If fan loyalty is any indication of an album's success, 'N Sync will never feel the sting of a sophomore slump with No Strings Attached, the follow-up to their 10 million-selling self-titled debut. The screaming, crying, and undying devotion of 'N Sync fans worldwide is expected to translate into record-setting album sales for the fabulous fivesome from Orlando, Fla. This time Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick, Justin Timberlake, J.C. Chasez, and Joey Fatone are doing it their way--with no strings attached.

LAUNCH: What will differentiate No Strings Attached from your 1997 debut album?

JUSTIN: I think the album is really cool because as far as pop goes--the new sound of pop is very diverse. It explores a lot of dimensions of R&B within the pop and it also goes totally mainstream, and it goes into some dance and club-style songs. So I think it's a very diverse album. It's for a lot of different crowds if you like top 40 music.

LAUNCH: Why did you decide on No Strings Attached as the title of the album, and how did the title impact the cover art?

CHRIS: Basically, we designed the album because we wanted to show that it looks like we've been puppets on a string, you know, for a really long time now--like our destiny's been controlled by all these other people. But you know, this is the first album that we're going to come clean. And it's--you know, it's our heart and soul in this album. And we enjoyed making this album. We enjoyed working on this album with the producers. And the only reasons that the strings are still attached on the album is so people can get the whole feel of the vibe of, you know, No Strings Attached. That's what we mean by the strings, so they'll understand that we're not puppets.

LAUNCH: Did you approach this project looking to prove something to the critics who didn't believe you would make it this far?

JUSTIN: We want to prove to people that we're not a flash in the pan. You know, like Chris said before, the second album is about credibility, really. You know, anybody can be a one-album group. And that's, you know--well, not anybody. But as far as being respected, you know, there are a lot of one-album groups. There are a lot of one-hit wonders. Now, luckily, we've already overcome that barrier. We've had, you know, three or four songs that have been out there and have really pushed. But the second album is about career now. It's about establishing a career and proving yourself as an artist and a musician. And that's what we're trying to do with this second record.

LAUNCH: What served as the inspiration for the music on the album?

J.C.: The guys actually inspired the No Strings Attached. I mean, every song has its own concept and its own meaning. I think that because we had all the control in the world on it and that we got to write half of it, and, you know, it's actually the music that we like to listen to. And the music that we like to listen to is basically, you know, what are fans our going to like listen to, because half of them are our age.

LAUNCH: Did all of your legal problems last year distract the group from putting all of your focus on creating No Strings Attached?

CHRIS: We just basically felt a little bit hurt by what was going on, but we just wanted to continue business as usual and keep working on what we were working on and keep our eyes focused towards the future, so it just got in the way a little bit.

LAUNCH: Does the group feel more pressure to have a successful album the second time around?

CHRIS: I always think there's pressure because, you know, your second album's the one that establishes you. The first album's the one that people get to know you with. The second album's the one that definitely establishes you. You know, we had a second album in a Christmas album, but that's not really considered a full, you know, album that is of new material. So, you know, it's real important for us to at least establish ourselves with this album.

LAUNCH: Do you think the fans who purchased your first album in 1997 will be there once again to support 'N Sync?

JUSTIN: I think our audience is growing with us, too. I mean, you know they came out and appreciated the first one, so hopefully they will like the second one.

LAUNCH: How did your collaboration with Gloria Estefan on Music Of The Heart come about?

LANCE: What happened was Music Of The Heart was coming out as a movie and Gloria was in the movie. And she was looking for someone to do the duet theme song with. So she gave us a call. And we knew Diane Warren also. And Diane Warren and David Foster wrote and produced the track. And so we went and we actually recorded the song with them before we even met Gloria. We met her first when we had the performance and did the video.

LAUNCH: That must have been an amazing opportunity for the group.

LANCE: That was. I mean, it was a great opportunity because we knew if we did something with a legend like Gloria Estefan, that it would kind of broaden our markets to an older audience, to show people in the Latin market and the older guys what we can do. And I think we did get a lot more respect from that song.

LAUNCH: What about your work with Alabama?

LANCE: The Alabama track came about because we did a song, "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You." And they heard it and loved it and wanted to cover it for country music. And we actually were even thinking about releasing it ourselves as a country song because I really thought it was just an amazing country song--but they called. They wanted to do it. And they, you know, asked if we would come in and do some background with them too. And we went for a day. We were on tour. We stopped in to sing with them. It was a great, you know, kind of like a jam session. It was wonderful. And that turned out great too. It was a huge hit for country radio.

LAUNCH: What is the most important thing that the group has learned over the past year?

CHRIS: I think we learned a lot about the business itself in general--I mean, with the lawsuit and everything that happened to us. We definitely learned the business end of the music business. You know, I think we always have been in tune with the music part and we've always--we've had a lot of experience in the studio and we enjoy being in the studio.

LAUNCH: What is your favorite song on the album, J.C.?

J.C.: I would say my favorite one that I've done so far is probably "Space Cowboy" on the album, just because it's--it's just a great song. I'm just very proud of it. I love everything that happened on the song. And it's not just another, you know, love song. It's actually something else. It's a concept song, which is pretty good.

LAUNCH: Was changing labels from RCA to Jive while working on the album rough for the group as a whole?

J.C.: You know what? We didn't talk about it a lot, because we didn't really think people needed to worry about it. We don't like to show our dirty laundry. We like, you know, we're artists and musicians. And people don't like, go buy our albums because we're business people. So, I didn't--you know, we didn't really think that they wanted to listen to all our business. What we hope is that they want to listen to our music. The way it came about, it was a sticky situation. We were pretty much between a rock and a hard place. And in order--we had to leave our label really at the point where...because we had no choice. We tried to renegotiate a deal. Nobody, you know, they didn't want to bend on the points that we wanted. And, you know, it was either stay there and be in a deal you're unhappy with or take a change and make--that's what we did. And luckily, you know, it worked out the way it did. And now everybody's happy.

LAUNCH: It seems that you took a different direction with the sound of the tracks on No Strings Attached. What did you do differently this time?

J.C.: It's just...it's heavier. It's not as polished, as far as like, you know, pop is always labeled as being cheesy and is bubblegum and as candy because it's sugar and spice and everything nice and blah, blah, blah. So people forget that, you know. I mean, pop, it's a very broad sound. It's not just candy. I mean, Janet Jackson is pop. Madonna's pop. So you're looking at some very diverse artists--Madonna especially. And we wanted to bring something to the table that wasn't, you know, all candy and overly polished. And we weren't too formulated. We wanted to do something that was heavier, a little more in-your-face. Like the sound for 'N Sync is very raw. And, you know, so when you turn it up in the club, the whole place shakes. So it's just heavier. The sounds are a little bit dirtier. I mean, that's basically it. It's just not so overly polished and sweet all the time.

LAUNCH: Can you tell us a little about the tour in support of No Strings Attached?

CHRIS: We go in rehearsals in April for the whole month of April. And then May, June, and July we'll be on tour. So it'll be mostly arenas and I think a few stadiums.

JUSTIN: I don't think we're going to take the touring aspect out of our music. That's always been something that we love to do, is go on tour. Touring is a big part of what we do to us because we get to, you know, bring our music to our fans in a live sense. You know, they get to actually see it rather than just listen to it.

LAUNCH: What do you think your audience is going to take from your new album and your new attitude?

CHRIS: I think it's just--it's fun. You know, our first album had a couple fun songs. But then we had a lot of midtempos and ballads on there. You know, this album, we said, "Let's just come out and have a fun album." So it's mostly uptempos, you know, maybe one midtempo and maybe two or three ballads. But, you know, basically when you hear every track, you're going to listen to it and pull something from the song. And mostly the vibe of the whole thing is just about having a good time. That's why we wanted to keep it uptempo. Because it is our second album we want people to know that this isn't our ending album. This isn't our greatest-hits album. This is something that we want people to know that we're going to be around for a while. We're going to have fun with our music.

LAUNCH: The group has accomplished so much in such a short time. Where can 'N Sync possibly go from here musically speaking?

JUSTIN: I think our main focus is--I mean, I don't know what style we would evolve into. I think it's something that we'll decide when the time comes. Our music is kind of evolving, you know, as we speak. And with this new album it's definitely taking a step upward.

Jason Gelman