Pop Life

Michael Nagrant / 07.25.01

The corner of McFetridge and Lake Shore in front of Soldier Field looks like a million white girl march.  Girls bedizened in appliqués and navel piercings slouch in their flimsy halters, baby tees, and Mudd jeans.  It’s like a fashion contest where the hippest groupie might get plucked for a backstage prize smooch.

Warding off a mob with fifteen dollar glossies of the band, I’m afraid the souvenir guy is going to asphyxiate from the haze of pear scented perfume.  A construction beacon flashes “NSYNC Parent Drop Off”.  This is the first signal that I may be too old for this, I have a driver’s license.

In the snack line behind me is an Asian girl in homemade t-shirt with the words “Justin’s Love Slave”.  Perfecting the art of detachment, she stares through me with mascara-slathered eyes.  Apparently she’s old enough to smoke, but not too old for NSYNC.  Waving madly, her friend screams, “Look, they’ve got churros, we gotta buy some to throw on stage. I read that Joey Fatone loves churros.”

It’s like a pre-teen rave, with girls chewing glow-sticks like bubblegum.  They crane their necks for a glimpse of the boys, looking like hapless movie starlets stranded at the train station searching for the lost love that will never come to meet them.  When the monitors blare Britney Spears’ “Stronger”, the stadium erupts in a cacophony of boos.  They want Justin all to themselves.

Bass thumps my sternum.  The seats behind me surge against my back. I think of Spanish soccer matches gone bad.  It’s like the Beatles’s American debut on Ed Sullivan.  Girls are crying and from the sound of bloodcurdling screams, seemingly dying. The Kings of Dirty Pop have arrived.

Bursting forth amidst pyrotechnics,  the boys emerge from a midfield stage that looks like Darth Vader’s mother ship.  Chicago Bears take note: employing choreographed moves that would drive rival defenses crazy, NSYNC may be the bastard children of Walter Payton.   Trampolines, flying dancers, steel mechanical bulls, and a forty foot video screen, the likes I have not seen since the Paula Abdul Forever Your Girl tour circa 1988, assault my attempt at cynicism.

It’s reassuring to know that these multimillionaire pop deities with the love of teen women (and 3 beer swilling 20 something’s in front of me) can’t control everything.  Having the inability to wrest control of the weather from mother nature, it begins to rain.

When the smoke cleared and the detritus of plastic cups was apparent, I found myself a bit disappointed that. NSYNC cut their set short.  It may not be Weezer, although I would pay to see Rivers Cuomo flying over the stadium in a harness, I honestly enjoyed myself.

This article first appeared in Newcity in a different form.