Justin Timberlake obviously missed the whole “quit while you’re on top” lecture. Too stubborn to exit the public after his stint on the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and JC Chasez, Timberlake recruited a juggernaut boy band which danced and moaned their way to the fastest selling album of all time, 2000’s No Strings Attached. Still craving an artistic outlet, a few more heaping piles of cash, or perhaps simple celebrity, Timberlake embarked on his solo journey after ‘N Sync’s 2002 demise. Rather than subtly testing the waters of solitude, the former paragon of all things squeaky clean and role model-worthy made ferocious waves everywhere by inundating fans and detractors alike with both a redeveloped persona and revamped sound. Conquering the masses with his debut chart-topper Justified, which sold a towering 7,000,000 some-odd copies worldwide left J.T. feeling unfulfilled still. Enter FutureSex/LoveSounds.
Justified failed to impress on multiple fronts, like in creating intriguing intermediary songs. But Justin exceeded expectations with his leading singles. Tracks like “Cry Me a River,” which released many of Timberlake’s pent up opinions regarding his breakup with Spears, and “Rock Your Body” cemented his place in pop culture lore. But the album provided remarkably little consistency. His latest pieces standout tunes capable of holding their own sans filler with relatively impressive transition jams. In fact, here Timberlake produces what so few pop stars can by molding a true album.
Many a song stands awkwardly alone but fits snuggly into the whole scheme of the CD when sandwiched between neighboring pieces. “Sexy Ladies” when played in isolation runs too choppy and uninteresting a course to provide any sort of aural gratification whatsoever. However, when preceded by the sexually charged “SexyBack” and followed by the matrimony-inspired “My Love” it offers an easy lyrical steppingstone from one theme to the other by maintaining the sexy attitude established in the former and adopting a shade of the female-oriented stance assumed within the confines of the latter. Less noteworthy adventures such as “What Goes Around…” and its Indian-tinged beat and “Damn Girl,” an Outkast-esque collaboration with will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, illustrate a new focus and importance placed by Timberlake on numbers unlikely even to reach radio. Even the penultimate melody, “Losing My Way,” utilizes a preliminary beat reminiscent of Afroman’s “Because I Got High” to hold the most impatient listener’s attention.
The emergence of still listenable role-playing album developers such as the aforementioned “Sexy Ladies” mark the most notable maturations for Timberlake. However, the most noticeable progression may be in the stylistic shifts made on Justin’s monumental singles. Teaming up yet again with Timbaland both makes Tim the hot producer of 2006 after his collaboration with Nelly Furtado and various others throughout the year and brings an overtly sexual hip-hop vibe to FutureSex/LoveSounds. By avoiding the Neptunes this time around J.T. effectively eliminates the cleaner, poppier disposition originally associated with his name in favor of, as label executives put it, “an adult feel.” The distorted synthetic work omnipresent for Justin’s singles gives a funky feel somewhat similar to Furtado’s “Promiscuous Girl.” Timberlake manages to place his supple beats relatively spaced out, as they prove scantily used throughout. The humming synth powers these tracks, especially the record’s strongest product: “My Love.” The frantic background work wonderfully accessorizes Timberlake’s reaching, often breathy vocals for the vast majority of its existence. As intrigue wanes and eventually pitters out entirely the self-proclaimed King of the South charges in to resuscitate a song slightly needing revitalization. T.I. jumps to a rapid flow straight out of the gates before decelerating to match a stuttering beat. Later contributions from Tennessee luminaries Three 6 Mafia further solidify J.T. as a new artist of a primarily hip-hop and lesser pop nature.
Very few drawbacks expose themselves on FutureSex/LoveSounds. Lyrics turn out a bit shallow and lacking at times, but such detracts little from the enjoyability of the CD. It boasts a somewhat unique and impressively fluid flow from beginning to end. Perhaps best of all though, Timberlake manages to push himself and expand his horizons in churning out partially adventurous art without over thinking things. I hated ‘N Sync from day one, but now count me a devoted J.T. enthusiast.