aking the inevitable fall-out from his innocuous Mouseketeer upbringing and his work as second-in-command in teen-pop band*NSYNC as career move, Chasez has embraced the backlash, taken some time off from music and returned to the business with Schizophrenic, his first solo album. Chasez as a solo artist isn’t really solo, even with four incarnations of him on the album cover. Instead, the cover signifies two main ideas: the years of mall-approved happiness has developed the singer’s talents into a finely tuned automaton pop-production machine and its taught him an important lesson: appeal to as many people as possible.
Enlisting a myriad of producers (Basement Jaxx, BT, Rodney Jerkins being the most famous) and an array of styles for this purpose, Chasez most frequently pulls his strings, swoons and flirts with an imaginary listener—he’s so risqué sometimes that I need to pull a blanket over my ears and cry. I cry less when I picture Chasez the lounge singer, singing slinky renditions of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night,” with delicious lyrics like “Cause when I'm all alone / I lay awake and masturbate / I love to hear the sounds you make” as imaginary girls scream for his love (as found on Schizophrenic’s “Come to Me”).
Amazed? The Disney-graduate has obviously become sexually liberated, proving with “All Day I Dream about Sex” he can tackle an enchantingly warped faux-post-modern chain of signifiers. The Korn-trademarked subversion of a famous brand was originally ingenuous, using middle school acronyms to simultaneously “stick it” to a brand and likewise complete the “brand deity status” for another Adidas generation. Chasez proves that pop can encompass everything, wrapping a strangely chanted electro-beat around the collected pop pastiche phrase—hand claps and all. If you’ve ever heard a german Schlager song and felt intrigued by the dumb energy of it, I’d thoroughly recommend seeking it out because despite my negative associations with Schlager-music, the song’s electro-pop glosses colorfully over Chasez’s lame robotic braggadocio and invites me to play it again.
Admirable subtle touches also litter Schizophrenic, such as the lightly glitched string loop on the presumable next single, “Build My World”. The dying loop provides an element of true vulnerability to the song’s rehash of the poetic teen sentiments found in Chasez’s lyrics—“Someone for everyone but no one for me / (No one for me) / Constantly searching for the love I need to / Build my world around, around”. I’m not sure who to credit for this inspired stringed loop as the song’s credits go out to five producers (Chasez included), but the lost identity of the producer gives the song a playful ambiguity. I’ll place my bets on Robb Boldt, who I deduce must also be one the darkened replications of JC Chasez from the cover—odds standing at 2:1 if I was a gambling man.
Alexis Petridis recently claimed dance for dead, but on Schizophrenic Chasez attempts to reanimate early-80s electro, disco and new wave back into pop. “One Night Stand” proves a great example of this, digesting Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer with playful tongue-in-cheek indifference. And, you might think that this would continue with the Basement Jaxx produced “Shake It”, as their “Plug It In” collaboration might suggest. However, for Schizophrenic, the absolute mayhem of “Plug It In” is much more restrained— “Shake It” is held to a strangely straightforward Basement Jaxx dance-blues number. What it does do, though, and does admirably is elucidate the strongest theme of the album: a recognition of the “coming-of-age” pop boundaries and just letting the groove take over.