Justin Timberlake Reveals 'It’s Gonna Be Me' Origins

Inside scoop: the story behind NSYNC's famed lyric twist

by Zain ul Abedin
Justin Timberlake Reveals 'It’s Gonna Be Me' Origins
© Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment

Fans of pop history had a treat earlier this month when Justin Timberlake and his fellow NSYNC members came together for a reunion after a long hiatus of a decade. But that wasn't all that had audiences and fans intrigued. On the popular YouTube show, "Hot Ones", Timberlake unveiled the backstory of the unique pronunciation of their famous single 'It’s Gonna Be Me'.

The 2000 hit track, which found its place in NSYNC's third studio album, 'No Strings Attached', has been the subject of countless memes, mainly due to Timberlake’s distinctive pronunciation of the word "me". On the show, alongside his bandmates JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Lance Bass, Timberlake delved into this curious pronunciation that has been a talking point for years.

Timberlake Decodes 'May' Pronunciation

When the host threw out a potentially revealing question about the song’s production, asking, “Fact or fiction: Was the ‘may’ pronunciation in ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ due to a producer’s specific instruction for a 'meaner me' in the recording?”, Timberlake clarified. “I can't recall it being termed as ‘a meaner me’, but after my take of ‘It’s gonna be me’, the producer immediately corrected, emphasizing it should sound like ‘may’,” he recounted.

Probing further, the host questioned if the direction might have been a result of "lost in translation". But Timberlake shed light on the unique songwriting approach, crediting the producer, Max Martin. “Interestingly, Martin’s occasionally broken English actually made him a catchier songwriter. He structured phrases in non-traditional ways which, while seeming odd, rendered the lyrics unforgettable when sung,” Timberlake elucidated.

Laughingly, he added, “It indeed was a specific instruction I received. At that moment, I thought, ‘This guy’s got an unusual ask’... but adhering to his vision indeed shaped the hit record.”

Capping this nostalgia trip, fans were elated to see NSYNC come together at the MTV Video Music Awards, marking their first collective appearance in a decade. This appearance, combined with the revelations about their iconic song, has certainly been a trip down memory lane for many.

Justin Timberlake