After years of circulating the internet as a meme, Justin Timberlake finally explained his unconventional pronunciation in the ‘NSync track “It’s Gonna Be Me.”
This week, the former boy band — which includes Timberlake, 42, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick — appeared on Hot Ones to talk about their reunion for their new single “Better Place” — their first song in 21 years — which will be featured in the upcoming Trolls Band Together movie.
During a “fact or fiction” segment of the Thursday, September 21, interview, host Sean Evans asked Timberlake about the viral “It’s Gonna Be May” meme, which pokes fun at the way the singer pronounces “me” as “may” on the 2000 song. The unconventional diction has become a joke among fans and is usually shared annually via social media as April becomes May.
“I sang, ‘It’s gonna be me’ and [the producer] was like, ‘No, no, no. He was like, ‘It’s ‘may, may,’” Timberlake recalled. He also explained that Swedish accents of songwriters and producers Max Martin, Andreas Carlsson, and Rami Yacoub — who were also responsible for the ‘NSync hit “Bye, Bye, Bye” — often impacted the way lyrics were sung.
“The parts of their English that were broken actually made them catchier songwriters,” Timberlake said. “They would put words where they almost didn’t make sense but when you sang them they were more memorable.”
To answer Evans’ question, Timberlake clarified that yes, singing “me” as “may” was “a specific note” he received when recording the song roughly 23 years ago. “I was just like, ‘This guy’s crazy,” he joked. “I did it the way that he requested and that’s what made the record.”
Clearly able to laugh at himself, Timberlake also posted a TikTok earlier this week addressing the meme-able moment. The singer stitched another creator’s video asking, “What’s a word you pronounced incorrectly one time and it still haunts you to this day?” with a clip of himself responding, “Um…’me.’”
The clip, shared on Monday, September 18, quickly garnered over 30 million views as well as a slew of comments from fans recalling the seasonal meme and declaring that Timberlake “won” the trend.
While the “It’s Gonna Be May” meme won’t start making its usual rounds on the internet until the end of April, fans can look forward to ‘NSync’s single “Better Place” coming out on September 29 and the Trolls Band Together film in theaters on November 17.