Ever since Ariana Grande nearly reunited ‘NSync at Coachella, rumors that the beloved boy band are on the verge of a Timberlake-free reunion have inundated the internet. “The world of pop needs this to happen,” proclaimed Nick Carter — a statement no one thought the Backstreet Boy would utter in 1999. “Hell, maybe one day we could even do an #NsyncBackstreetTour.”
Justin Timberlake wasn’t present at the reunion because the event conflicted with his own tour. The same weekend Grande brought out the group to sing “Tearin’ Up My Heart” to a crowd of screaming fans in the desert, Timberlake was performing “SexyBack” at a pair of casino shows in Connecticut. The group has been almost completely inactive since the end of their 2001–02 Celebrity tour when Timberlake bolted for a solo career. For obvious reasons, they’ve been hesitant to reform without him since he’s their most charismatic and talented member, and many of their classic songs could not have been made without him. In honor of a possible reunion, let’s revisit one of them: “This I Promise You.”
In what could easily be the most romantic L.L. Bean commercial ever, the group stands in a bubbly Redwood Forest decked out in turtlenecks (save for Joey Fatone, who is rocking a red leather jacket). Timberlake takes the first verse, appearing seemingly out of nowhere amidst the lush vegetation. He’s always been a man of the woods.
“When the visions around you/Bring tears to your eyes,” he sings wistfully, bringing a finger to his cheek. “And all that surrounds you/Are secrets and lies.” One by one, each member joins him as the amount of bubbles increases exponentially. Through them, we glimpse an array of intimate moments — a man getting his girlfriend’s name tattooed on his arm, a woman on a bench noticing a stranger has drawn a photo of her, a couple snuggling in a cable car. Nineteen years later, chills still crawl up the spine as J.C. Chasez catches a bubble and seizes the mossy floor: “I’ve loved you forever/And lifetimes before/And I promise you never/Will you hurt anymore.” Are those tie-dye pants he’s wearing? We hope so.
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The video ends as the group sits at an outdoor restaurant in San Francisco’s Embarcadero, harmonizing on the chorus while Fatone adds ketchup to his french fries. A young girl blows more bubbles with her grandparents as Chris Kirkpatrick sips a beverage. “Every word I say is true, this I promise you,” Timberlake vows.
It’s hard to imagine a better video from the 2000s than this clip, directed by Dave Meyers. The No Strings Attached single would peak at Number Five and remain on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 26 weeks. A mere two months after the video’s release in December 2000, Mad TV would released a spoof, titled “This We Promise You.” If ‘NSync really does reunite, chances are they’ll play this syrupy ballad.