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Justin Timberlake: 'Michael Jackson gave me the confidence to leave 'N SYNC and go solo'

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May 06, 2014 | 2:38pm EDT

Michael Jackson gave Justin Timberlake the confidence to quit boy band 'N Sync and go solo back in 2001 after turning down the chance to record the young star's song Gone and then insisting on recording it as a duet with the young star. In a candid new TV interview, taped for an upcoming Oprah's Master Class, the Cry Me a River singer admits his hero's interest in the song and a phone chat he had with the King of Pop inspired him to think long and hard about going solo - and that led to the end of the Bye, Bye, Bye hitmakers.

He says, "The first real seed of that was this song I had written called Gone. It ended up on our third and last album and it was the first song I kind of cut by myself and then brought it to the guys and included them. "We were having a meeting for the third 'N SYNC album at that time and I said, 'Well I have this other song, but I originally wrote it for Michael Jackson', (and) I just got word that... they (Jackson's handlers) had turned the song down, so we decided to cut it, but it was one of those songs where it felt a little more personal to me 'cause I had written it for, like, the biggest artist of all time."

He adds, "I guess Michael did hear it and called me on the phone and said he wanted to cut the record but he wanted it to be a duet between himself and I, and I said, 'ŒWell, it's already out... We've already cut this song as an 'N SYNC record...' and I'm literally punching myself in the face, because I said, 'You know we can't do that. Could we do, like, an 'N SYNC featuring Michael Jackson or Michael Jackson featuring 'N SYNC (track)?' And he was very absolute about the fact that he wanted it to be a duet between himself and I.

"I think it's the first idea that I ever got about doing something on my own because it was the first time I'd ever really felt the confidence to do it. And I knew that the music I was interested in and was writing at the time was different than what we had previously done (in 'N SYNC) and it felt like a real departure. I never told anybody that Michael story."

Former 'NSYNC bandmate Lance Bass heard the story for the first time when the Oprah interview was teased on U.S. news show Entertainment Tonight on Monday (05May14), and he admits he was shocked to learn that the King of Pop may have been the person who ended the boy band. He explains, "I had no idea Michael Jackson gave him the inkling of the idea to go solo. I never heard that story... I always thought that it actually came from P. Diddy, because P. Diddy was opening up for us at the very last concert and I remember they were at the bar and I heard him say, 'Hey, you should go solo'."

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