May is upon us which means those “It’s Gonna Be May” memes have been dusted off and are back in circulation.
To the uninitiated — those of you who weren’t singing along to NSync in the early aughts — the meme was born from the boy band’s 2000 hit “It’s Going to Be Me,” off their second album, No Strings Attached. Justin Timberlake crooned “me” as “mayyyy” and now every April 30, which has officially been dubbed “It’s Gonna Be May Day,” we are reminded of it — and JT’s iconic curly locks, which he wore nearly as well as his Canadian tux.
When Yahoo Entertainment caught up with former NSync star Lance Bass, we asked about recording the song and Timberlake’s odd delivery of the lyrics.
“I remember — ’cause Max Martin produced this — I remember [Max] saying, ‘Do it more like this: ‘mayyy, mayyy,'” Bass recalls. “So [Justin] did. I remember Max making him sing it that way.”
Bass adds, “That wasn’t, I don’t think, [Justin’s] choice. That was a Max Martin thing.”
That was the party line shared by Timberlake as well back in 2016. “In my defense, Max Martin made me sing ‘me’ that way,” he told Capital FM, a U.K. music radio station. “I think he just wanted me to sound like I was from Tennessee.”
And while it may not have been Timberlake’s choice, he’s come to embrace his pronunciation being a “thing.” The meme took on a life of its own after being created around 2012. It has been traced back to January 2012, when a Tumblr user named amyricha, whose account has since been deactivated, first posted it.
A few months later, Kianna Davis, a college student at the time, created her first meme. On her personal calendar for April 2012, the NSync fan posted the Timberlake/”It’s Gonna Be May” meme next to April 30 and sent to to friends. Overnight, it was shared everywhere. She has said she “had no idea what the meme would become.”
BuzzFeed posted something similar, another Tumblr find, and it was off from there.
From there, more memes and GIFs of Timberlake singing were made and have circulated year after year.
The meme has evolved from its original iteration. In recent ones, imagery of ramen noodles have been popular — as a nod to Timberlake’s early days of stardom “noodle” hair.
It’s been used for birth announcements.
And there are a whole bunch of memes about how much people hate this meme.
The meme really blew up in 2014 when President Barack Obama posted it, along with a photo of Timberlake at the White House, on his Facebook account.
By 2016, Timberlake was fully onboard and bragging: “Can you meme yourself?”
And now he shares annual reminders.
Hey guys… it’s May.
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) May 1, 2017
In 2021, it included giving a shout out to Davis:
And he’s not the only one. His bandmates do as well. A few from this year:
The meme is now deeply part of NSync’s history. When the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018 — a highly anticipated reunion for the quintet that split in 2002 — the ceremony was held on the boy band’s unofficial holiday on April 30.
At the ceremony, JC Chasez sang the line to the crowd and people went nuts. While it would have been better if it was Timberlake, who laughed and egged on his old pal, it was definitely appreciated by fans.
At the Walk of Fame ceremony, Joey Fatone told Variety that Bass was the first one to realize that “It’s Gonna Be May” was a thing. “Lance actually brought that to our attention,” Fatone said. “He was like, ‘You know it’s going to be’ — and it was like, here we go. What we should do is capitalize on this and make shirts that say ‘It’s gonna be May,'” he cracked. “Why not?”
Bass told the entertainment outlet that the meme started to blow up when “Instagram was big,” adding, “The first time I saw it, it just cracked me up, because I never really thought about the way that Justin pronounced ‘me in the song. So every April 30 it’s kind of like my favorite day, because it’s my annual May post, and the fans love it.”
Chris Kirkpatrick, who rounded out the group, said his favorite memes “are the ones of Justin now where it looks like he’s anticipating something and people say, ‘You know what’s coming.'”
And every year on It’s Gonna Be May Day, the video for the song spikes, according to Vox.
Expect to see “It’s Gonna Be May” representation today per usual. The meme is on pace to have longer legs than the group did, so don’t say “Bye, Bye, Bye” just yet.
Editor’s note: A version of this story was originally published on April 30, 2019.