be rules. Chris doesn’t have hot arms. Justin, who does have hot arms, is wearing sleeves. This is wrong. For the first time, ever, I watched JC during this performance and thought he was going through the motions. Something in his eyes is just…dead. I don’t know how else to explain it. Maybe he’s tired, as this show was at the end of the tour, and maybe he’s sick of performing the same songs over and over. But even though he’s still breathtakingly athletic and doesn’t miss a single moment of emoting, something isn’t quite right.
God Must Have Spent Blah Blah Blah Timecakes
In a moment of supreme stupidity, Lance’s entire introduction of the song is left intact. Stupid, because it will forever date this video with the words, “You’ll get to hear songs from the brand new album, Celebrity, before anyone else!” Years from now, my hypothetical grandchildren are going to refuse to watch this, because it’s sooo 2001. The sound is a real problem here, as are the cheesy puffy cloud graphics. At the end, we get to see The Boys walk backstage to get ready for “Two of Us.” In one of my favorite moments of the entire video, Lance breaks into the Extra Gay version of the Lance Dance, while Joey mugs for the camera.
Two of Us
JC introduces the song, starting with “How you guys feelin’ out there?” His voice is flat, and he sounds as if he couldn’t care less how anyone was feeling, he just wants to go home and pull the covers over his head. He doesn’t even smile. I haven’t seen the choreography for this since last summer, so I forgot exactly how much I love it. Honestly, it’s god-awful stuff. But it’s so freaking good. The slow-mo sequence is just as brilliant as ever, and, when it’s over, JC skips back to join the others. I am given hope that he’s going to liven up before the video is through. And, as if the video needed any more strikes against it, the cameraperson does not get a good shot of Justin crouching and thrusting on the ascending stairway. A missed opportunity, to be sure.
Between shots of The Boys changing backstage (more on that in a minute) we are treated to the Lance/Chris-narrated cowboy skit. Another shiny nickel to someone who’ll make me a sound file of Lance saying, “Our music was tuneful, up-tempo, repetitive, and aimed at the general public.” The backstage costume-change stuff should not be as hot as it is. But, first, Lance pulls off his shirt to reveal a sweat-soaked black tank top. Second, JC comes out of a little dressing room so that someone can strap him into his chaps, and you can’t miss the smallness of his waist and hips. Finally, Justin has a hot crotch. I know I’ve said this before. When he’s strapping on the chaps, and everything is framed so nicely, and his jeans are fitting so snugly: It’s all good.
There are more weird editing choices for the song itself. After we see them strapped into their harnesses and watch them fly off the top of the stage over the crowd, the camera cuts from one guy to the other in a dizzying way. I was excited to see the choreography from the middle platform, because I had never seen it live because of my seats, but there’s a distracting horse whinnying noise that I can’t recall at all from the show. To sum: Platform dancing good, whinnying horses bad. There’s a moment when the boys are running toward the mechanical bulls (which look completely unnecessary and dumb here, even with JC grinding prettily) when JC stops and turns to Justin, and shoots him with his fingers, while Justin pretends to be riddled with bullets. I might have been opposed to the violence if it weren’t so damn cute.
This really is one of the worst numbers of the entire video. They’ve cut up Chris’s scripted banter about the mechanical bulls so that it barely makes sense, and just when I thought everything would be okay, and there would be a funny striptease to appease me, they cut to him standing alone with his chaps slung over his shoulder. I’m not sure why they left his part in at all.
For some reason Lance is extra-smiley when he comes back out onto the stage. I could theorize why this is, but let’s pretend for a moment that every thought I have about him isn’t R-rated. Sound problems abound. Poor Justin is completely hoarse, and when JC comes in on the chorus, he drowns out the rest of them. On the second chorus, Chris and Lance take turns being the one who doesn’t blend, and then Justin comes back at the end so loud that he overwhelms a fully-emoting JC. When JC comes out on the catwalk to sing his verse – let me interject that any time JC sings a solo in a ballad, I fall totally in love with him and his earnestness – the screams are so loud that he can’t hear himself sing. I am overcome with a protectiveness of him. The girls are screaming and reaching for him, and he’s just trying to do his J-O-B. Like a good performer, though, he stops to touch a few hands, and even the way he touches makes me sad. He looks fed up with it all. I also realized that Joey may be a flirt, but he’s a very sincere performer.
More transitions between the skit and backstage changing. Justin picks the flower, the other boys button their cuffs. Justin cries, JC puts on his hat. Justin realizes she’s gone, and Lance twirls his microphone around and around. As the boys climb the ladder to the stage, tattooed stage manager Anthony pats Chris on the ass.
Love or hate Justin Timberlake, you cannot deny how fucking expressive he is. Every single part of him – hands, shoulders, eyes, forehead, chin – is able to show emotion. It’s so amazing to watch that I’m almost sad when the camera cuts to the others, even if Lance is doing his patented Stair Lounge. Really, I want to watch Justin try to keep his hips still while sitting down, and I want to watch him prowl down the catwalk, safe in the knowledge that some seriously sexy thrusting is about to occur. Except. EXCEPT. It doesn’t happen. Just like they cut swearing out of On the Line to keep their PG rating, it would appear they cut out the thrusting to protect the fragile psyches of young fans everywhere. Instead, we see Justin fall to his knees and pound on the floor. Then it cuts to a very tight shot of Lance (who looks young and sweaty and not very hot in his bowler hat) and then to JC (who looks hotter than anyone should in a bowler hat). Back to Justin, who is turning over. Just when I’m preparing myself for the thrusting, it cuts to two girls standing near the catwalk with a camera. Their eyes get enormous, and one of them swoons into the other. I know what’s happening! I know what he’s doing! And I can’t watch! It’s terrible. Bastard.
This song was hokey live, and it’s downright creepy on video. Seeing a grown man, no matter how hot, hoisting a big stuffed dog on his shoulders is like the worst pedophiliac porn. Joey, sitting in the lap of a giant teddy bear, actually sings a song, in a little baby voice, about how he “loves to hug the teddy.” I’m more lenient with JC and his little red wagon, because every night I saw them live, he said something more adorable. On the video, he says to the dancer in the wagon, “I’ve had about enough of you. It’s time you GET OUT OF MY WAGON!” At one of the Oakland shows he said, “Thank you for choosing JC Air.” To up the creepiness factor, there is a strange moment with the dancers, offstage, where they all shimmy their asses directly at the camera.
So they start as little boys playing with their super neat toys, and turn into grinding, growling men the minute Justin says, “Aw, get yer freak on.” I want it to be hot, but I just feel dirty, and I think the camera guy agreed, because instead of pulsating hips, the video has random shots of JC’s ugly pants and ugly tennis shoes. During the “Y’all know that we came to rock, give us some of that dirty pop,” I got up to get some water, so it’s possible I missed something cute there. I did not, however, miss the fact that they introduce the dancers, but never, ever introduce the band. The band which, in my opinion, is even more talented than The Boys themselves.
See Right Through You
Justin starts off this song sounding about an octave high, and like he has a head cold. That is immediately eclipsed, however, with the fact that every single one of them is hot. Just, amazingly, painfully hot. And when JC sings, “Does he freak you the way that I do,” I lost all ability to speak for about ten minutes. Sitting on the catwalk in Las Vegas, JC was standing right in front of us when he sang this line. On the word “freak” he proceeded to shimmy his ass independently of the rest of his body, and I think I might have lost time. Every person who buys this video will be cheated out of that moment, because the camera will not go below his waist. Instead, you see the shimmy start low, and work its way up. You have to imagine the rest. If you can recover from that, there’s a cute moment where JC and Chris race down the catwalk immediately after.
I think they love this song as much as I do. They’re all so playful, and Chris coerces them into doing the robot. The choreography is oodles of fun (although it’s even better on the Celebrity tour), and it distracts from the crappy sound. As they’re doing the chant on the sloped ramp, they have preserved for all time the sight of Lance doing the Original Three Signature Moves ™ from a crouching position. Genius! And I can probably die a happy woman now that I’ve heard Justin riff a few bars of “The Humpty Dance.” JC, bless him, actually sticks to the Velcro wall, something I never saw in six shows.
Skit, backstage, skit, backstage. I think this is my favorite skit of the show, and I often call up Melynee and say, “Hey baby! What’re you doin’?” in my best JC voice. The video disappoints me yet again when Justin appears onstage in his kick-ass leather jacket. Live, Justin is menacing and aggressive as he chastises the female dancer for using him. Here, she’s just sort of an annoying presence, and they keep cutting to shots of the hoochies readying to go onstage. Once again, I’m struck by how much I love the non-costumes from the new tour. In a horrible fashion blunder, Chris is wearing a gold lame bucket cap. But even though the dancer’s outfits are equally hideous, I have a moment of love for them here, when I realize that all of them are built like actual women. Women with tight asses, sure. But women with hips and breasts and thighs. Then I get distracted because Lance is doing the “Celebrity, celebrity” chant.
The Reading of Fan Letters
I hate to say this, because I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I think Joey is an idiot. But, you know, Joey is sometimes an idiot. He stumbles over the letters like he doesn’t know how to pronounce simple words. And in another terrible editing fuck-up, he thanks “you guys in the theater.” See, Pop Odyssey was supposed to be a concert movie. Given the quality of the footage, I can see why it’s not. But why couldn’t they edit that out? It’s not like they cared about consistency of dialogue or anything. In between the letters The Boys sing “Something Like You” and “Falling.” While Chris fans are rejoicing because he actually gets to sing the song he wrote, I got bored and fast forwarded. Dude. “Selfish” is next. It’s not like I can be patient and wait for it.
Best. Ballad. Ever.
JC’s emoting in this song makes me cry almost every time, especially when his voice goes all raw at the end of words. When he adlibs “I’ve searched my soul down deep inside,” while nearly doubling over in his emotion, I tipped sideways on my couch and said, “Oh, god.” I cannot explain my reaction to this song, or this boy in this song. I fear I might be a big sap deep down, and I’m ashamed.
Also, they almost fuck it up by letting Justin riff at the end, and while I am normally all for Justin’s riffing, I want him to step. Off.
By this point in the show, all of them are slick with sweat, and I can’t wait for the DVD so that I can pause on Lance’s muscley deltoids, bunching and wet. JC, strutting around in his tulip pants, seems to have woken up enough to make every dance move about sex. He has a hip swivel so lethal that it rivals anything the Former Infant can throw at us. Because the editors clearly didn’t know what was lame, and what wasn’t, they left in the stupid fireball gag. You’d think I’d like it, what with Lance’s low voice saying, “He’s lost his touch,” in regard to Justin. But no. It’s dumb. I did get the answer to a long-standing question of mine, though. I always wondered if the “His eyes wander round” hand motion that Justin does in MSG was actually choreographed or his own touch. And I still don’t know that, I guess, but Chris and Lance both do it here. I think I would be more amused if they picked it up on their own.
This is a mess. It’s exciting to see The Boys strap on the big rubber chest pads and stuff backstage, and I geekily enjoyed seeing them get into the people-powered elevators that shoot them up to the stage. But if I had never seen the show, the subsequent choreography wouldn’t make a damn bit of sense. There is no explanation of Mobius 8 (In concert, there was a wonderfully-rendered comic book introduction), he just appears on stage searching for the word “pop” on Yahoo!, leaving those viewers not in the know wondering why Captain Picard is wearing a shiny cape and trying to find *NSYNC websites. This is more great choreography that just looks cheesy on my TV, and makes me painfully aware that only JC and Justin have the crispness to really pull it off. Again, I am struck by the curviness of the dancers, who get big gold stars for having the wrinklies to wear white rubber bodysuits that will be preserved in photographs for all eternity. When the boys defeat the “Fight Boss,” I want to stand up and celebrate with them. JC and Lance bump chests! Chris and Justin lock ankles! Maybe, if the mister is home, I can get him to do the hand-holding “We won” dance.
More injustice: We get crowd shots instead of close-ups on the big screen introduction. “I know there’s nudity! Show me the nudity!” I shouted the first time I saw this. Alas, by the time the camera goes tight on the screen, The Boys are just lolling, shoulderless heads. Randomly, Justin yells, “If you want it, let me hear you scream!” as soon as he gets onstage. I’m sorry, but taken out of context, that’s some really hot porn. This song might be the only part of the video that I like better than the live concert. Everyone is hot, sweaty, tousled. They’re all wearing good shirts. There’s angry punching and bouncing. The hotness is overwhelming. Justin, trying to work the crowd into a further frenzy, screams, “Dance! Everybody dance!” He’s so forceful! I kept expecting, though, for him to continue with “Dance, motherfucker, dance.” How happy I would be.
So they disappear from the weird Faberge egg-like gold thingies. I maintain that they slide down into the stairs, and are then wheeled off and are on their way to the buses before the curtains drop to reveal the empty boxes. There is a tiny bit of footage of The Boys running to the buses, and then clips of each boy talking about an aspect of the tour. There’s blackness, credits, loud music and crowd shots, and then Justin and Chris appear quickly in what I think is supposed to be witty banter.
Obviously, the reason to buy this is clear: Even with shitty sound and editing, *NSYNC is comprised of five fucking hot boys who know how to move in sexy ways. I might advocate the use of alcohol to dull the rough edges on the Pop Odyssey video. I, myself, am keeping my fingers crossed that the DVD will be better put together.
Images captured by the lovely Miss Dacey Ellis