How Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl Halftime Show Damaged Bandmate JC Chasez's Career

Boy bands were all the rage in the 1990s, often topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to their devoted fanbases. Many groups at the time, however, also attracted ridicule for their perceived lack of talent. Critics sometimes took them to task for their lack of singing ability and, in many cases, their having been manufactured by the music industry. Not so, however, for *NSYNC, the multi-platinum-selling quintet from Orlando, Florida that became known as one of the genre's most vocally interesting groups. Built around the talents of former Mickey Mouse Club stars and idiosyncratic vocalists JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake — as well as Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, and Lance Bass — the group released four hit albums between 1998 and 2001, supported by enormous tours throughout America and beyond.

When *NSYNC announced their hiatus in 2002, it seemed that both Timberlake and Chasez looked set for stellar solo careers. For the former, this proved to be the case. Timberlake's debut album, "Justified," established him as a bankable star who reflected the trends of the early 2000s and proved an adept vocalist for R&B bangers. His work with superproducers like Timbaland and Rick Rubin on albums like "FutureSex/LoveSounds" proved to be some of the most enduring hits of the era. However, things didn't go so well for Chasez, who found himself unable to emerge from his former bandmate's shadow — and even saw his career directly impacted by Timberlake's notorious halftime performance at the 2004 Super Bowl.

Timberlake overshadowed JC

Justin Timberlake was already emerging as the most recognizable member of *NSYNC even before the band went on hiatus. As Bianca Gracie noted in an article for Billboard, his vocals typically featured on the hooks of the group's biggest hits, meaning he was the focus of the songs' catchiest moments. And when it came to public awareness, he also generated far more headlines than any of his bandmates thanks to his much-scrutinized relationship with fellow pop star Britney Spears, who at the time was at the height of her fame.

Meanwhile, JC Chasez remained a respected member of the group. His vocals carried many of the verses and choruses — as Gracie explains — and during his tenure in *NSYNC he took an active interest in growing his talent by developing his songwriting and production abilities. When the group split, both fans and those close to *NSYNC expected Chasez to become a notable solo artist in his own right.

But Timberlake beat Chasez to the punch with his 2002 album "Justified," released within months of *NSYNC announcing their hiatus. The album won Timberlake a Grammy Award, as did its international hit single, "Cry Me a River." The following year, Timberlake featured on Black Eyed Peas' smash "Where Is the Love?" which saw his star rise further — all before Chasez had a solo release to his name.

JC's big gig got canceled

Rather than race for the limelight following *NSYNC announcing their hiatus, JC Chasez reportedly continued to work on his craft. In the months that followed, he developed his songwriting and explored other genres of music that he hadn't had the chance to familiarize himself with as a member of one of the world's biggest boybands.

It was only in 2004 that Chasez launched himself as a solo artist with the release of his debut album "Schizophrenic." But still, it was Timberlake — who by then was already a huge solo star — getting all the headlines. In February that year, he was performing as part of the Super Bowl halftime show alongside pop legend Janet Jackson when he (perhaps purposefully) tore a piece from her outfit, exposing her breast to millions of viewers on live TV. The incident was a major scandal and one of the biggest water cooler moments of the year.

But not only did Timberlake's notorious halftime turn hog all the press attention, it also made event organizers and broadcasters nervous about the kind of sexualized content that Timberlake and Chasez were selling in their music, such as the latter's debut single, "Some Girls (Dance With Women)." Chasez was at the time promoting his album alongside its second single "All Day Long I Dream About Sex," and the NFL canceled his performance at that year's Pro Bowl, severely denting his exposure. To make matters worse, radio stations were hesitant to play his new single in light of widespread fines being handed out by the Federal Communications Commission in the wake of the scandal.

Chasez away from the limelight

JC Chasez's solo work wasn't exactly a flop by most artists' standards. He developed his songwriting chops since his *NSYNC days and recruited a bevy of hot producers like Dallas Austin (who had worked with TLC) and Basement Jaxx (who recruited him to provide vocals for their single "Plug It In") for his debut. The album charted, as did both singles. But in terms of his keeping pace with his former bandmate Justin Timberlake, the damage was done. Chasez railed against both the NFL and the FCC in the press, but his solo career never quite took off at the level one might expect for one of the leading lights of the '90s boy band craze. His 2006 single, "Until Yesterday," sank like a stone, and he left his record label in 2007. "Schizopheric" remains the only solo album in his discography.

Thankfully, Chasez has genuine talent. In the years since, he has continued to write and produce for major pop acts including the Backstreet Boys and even forged a career in TV and film. He reunited with *NSYNC in 2013 and 2023, with Timberlake telling "The Kelly Clarkson Show" in January 2024 that the legendary group has recently been back in the studio.