*NSYNC Co-Writer Kandi Burruss Talks Ariana Grande Borrowing 'It Makes Me Ill' Hook For 'Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored'

There's a few plausible reasons why Ariana Grande's Thank U, Next highlight "Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" is currently the No. 2 song in the country. It could be due to the singer owning her newfound savage persona, the Instagram-friendly title that will flood many captions to come or -- of course -- the deliciously nostalgic lift. Grande and her team of writers -- Max Martin, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Savan Kotecha -- unexpectedly opted to draw inspiration from a Y2K-era *NSYNC deep cut that matches the sneering vibe of "Girlfriend." 

"It Makes Me Ill," from 2000's No Strings Attached, has been a longtime fan favorite due to its petty lyrical nature about having another man snatching up your girl, as well as the sharp synth-laden melody that reflected the electric sound of R&B at the time. But instead of completely mirroring the song's seething jealousy for her own single, Grande decided to transform it into a hyper-sexualized, alluring and suspenseful paen. She even flips the original lyrics from "You can say I'm crazy, if you want to/ That's true, I'm crazy 'bout you" to "You can call me crazy 'cause I want you/ And I never even never fuckin met you."

"Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" has now become a buzzing earworm for millennial fans, who were quick to recognize the interpolation of *NSYNC's "It Makes Me Ill" -- which originally came courtesy of co-writers and producers Kandi Burruss and Kevin Briggs. As the song continues to slither up the charts, Burruss (who recently wrapped up her stint on Celebrity Big Brother) spoke to Billboard on hearing Grande's take on "It Makes Me Ill," and her memories of working with the boy band in the studio.

How did Ariana Grande’s team contact you about wanting to sample *NSYNC's “It Makes Me Ill”?

I've known her manager Scooter Braun for years, way before he became a manager, [back to] when he was an intern for Jermaine Dupri at So So Def. It’s crazy how things come full circle with people that you’ve worked with over the years. So he reached out to let me know that they had sampled the song and they wanted to work out the publishing split. You can imagine that I was super excited about it! I was really happy. I'm thankful to the writers. 

What was your reaction when you heard how she flipped the song?

[The label] had sent me a link to the song to hear it. I thought it was so dope. I would've never thought anybody would have sampled "It Makes Me Ill" after all these years. I actually went and met with ["Break Up" co-writer Savan Kotecha] afterwards, who's an amazing writer and producer. 

Out of all the *NSYNC hits to choose from, why do you think she chose this deep cut?

I don’t know, but I know they love that era of music and [Kotecha] told me he always loved that song. But I have no idea what made them use that part for the track! But I’m definitely thankful that they used a song that I’ve written. That was one of my favorite songs that I did back in the day, but it never was an official single for *NSYNC. So you never really expect songs that weren't the big single to really go on and do other things. But this is a major thing. I'm shocked! And to come out of the [Celebrity] Big Brother house after a month of being stuck in that house to another hit record is just...wow! Things are really looking bright for me right now. [Laughs.]

What was your experience working with *NSYNC on the song?

I loved working with *NSYNC. That was one of my best experiences back then. They were all funny, and they were quick in the studio. They were all really great and easy as far as recording them; it wasn't like we had to do a lot of tricks or anything with their voices. They were just amazing singers and artists. Even though they were successful, they were very cool and down to earth.

We had a lot of fun that day. I remember Justin [Timberlake] was talking to me and said, "You know what? You need to come up with a name for your style of rapping! It's like you're rapping, but it's a melody... maybe you should call it mapping!" I was like, "Uh NO!" [Laughs.]

Why do you think “It Makes Me Ill” still resonates with fans almost 20 years later?

I remember I went to one of their concerts where they performed it, and people were going crazy over it. They had thought about making it a single at one time, but it never happened. Every time I mention that I worked with *NSYNC on "It Makes Me Ill," [people react] like "Oh my god, I love that song!" I didn't even realize that many people liked that song on the album. But that was a really great album for them. 

Are there any other songs you’ve co-wrote that you’d like see sampled or spun in an interesting way?

There are a lot of songs that I've written in the past that I think can be flipped into something dope now. "So Good," the song on Destiny's Child's The Writing's on the Wall album, has a lot of good messages in that song and the hook itself. It makes you feel real upbeat and I feel like it definitely would it be flipped into a great record today if somebody decided to do it. It was also never a single. But when I would ride around and listen to the album, that's the song I would jam to. 

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