With 6 MTV video nods, the group has major plans to expand its audience

By Craig Seymour
Updated September 07, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
N' Sync: Kevin Mazur

Teen popsters ‘N Sync, who’ll perform on tonight’s MTV Video Music Awards (8 p.m.), scored their first No. 1 single this summer with the ubiquitous ditty ”It’s Gonna Be Me.” Not content to rest, the boy band — who tie their taunting nemesis Eminem for six video award nominations — are busy making big plans for their next single, ”This I Promise You.” To maximize the ballad’s hit potential, Justin, JC, and the gang have recorded two vastly different versions of the song, which is penned and produced by that big hair ’80s crooner Richard Marx.

First up is a Spanish lyric version (”Yo te Voy a Amor”), which the oft gyrating gringos will premiere during their performance on the Latin Grammy Awards (airing live Sept. 13, 8 p.m., CBS). The guys recorded ”Yo,” which hits Spanish language radio next week, with the help of a dialogue coach. ”It was something that we had even discussed doing with other singles in the past,” says Joe Riccitelli, senior VP of pop promotion at ‘N Sync’s label, Jive, ”because there’s such a big audience for Spanish speaking radio.” Indeed, Riccitelli estimates that ‘N Sync will reach an additional 10 to 17 million listeners with this Spanish 101 cut.

But don’t worry: The guys aren’t abandoning their Top 40 roots. Because pop radio is increasingly shying away from playing ballads — (of the top 10 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 Airplay chart, only one, Joe’s ”I Wanna Know,” is a ballad) — the group tapped hot dance club remixer Hex Hector (Madonna, Jennifer Lopez) to do an up tempo version of the song. But there was a problem. The original version was so slow, Hector told them that they’d have to rerecord their vocals to make a faster mix work. If he simply sped up the original vocals to go with the kicky new club beat, the guys would’ve sounded like the Chipmunks.

So after their June 20 show in Denver, ‘N Sync flew in the New York City based remixer for a daylong recording session. ”I was surprised when they said they’d do it,” explains Hector, who’s currently tweaking Ricky Martin’s forthcoming single ”She Bangs.” ”Because they’re such a big act and they were on tour, I didn’t think they’d want to come in to re-sing vocals on their day off.”

Still, as Hector describes the session, it wasn’t exactly all work and no play. They’d ”screw around” between takes, he says, by making up explicit lyrics to go with staple show tunes. ”It would tarnish their wholesome schoolboy image if I told you what was sung,” Hector says of the impromptu lascivious lullabies of Broadway. Hey, with a matching video, just think of all the airtime they’d get on the Playboy channel.