How ‘Trolls’ Scored the *NSYNC Comeback We’ve All Been Waiting For

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“Are you guys doing something?” Taylor Swift asked the members of *NSYNC on Sept. 12 while onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards, where the reunited boy band had just arrived to shrieks and presented Swift the best pop trophy. “I need to know what it is!” *NSYNC was back, and even pop’s biggest superstar was amped.

Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone demurred at the time, but soon after the VMAs, *NSYNC announced “Better Place,” its first new song together in over two decades. The shimmering, falsetto-heavy disco-pop track was created for Trolls Band Together, the third installment in the hit animated film series in which Timberlake voices a main character, Branch, and has contributed hits to each of the first two Trolls movies.

“My excitement started way back in the early part of the year,” says Gina Shay, the producer/music supervisor for the films. That was when Timberlake sent her a demo of “Better Place,” designed to follow his Billboard Hot 100-topping smash “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from the original Trolls film in 2016 and his SZA collaboration, “The Other Side,” from 2020’s Trolls World Tour.

Shortly after sending the demo, Timberlake texted Shay that he felt inspired to reunite *NSYNC to record “Better Place.” “It was like dynamite was going off inside my brain,” Shay says. After all, *NSYNC — whose four studio albums have sold 27.9 million copies, according to Luminate, and scored turn-of-the-century smashes like “Bye Bye Bye” and “It’s Gonna Be Me” — hadn’t released music together since 2002.

And while Trolls Band Together focuses on a boy band reunion, Shay says that the plot had been locked in long before any talk of an *NSYNC comeback. “The movie’s story has been solid for about four years,” she says, “so it was just that perfect confluence of a song to reunite *NSYNC and to carry the narrative.”


Although Shay says that coordinating all five members’ schedules with their individual teams “took a little time to sort through,” “Better Place” came together rather seamlessly once the quintet was fully on board. After *NSYNC announced its reunion at the VMAs and unveiled “Better Place” on Sept. 29, Shay hopes that the song will become ubiquitous prior to the Nov. 17 release of Trolls Band Together — but however high it climbs, she’s glad that the film franchise could play a role in the reformation of a pop behemoth like *NSYNC.

“I’m so glad we were able to do this for the fans,” she says. “It has been a mix of love, pandemonium and wish fulfillment.”

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 7, 2023, issue of Billboard.

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