Our little Justin Timberlake is all grown up! He’s gone and made a solo album just like everyone said he would! But is this kid Justified?
We rounded up some people and issued this challenge: One album, three paragraphs.
Justin’s Testicles Are His Business
Michelle: Unable to support Mr. Timberlake in this latest endeavor (there is no way I am providing that man with “cheese” when he’s in his Michael Jackson phase, as I cannot be held responsible for whatever bling he decides to design to celebrate his solo career) I proudly remain a non-owner of this CD. However, being a PopGurl, that does not mean I have not heard it. It’s sort of required listening. Luckily, loving him despite anything he does is not.
No, really, how did I feel about this album? Well, first off, and I’ve known this for a while, but after listening to this album there is no denying it: Justin Timberlake is a fucking cheeseball. “I wanna be a lake, for you babe”? “I wanna be your sky, so blue and high”? What the fuck, Justin? And while I’m asking Justin what the fuck, what the hell is going on in “Cry Me a River”? In the car it sounded okay, but then I put on the headphones and the world is filled with alarming smacking noises in my ear and something that sounds amazingly like a duck call. It’s sort of fucked up.
And just so I don’t get attacked viciously by teenies via email who are professional music critics and threaten to send someone after me, I’ll say something positive. Um…I like that his voice cracks sometimes. I sort of liked the sing along at the end of “Senorita,” though I’m fairly certain I shouldn’t. “Take Me Now” makes me laugh my ass off, and that’s important! Humor is important! Even if it is completely unintentional! And I don’t entirely hate “Last Night.” It has an odd lounge-room background-music thing goin’ on. I have no problem with kitsch. I have a problem with Justin singing like he’s a castrati, but that’s his business, yo.
Kat: Influenced by the 60s, my ASS. Justin’s CD screams 1978 in huge, brightly-lit numbers. Full of smooth grooves, falsetto vocals and slow dance beats, he’s updated the sound of the 70s for a new generation. Too bad so many of his fans are still of the old. And let’s just say that his lyrics are not of the great. He doesn’t rhyme “girl” with “girl,” but the parts about crown in “Senorita” had me laughing after my first listen. That’s not to say I don’t like Justified, I just wanted it to be better. The songs that depart from the soul groove formula or use it with a lighter hand are the ones I enjoy the most. “Like I Love You” is damn catchy, especially if you skip past the parts where he feels the need to talk. “Cry Me a River” is much better than expected, with less bitterness than anticipated and a slow beat that makes it impossible for me to sit still. Slow to start, “(And She Said) Take Me Now” is fun and danceable. The beat (complete with hand claps) of “Right for Me” makes it hard to resist, although I’m not biggest fan of Bubba Sparxx. And “Never Again,” though vaguely cheesy in lyrics, is quite the ode to a broken heart. Sure none of the songs are about Britney. Suuuuuure. I’m undecided about “Let’s Take a Ride” and “(Oh No) What You Got” but I’m sure they’ll grow on me. Once upon a time, I didn’t like “Pop” either.
Unfortunately the rest of the songs on the CD fall victim to the 70s or are overproduced nightmares. “Nothin’ Else” is so 70s-easy-listening, perfect for the elevator. I doubt I’d even remember “Last Night”, except that it has that chime, or whatever, melody line during the chorus that sounds suspiciously like “Do the Hustle.” The opening of “Rock Your Body” reminds me of that Jimmy Fallon song about being a sucky boyfriend, making it impossible for me to enjoy. And poor, poor “Take It From Here” – Barry White called, Justin, and he wants his shtick back.
Overall, it is a CD I’ll listen to frequently, but it’s never going to make my personal top 10. Justin Timberlake feels the world needs to relive the disco soul years, and I don’t agree. Let’s hope it doesn’t become the next trend.
Justified? Or Certifiable?
Kristen: Justin declares that “This is 100 percent me” and truer words were never spoken. If I had to pick a single word to describe Justified, it would be schizophrenic. The entire album confirms my personal theory that Timberlake is, at once, a cocky bastard and 12-year-old girl.
This theory certainly goes a long way toward explaining why Timbaland and Pharrell are inclined to talk so damn much on every track. Poor, brokenhearted Justin is liable to forget who he is without someone to remind him, “You’re J Timberlake, cocky bastard from Memphis, TN, yo.” After all, as the extreme overuse of falsetto would indicate, Britney not only had him by the balls, she took them with her when she left. There is, however, no possible explanation for the call and recall portion on “Senorita” other than “3am and two much pot.”
Despite the flaws, Justified delivers enough strong tracks to make the album worth my hard-earned cash. “What You Got,” “Like I Love You” and “Cry Me a River” all had me from the first listen. “Senorita,” “Rock Your Body” and “(And She Said) Take Me Now” won me over with time. I found myself enjoying the obligatory mournful ballad “Never Again” more than I care to admit. In short, Justified is 100 Timberlake: cocky bastard, 12-year-old girl and winning me over against my will.
Exactly What’s Being Justified?
Amy: To be honest, I barely made it through a first listen of the album. I didn’t even want to force myself into a second listen because I disliked it so much. The best thing I could come up with was that, in context of the other songs, I found that I liked “Like I Love You” much more than I had before. However, for the sake of a less-biased review, I put it on repeat at work one day and decided that it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought.
Justified plays like something you’d hear in the waiting room of a slightly progressive dentist’s office. Somewhere between bad late-70s music and bad early-80s music, the album also dips its foot into smooth R&B. It’s generally laid-back, non-intrusive and safe. Which amuses me, really, considering all the potentially non-safe people who came in to collaborate with Justin. None of the lyrics resonated with me, and no hook ever jumped out, overwhelming me with the need to turn it up and bop along. It’s fine background music but nothing that I’m compelled to pop into my CD player.
My issue with Justin’s solo career is that it isn’t Justin’s solo career. Aside from the obvious Michael Jackson comparisons (I firmly believe that he has trampled over the “paying homage” line and gone straight into ripping off), the obsessive collaborations on the album pull me away from concentrating on Justin’s own gig. It just feels like he’s playing in the smooth-jazz, middle-of-the-road R&B section with four other guys. Which, honestly, doesn’t interest me at all. Perhaps I’ll be more intrigued when, as my friend Mike says, Justin starts hanging out with the Culkins and buying monkeys.
Says The Girl In Exile
Melynee: Here in the pop-cultural void that is life Read: indentured servitude in a residential theatre company, I have remained completely and utterly unspoiled on Justified. This piece, in fact, is based on the legally-dicey version of the album I was able to cobble together – with what I am hoping is the accurate numbering system adopted by my fellow file-sharers – approximately 48 hours ago. So, the short version? I like the album. It moves me. Not in the emotional sense, but quite literally. While cleaning out the theatre yesterday morning I was lamenting not having Justified with me; it’s an album I want to mop to. Not the hunched-over, drudge-filled type of mopping, but the kind where you’ve got a rhythm going, walking backwards, working your hips into it. I’m still learning this album, and so I would like to present two lists. The first, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m calling “Things for Which I Am Grateful to Mr. Timberlake.” The second, I call “Things for Which I Am Not.”
Things for Which I Am Grateful to Mr. Timberlake:
1. Not being afraid to include the part where you sound like the asshole who lived across the hall from me in school. Yes, that’s right, I mean, “It feels like somethin’s heatin’ up…”
2. Single-handedly reviving the disco industry. Or perhaps this should go in the “Not” column.
3. Not rapping. You left it to the folks who actually can, and I thank you.
4. The beatbox. I find it endearing. I know. I am quite possibly the only one.
5. Continuing the tradition of literality, this time with sound effects. “Cry Me A River” “…Hmmm… I’m thinking, flowing water. Oooh! And a gospel choir! Perfect! And hey – those chanting monks haven’t had a gig in a while, have they?”
6. “Cry Me A River” in general.
7. “Can’t we just get back to that? Behbeh?” Followed by laughter. Insert pretty mental pictures here.
8. “Right For Me,” although I could live without ever having to hear Justin say “touch your spot” again.
Things For Which I Am Not:
1. Derivativity. Paging The Nerds, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and the Brothers Gibb. Justin called. He’s got your choruses, if you’d like them back.
2. Any use of the contraction “wit’choo.” As much as you might wish otherwise, hon, you’re a white boy. From Tennessee. This applies also to the use of the word, “nekkid.” Well, ok, maybe “nekkid” can stay.
3. Vibraphones. You weren’t born yet in the seventies, Justin.
4. “I’m just like an oven.” You mean, hot and dry? I can pretty much guarantee no girl ever said that.
5. “You’re out of the world except you’re not green.” I suppose I can at least be grateful that Justin didn’t get the lyric-writing gene in the *NSYNC family, either.
The Boy Weighs In
Brad: There is really only one song on Justified, and it’s called “Touch My Sexy Body (Shit I’m Hot)”. This thang is a freakin’ full-court press of Timba Timbalake’s burgeoning earnest sexuality and it’s gonna put someone’s eye out one day. Dude, you’re at a nine with the nastiness right now and I need you at more like a six here, okay? Turn it down a notch for Christ’s sakes.
He tries to be subtle. On “(And She Said) Take me Now” (real title, *snicker*) you have: “Just let me take the lead, all you gotta do is let your mind be free. Lets hit the floor and cause a scene, get real wet if you know what I mean.” No, Jup, just what do you mean? And why is there so much moaning on this song? Well, it’s more subtle than: “The way your thing just wiggle in the air, turn around and then you flip your hair. I could think of a couple positions for you” on “Right for You.” Justin’s going impregnate some girl over the airwaves if he keeps it up like this. (Look, I just made a double entendre, JT style!)
But my favorite line is during the Clipse rap on the single “Like I Love You”: “We could ride around pumpin’ NERD in the deck, funny how a few words turns into sex.” Oh, how funny indeed! And, at least for me and all the guys I know, truer words have never been spoken. Good old J. Timberlake… now how heavy is that?
Overcoming The Thrall of Justin’s Hips
Vanessa: I used to be one of those carefree girls, unfettered by the curse of the boy band crush. Sure, I’d heard of *NSYNC, but I didn’t know anyone’s names. Couldn’t identify anyone by hip movement alone. But then the evil boy band crack pusher came along, with her videos of sparkly thrusting boys. You may know her as Kristen.
It was the hips that did me in. Justin’s in particular. Damn but that boy could move. But I had willpower. I resisted the thrall. Really I did. OK, maybe that whole resisting thing didn’t last long, and OK, maybe I have *NSYNC marionette dolls watching my every move as I work at my desk now, and OK, I’m weak! I admit it!
But then something happened. I realized Justin had those same hip moves in the third grade. And while all that old footage was still appealing, it was because I was fairly fixated on JC. There’s a short period where Justin is old enough, and sexy enough, and I still feel that old thrall. But we’re past that short period now and Justin’s moved on to something else. He doesn’t seem to have that same old innocence. While *NSYNC’s songs were sparkly, Justin’s just don’t seem to have that luster. They blend in with everything else on the radio. I’ve even seen the songs in conjunction with the hips, and I am unmoved. I think I’ve finally broken the thrall for good.
Amanda: I’m too busy to keep up with the career of any single *NSYNC member who isn’t Lance, so here’s what I knew about Justified as of the morning of its release: Several big-named producers worked with Justin on the album, the first single was “Like I Love You,” the second single is “Cry Me A River,” and Justin refuses to admit any of the songs are about Britney. I assumed the songs would be heavily influenced by Justin’s love of “old-school” and also by his relationship with the Neptunes. I expected the album to be lots of riffing with some beatboxing and a heavy leaning toward R&B. Imagine my surprise when I got all these things, with the added bonus of roller disco!
For the purposes of this mini-review, let’s pretend Justified doesn’t have any schlocky or mid-tempo ballads. That weeds out all the songs I’ll never listen to and leaves us with a bit less material to cover. It also allows me to separate the songs into two piles – those that remind me of the stuff they played when I was 10 and hung out at the roller rink, and those that are supposed to inspire me to shake my ass on the dance floor. “Rock Your Body,” “Last Night, ” and “Take Me Now” all fall into the first category. Justin is all falsetto in these songs, accompanied by funky instrumentation and wah-wah peddles. I really like these tracks, because I know Justin probably loves them, too. It’s like he’s living out his Jackson Five fantasies.
“Like I Love You,” “What You Got,” “Cry Me A River,” and “Right For Me” are the dance floor grooves. They’re great songs, with catchy hooks, and I like them. In fact, three of the four songs I mentioned above are my favorite songs on the album. But these songs, though all about freaking on the dance floor, don’t give me the beat I need to do any actual freaking on the dance floor. Sure, Timberlake himself can probably pull it off. He’s got those Amazing Swiveling Hips. For the rest of us, these beats are just too complicated.