While people left and right were fawning over Justin Timberlake’s Futuresex/Lovesounds a few years ago, several thoughts were running through my head. First was the fact that John Mayer’s Continuum (released the same day) was so much better (as agreed upon by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, who gave Johnny the Best Pop Album Grammy over JT,) the second was “man, this dude needs to take a lyric writing class (“Hi, my name is Bob/and I work at my job” still makes me want to give JT the gas face,) and the third thing was “Hey, didn’t JC Chasez make an album very similar to this a few years ago that no one paid attention to?”

When a popular group breaks up (and let’s face it, they almost all eventually do), usually one member goes on to solo glory while the other members ease on down the road to nowheresville. It’s extremely rare that more than one member of a popular collective goes on to hit superstar status. Yeah, Destiny’s Child split into three pieces, but does anyone really care about Kelly & Michelle? The odds are inevitably stacked against you if you’re not the focal point. Anyone out there remember the albums Marlon, Jackie & Randy Jackson put out? I rest my case.

*NSYNC was the come-from-behind boy band success story. Although The Backstreet Boys had a couple years tenure on them, *NSYNC managed to steal all their thunder, a point made even more resounding when the group’s resident hearthrob Justin Timberlake scooped up millions in sales, hosted “SNL” a few times, won some Emmys and a couple of Grammys, and bagged Jessica Biel, Alyssa Milano, Janet Jackson AND Cameron Diaz. Sheeeit, screw the Backstreets, what the hell were the rest of the *NSYNC team gonna do?  JC Chasez’ solo debut, Schizophrenic, should have been the start to a massive solo career, not the album that turned him into one of *NSYNC’s four Andrew Ridgeleys.

JC wasn’t always *NSYNC’s  second banana. If you listen to each of the group’s  albums, you’ll notice that JC’s role faded further and further into the sunset as Justin took prominence. This is despite the fact that JC is actually a better vocalist. While Justin is an excellent melodic singer and has a smooth quality similar to “Off The Wall”-era MJ, JC has a fiery, soaring voice that recalls the angrier, more edgy version of Michael.

On Schizophrenic, the vocal differences between the two were highlighted due to the differences in musical styles. JC co-helmed most of Schizophrenic with his homies Riprock & Alex G with fleeting assistance from Rockwilder & Dallas Austin. The album encompassed everything from rock riffage to skittering dance beats to smooth ballads, all held together by JC’s strong voice and his solidly PG-13 lyrics. Sound familiar yet?

JC flew his freak flag high on this album, and made a much more believable horndog than JT on tracks like “Shake It” a dance jam produced by British electronica outfit Basement Jaxx. Riding on top of a rocked-out sample of a reggae reconfiguration of the disco classic “Do It (‘Till You’re Satisfied)”, this jam is definitely conducive to booty shaking. Even weirder was the electrothump of “All Day Long I Dream About Sex,” a track that sounds like a distant cousin to Gary Numan’s “Cars” (with much more adult lyrics.)

On “Everything You Want”, JC channels “Roxanne”/”Message In A Bottle”-era Sting on a song that sounds like what Maroon 5 has spent much of the last half decade attempting to replicate. “She Got Me” has a retro-disco feel, while “100 Ways” is a punchy rock jam. All these excursions into different genres still manage to be grounded in a mainstream pop/rock sound.

The album’s most interesting track, and the one sure to cause the most controversy, is “Come To Me”. This song is initially noteworthy because of the sped-up replay of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night”. You’re already groovin’ along to the song when you immediately jerk (bad pun) your head up and notice that JC is singing about masturbation. I give him credit for the first usage of that particular word in a pop song since the fade-out groove of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.”

Where Schizophrenic ends up having the definitive edge over Justin’s solo catalog is the ballads. “Dear Goodbye” is an impressive feat of vocalization that most teen pop artists would be hard-pressed to replicate. Meanwhile, the elegant “Lose Myself” should’ve been a huge hit in the manner of Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose,” a song it actually sounds a bit similar to.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be salty at JC’s lack of success with Schizophrenic; maybe it just came out at the wrong time. Besides, what have Chris, Lance and Joey done in the past decade that’s been musically relevant? Still, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher that one member of a group gets unlimited props and opportunity for (wittingly or not) creating a sound similar to one that another member of the same group swung and missed with (commercially, at least) just a couple of years before.

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