Why I Love Justin Timberlake

"I can't wait 'til I get you on the floor, good-lookin'
Going hot, so hot, just like an oven
And owww, burned myself, but just had to touch it
She's so fine, and it's all mine
Hey, baby, we don't mind all the watching
‘Cause if they study close, real close
They might learn something
She ain't nothing but a little doozy when she does it
She's so fire tonight

And as long as I've got my suit and tie
I'ma leave it all on the floor tonight
And you got fixed up to the nines
Let me show you a few things
All pressed up in black and white
And you're dressed in that dress I like
Love is swinging in the air tonight
Let me show you a few things
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love
Now we’re in the swing of love
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love."

I first noticed Justin Timberlake in 2002 when he released his debut solo album Justified. In particular it was the incredible production by Timbaland on Cry Me a River that stopped me in my tracks and say WOW, loudly and to everyone I could get to listen to me. Throw in some equally stellar production by The Neptunes, and you had a truly brilliant album. There was some nonsense recently written about Justin Timberlake being guilty of cultural appropriation, because of course anyone with any influences outside of their own particular racial group is deemed a VERY BAD THING. JT has earned the respect of so many within the industry in R&B and Rap, including two of the greatest producers of the last twenty years in Timbaland and The Neptunes, as well as millions of fans around the world. Here's an easy way to judge whether someone is guilty of that great crime: if they give more than they take, then there should be no doubt that they deserve to work within the genre and culture. JT has certainly given more to R&B than he has taken, with three stunning albums, among the best in the genre of the last two decades. 

Let's have a few words about the Prince thing. This was a case of severe hypocrisy on the part of Prince fans, as well as a remarkably blinkered attitude towards both Prince's music, and JT's music. People got angry because Justin Timberlake had the audacity to cover a Prince song, when we were told, Prince wouldn't have wanted him to. First, hardcore Prince fans didn't really give a shit about what Prince would have wanted when they downloaded and bought all of his unreleased music, something that enraged The Artist. Second, Prince's music is not just for black people. It's for all people. Those who think that they are being clever or "woke" because they throw any white person under the bus for being attracted to another culture - and most importantly making music that is easily as good as anything from the culture - are incapable in this writer's view of truly understanding the genre, and of creating anything of worth artistically. Those who think that a black man making mediocre music is more authentic than a white man making excellent music, and thus of more worth, can get the fuck out of here. Anyone with ears and an appreciation for R&B knows that JT is the real thing. Forget the colour of his skin and listen, and you will be sure that this is just as genuine as any R&B music out there.

Before I get to what I believe to be JT's best work, let's have a little chat about some of his great singles. Cry Me a River is still just as incredible a piece of work as it was when it was released. It is a gorgeous production, and a melancholy to it that marks it as an early example of Noir R&B. That it was written, allegedly, about Britney Spears makes it a curiosity to some, but just try and forget about that celebrity driven nonsense and appreciate the song for the masterpiece it is. I can't express just how fresh this was when it came out in 2002. Timbaland continues to be one of the best producers working, but back then he was so ahead of his time, it was ridiculous. My favourite song from the excellent follow up to Justified - FutureSex/LoveSounds - is My Love, featuring one of the great guest rappers, TI. With a synth line so vicious that it can cut your skin, and a production that just electrifies the listener, this is one of JT's best songs. "If I wrote you a symphony, just to say how much you mean to me, what would you do? If I told you were beautiful, would you date me on the regular? Tell me would you?" Shout out to Signs by Snoop Dogg featuring JT, for an underappreciated guest shot.

JT's greatest work is, in my opinion, the double album, The 20/20 Experience. It should be included in any list of best R&B albums of the 21st Century, featuring a stunning range of styles and production that knocks the listener out with goodness. The 20/20 Experience opens with Pusher Love Girl, which has such an amazing hook that it staggers me, with a vocal that is among the best of JT's career. When the song switches into "My heroine, my cocaine, my plum wine, my MDMA. I'm hopped up on it, it won't go away. Now I can't wait 'til I get you home and get you in my veins," I lose it. The way that JT and Timbaland - along with Jerome Harmon and The Tennessee Kids - make every section of the songs on this album compelling is a damn marvel. One section you're going, THIS IS MY JAM, and then it switches into something else and you go NO, THIS IS MY JAM. 

If Suit & Tie doesn't make you want to dance and make love, I don't wanna see you! From that great intro, into the sliding, joyous verse and chorus. Oh and you also have one of the greatest rappers of all time, Jay-Z delivering a classy as fuck guest verse. This is what the new R&B Disco is all about. This is living music. "Time for tuxedos for no reason." Seriously if this doesn't move you, I don't know what to say to you. One of the only times when I successfully danced in front of people was when I wore a three piece suit to a club for a birthday party. The DJ was amused by my classy attire and dedicated this song to me. I will always remember that moment as a high point in my life. Whenever I hear this song, my mind is taken back to that wonderful time and I am filled with joy.

Don't Hold The Wall is Off The Wall for a new generation. "Dance, don't hold the wall. Dance, don't, don't, don't hold the wall. Dance, dance, don't hold the wall. Da-da-dance, don't hold the wall." Like many of the songs on The 20/20 Experience, Don't Hold The Wall clocks in at a lengthy seven minutes. This is more evidence to the fact that these songs are meant for two things: dancing and making love. Even accounting for their length however, there are so many beautiful, immaculately written, produced and performed moments that your ear never gets tired. These are songs with hooks for days. They could easily be broken apart and made separate but equally successful singles. 

Strawberry Bubblegum is just as sweet and addictive as the title. Another epic song, at eight minutes, this is my favourite song on the 20/20 Experience, with a vocal that is all killer. "It was such a mellow, mellow, mellow, mellow, mellow, mellow day." "Baby please don't change nothing, because your flavour's so original. And it all started when she said, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey." This is a superior love song that has made countless babies, I'm sure. Slow jam transitions to POP song. "If you be my strawberry bubblegum then I'll be your blueberry lolly pop. Then I'll love ya til I make you POP."  As an aside, if you want a brilliant transition in your DJ set, mix the last POP on Strawberry Bubblegum with the first POP on the extended mix of Prince's Pop Life, from Around the World in a Day. Take that Prince fans!

Justin Timberlake, the slight misstep of (some of) Man of the Woods aside, is rightly considered one of the best R&B artists of the 21st Century. With his first three albums, he secured that reputation. Anyone who sleeps on JT is doing so at their peril. He is a sublime performer, has an uncanny ear for hooks and has earned the respect of some of the great musicians and producers working in music today. The 20/20 Experience is one of the truly great works of R&B in modern times, and he is one of the people who helped get the genre through its lean years and back on track to being the hottest, hippest thing happening in music today. Well done sir, you're a marvel.


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