Wednesday, February 9, 2011
My Growing Respect for Justin Timberlake
This blog might surprise my readers like my Miley Cyrus post did 2 years ago, although that post is almost prophetic now watching how Miley and Lindsay Lohan have fared since. But after watching The Social Network, it's time to admit publicly what I've said privately to friends. Justin Timberlake is as cool as it gets.
10 years ago, if you told me that Justin Timberlake would be one of the coolest dudes to support, I would've said no. Even as N*Sync released their more mature Celebrity album where Justin wrote most of the group's material and they let an in-their-prime BT and the Neptunes produce them, I never would've rocked with JT as anything but a pretty boy for the ladies.
And yes, I realize I just broke down an N*Sync album - somewhere my sister is cackling that her years of listening to boy bands got stuck in my head.
Quiet as kept, Justin is making everyone forget those days because of what he's done since. 1) Become one of the best live performers in pop music and dudes can relate to his music a whole lot more. 2) an actor who's not just a big name draw but could become more respected with time.
Let's start with music. I'll defend to anyone that Justified was a great R&B album. R&B, not pop. The same way that George Michael changed his identity with Faith album, Justin did with his. It was funky, smooth, mature and backed by the Neptunes and Timbaland, it was a sonic backdrop to announce it was time to respect him.
When I heard "Like I Love You" for the first time right when I started college, I knew it wouldn't be a typical pop album. Cry Me a River darn near made me lost my mind and Rock Your Body set a few college parties off right. Suddenly, I ended up listening to the whole album and loving every bit of it, down to the last song with Brian McKnight. And "Let's Take A Ride" is still my joint to ride out on.
People compared him to Michael Jackson but I compared it to George Michael and Bobby Brown. A boy band frontman stepping out and having a monster album that had critical appeal. Dude showed he could sing and also have a vision for great music. And the Black community accepted it like it was true R&B.
Future Sex/Love Sounds took it to another level as I left college. I was more into Prince and had a deeper appreciation for soul and innovation in my music. Needless to say, Justin hit my ears pretty well but it wasn't until the 3rd single "What Goes Around" that I realized he and Timbaland were trying to change the sound of pop music like Timbo tried to do with Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous."
That and "Love Stoned" showed me what epic pop goodness can sound like and I think they're the best singles Justin's ever released. I didn't buy either album but I'd safely say that if he ever releases a 3rd album, I wouldn't feel any shame buying it. Dude's expanded his musicianship with playing the guitar and piano and his showmanship is with few peer.
Acting-wise, I heard he showed glimpses of his acting potential in Alpha Dog. But nothing shocked me more than seeing him in those 2 SNL skits and him actually being funny. Everyone knows him and Andy Samberg in Dick in a Box and Mother Lover but I dang near teared up when they recreated Single Ladies with Beyonce. It takes balls not to take yourself seriously and skill to get genuine laughs.
But as Sean Parker in The Social Network, I literally didn't recognize Justin as an actor. I saw him capturing his pop-star fame with the ambitiousness of a corporate maverick and it felt like I was watching Sean Parker come alive like I read about. He was every bit as convincing as Jesse Eisenberg as he showcased the cool, confidence, daring and recklessness that Silicon Valley was known for. And again, I was shocked.
I remember reading in Rolling Stone back in 03 or 04 that Justin just wanted respect more than anything. Well seven years later, he's got it from me, a former hater who thinks he's one of the coolest, down-to-Earth celebrities around. I'm surprised to admit it myself but it's getting more obvious every time I see him do something and feel his authenticity.
Johnny Depp had to shed that pretty boy label and prove he was one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood in my opinion. Same with Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not saying Justin's in their league but it wouldn't surprise me if in another 5 years, N*Sync becomes a distant memory and he'll be hailed as a cultural icon that men can respect with no shame.
No longer can I hate the playa when I've respected the game for a while. Much respect to Mr. JT finally getting what he deserves.