By Elliot Alpern, Daily Music Columnist
Published March 19, 2013
Ready or not, world — Justin Timberlake just released another album, to the collective wails and whispered “thank you” ’s of a whole generation of pop lovers. I’m sure you heard “Mirrors,” the single that sounds like a Billboard mainstay before the song even ends — or at least “Suit & Tie” (which Barney from “How I Met Your Mother” would be prudent to choose as his theme song). Regardless, unless you’ve been stuck in a sinkhole for the past few months (or an ’N Sync-hole, for those stuck in the past few decades), I’m sure you’re aware that we’ll all be hearing about Justin Timberlake non-stop ’til Taylor Swift drops another best-seller. Unless …
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“Spoiler alert. 20/20 Vol 2 comes out in nov. (10 songs now….. 10 songs later = 20 vision)” — perhaps not the most lucid album-release announcement in recent memory, but Questlove nonetheless offered the above response to a New York Times article Saturday, and it has since been confirmed. Which means, well, if we’re lucky, we probably won’t stop talking about JT until Blue Ivy finally finishes that debut we’ve been expecting.
I respect Justin Timberlake more than anything else. The guy is a consistent pop hit-maker, one who managed to claw his way out of the wreckage of ’N Sync’s eventual demise to become one of biggest names in contemporary music. And even in a vacuum, the man still managed to cop a feel from Janet Jackson on live television, in front of the largest TV audience there is — and that was before he decided to bring Sexy Back.
So no, though I’ve been in a bit of a bashing mood lately, I’ll do no such thing to the guy — rather, I’m actually keenly interested. How is Justin from ’N Sync now such a revered, jack-of-all-trades celebrity?
The super-fans among you might be screaming “The Mickey Mouse Club” — but if so, please stop, I’m sure you’re disturbing your neighbors. And you’re only partly right anyway. Justin did co-star on “The Mickey Mouse Club” with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling and eventual bandmate JC Chasez (which of these things is not like the others, right?). Without any “Club,” Justin would’ve never been recruited (along with JC) by legendary boy-band manager Lou Pearlman. The rest, as they say, is history.
Even some of the more casual Justin fans know the story, the eye-popping Disney show lineup and rise to fame. But there’s also a lot of Justin that doesn’t necessarily reach the public eye, or that we’ve just sort of forgotten about along the way (and yes, this did involve researching Justin Timberlake at the library for an hour; I don’t need your judgment).
For instance, I have to admit that JT seems like a cool dude; what with his recent induction into “SNL” ’s five-timers club as one of the better “SNL” hosts of the decade. The guy made “Dick in a Box.” Even I would go hang out with the superstar if invited — it seems like it would be a blast.
Except that, well, I don’t know how much of that image to trust. I like to hope that, maybe with maturation, this isn’t the same guy who wrote and performed the McDonald’s anthem “I’m Lovin’ It,” and later claimed, “I love what McDonald’s is doing with the new ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ campaign … We share the same crowd — people who like to have fun.” Clearly, he doesn’t eat at fast-food chains; I’ve never seen anything close to “fun” at a McDonald’s. But from Disney, to boy band, to McDonald’s, who’s to say that the public gets an accurate, un-modified view of the star? How do we know we’re not getting sold?
But even the details of his personal life sound so perfectly vulnerable and simultaneously cool. Satisfying the obvious first requirement for being an “awesome celebrity” (giving to charity), Timberlake donates to children’s hospitals, wildlife foundations, arts foundations — you name it.