While most kids spend their teenage years praying for high school to end, Justin Timberlake spent his grasping for the spotlight from fellow members of the Mickey Mouse Club, and later from the famed boy band N*Sync.
With his follow up to 2002’s Justified, Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds is his album to self discovery.
After releasing Justified, which produced four major hits, he shed his dreamy boy band image and marketed himself as a credible artist, instead of a record label puppet as some claimed.
Timberlake takes the liberties presented to him with this new credibility to experiment with a variety of sounds on FutureSex/LoveSounds.
Generally seen as a pop artist, Timberlake tries to avoid being labeled by trying out various styles on his new album ranging from funk to hip hop to gospel.
With the help of mega producer Timbaland, who is responsible for Timberlake’s most memorable song from Justified, “Cry Me a River,” and reviving Nelly Furtado’s career with this summer’s hit “Promiscuous,” the most important thing he helps Timberlake do on this album is have fun.
Timbaland’s signature beats are most evident in the album’s singles “SexyBack” and “My Love.”
In “SexyBack,” Timberlake pushes the sexual envelope to a pseudo-sadomasochistic level as he taunts in a robotic voice, “You see these shackles baby I’m your slave/I’ll let you whip if I misbehave.”
With a popping synth beat and Timbaland commanding to “get your sexy on,” it is no wonder this song became an immediate dance club hit.
“My Love,” is the closest to a ballad, next to his Donny Hathaway tribute song “(Another Song) All Over Again” in which he highlights his vocal abilities by delicately letting his falsetto voice flow over a tinkling piano.
“My Love” presents an interesting contrast between Timberlake’s soft voice and the strong snare and synthesizer beat which underlies it.
Reaching for the same emotions that brought about “Cry Me a River,” Timberlake sings about another situation of unfaithfulness in “…What Goes Around…Comes Around.” In this seven minute epic, the song is introduced with a sitar creating a Middle Eastern beat. The story revolves around a woman who cheated on him and who ultimately gets cheated on by her new lover.
In a few songs, Timberlake follows in the foot steps of sex icon Prince. With elements of funk, load moans, and blunt statements of his love of women, “Sexy Ladies,” “Until the End of Time,” and “Damn Girl,” are undeniably fashioned after the androgynous Prince.
Obviously an experiment on Timberlake’s part, since he strays from the formula that normally produces his hits, he does not take the songs to lengths they could reach. The lyrics are immature and where the beat could be funkier it becomes monotonous and repetitive, occasionally leaving the listener bored.
On the other hand, “LoveSounds…I Think That She Knows,” leaves no room for boredom. In its seven minutes it shows all the different sides of Timberlake. The song starts off as a dance track with a strong drum beat and accented with a beautiful string section, and later fades to a funky guitar as Timberlake shows off his beat-boxing skills.
Later, with a breezy guitar riff, the song changes to a smooth R&B track with Timberlake tenderly cooing, “she’s got me love-stoned and I think that she knows.”
“Losing My Way,” which features Three Six Mafia rhyming to a hip-hop beat, deceives the listener into thinking they are listening to a rap song, when it slowly turns into the most inspiring song on the album. Timberlake narrates a story about a man named Bob who loses everything in his life because of his addiction to crack.
With the music fading out and the song being stripped down to hand clapping and the help of a choir, Timberlake pleads “There’s gotta be a heaven somewhere/Can you save me from this hell/Can anybody out there feel me/Cause I can’t seem to feel myself.”
Though Timberlake sings about losing his way, this album proves, as an artist, he’s slowly trying to find it.