Only a handful of artists have had a number one album. Even fewer can also boast a successful acting career in drama and comedy, as well as multiple Grammy awards. Only one can claim all of the above, as well as a record-breaking run in one of the biggest pop groups in history. Though it may sound like hyperbole, it’s just true that Justin Timberlake is one-of-a-kind artist in a world filled with people aspiring to achieve what he has managed to do.
It’s tough to achieve that much in a lifetime, so it is a marvel that Timberlake turns just 35 years old on Sunday, January 31. To commemorate the birthday of the current King of Pop, as well as the 20th anniversary of the formation of the legendary Boy Band, *NSYNC, we’ve created a timeline from Justin’s birth in 1981 to today to celebrate all the major moments that have shaped the successful career of the quintessential pop star of today. Take a stroll through the life of Justin Randall Timberlake and enjoy the major moments that shaped a career for the ages.
1992 – Launch of an Epic Career
January 31, 1981 is the birthdate of Justin Randall Timberlake. This date marks the beginning of the timeline tracking the ascension of today’s definition of the consummate entertainer. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Justin’s main influences growing up stemmed from country music. His first national exposure was from the talent competition Star Search in 1992, where he performed “Love’s Got A Hold on You” by Alan Jackson. Timberlake performed the country hit with a cowboy hat, boots, and a giant belt buckle. While he didn’t win the competition that night, his talent was on display for all in attendance to see.
1993 – Finding the Spotlight with the ’90s Mickey Mouse Club
Looking back to the early 1990s, it seems unimaginable that a major group of entertainment talent in the late ’90s and early 2000s came from one TV show that aired on the Disney Channel. The 1989 to 1996 edition of The Mickey Mouse Club helped to launch the acting and musical careers of Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and several others. In this highly competitive space to showcase acting chops, slick dance moves and pop vocals, it became clear that Justin Timberlake belonged among the top young talent in the entertainment industry. Timberlake was a prominent contributor on the show from 1993 to 1995 and used his two years as a launching pad for his musical success. He met JC Chasez while on the show, whose relationship with Justin led directly to the creation of *NSYNC.
1995 – Establishing Boy Band Excellence
Building off the success of their stint on The MMC, Timberlake and Chasez sought out talent to create a boy band. They partnered with Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Lance Bass to create *NSYNC in 1995. To find their sound and build a following, the burgeoning group toured Europe throughout 1996 with Justin and JC as the lead singers. Eventually, the group decided it was time to come back to the United States and chase stardom in the American pop scene. In 1997, the group released their self-titled debut album stateside to much fanfare as the album reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts behind the strength of singles “I Want You Back,” “Tearin’ Up My Heart” — both produced by then-unknown Max Martin — and “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You.” The 16-year-old Justin Timberlake quickly became a teenage heartthrob as the group’s album went on to sell 11 million copies.
1999 – First Foray in Film
Building off the breakout stardom gained from *NSYNC, Timberlake acted a supporting role in the Disney Channel movie, Model Behavior. While the movie lacked the depth and gravitas of a major movie production, Timberlake exhibited the bright spots necessary of a movie star and showed that he was not only a pop star, but rather an entertainer.
2000 – A Boy Band Breaks Records
After the massive success of their debut album and a legal dispute with their first record label that led to them joining industry giant Jive Records, fans were clamoring for more *NSYNC. With the massive, chart-topping singles “Bye Bye Bye” and “It’s Gonna Be Me,” the boy band released their second album, No Strings Attached. The album was an unprecedented success, selling 2.4 million copies in its first week, breaking the record previously held by Michael Jackson’s Thriller and establishing such a high mark that *NSYNC’s record would stand for fifteen years, until the release of Adele’s 25.