You are the biggest solo star of your generation and your first album since leaving the boy-band that made you famous was one of the biggest sellers of that year and everyone is clamoring for your next album; so what do you do? If you are Justin Timberlake, you spend four years making a follow-up that's so radically different from your first album that most people don't believe that you could be behind it.
When I first heard "Sexyback," I must admit that I spat my tea all over my monitor in the office. It was a shock to hear Timberlake playing around and that made the build up to Futuresex/Lovesounds, probably the oddest album title of the year, all that more tense. Questions began to swim around my mind such as "Will the rest of the album sound like Michael Jackson on crack" and "Is J.T. going to play with vocal effects all the way through it?"
When I finally got my grubby little mitts on the album, I was happy that all my answers could finally be answered. The album starts with the intro "Futuresex/Lovesounds," which pretty much spells out how the rest of the album is going to go content-wise as it features the highly polished, heavy basslines that are featured throughout the album. The song moves quickly into "Sexyback" which everyone knows and either loves or hates, personally I think it is one of the standout tracks of the year alongside Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" with it's muffled vocals and ability to probably be the most erotically charged single of the year.
"Sexy Ladies" is pure Michael Jackson aping at it's best, sounding like it belongs to an unheard Bad-era recording. However, then it kicks into one of many preludes and interludes that break up the album and the album goes a bit off. These slow down the album and really don't add to the songs they are between and certainly aren't up to the high quality of the songs they precede and break up. "My Love" soon washes this away though and the highlight of the album, "Lovestoned," a truly breathtakingly piece of modern R&B that shows off the genius of producer of Timbaland. At over seven minutes long, including interlude, it may never get radio play but it certainly stands well above most album tracks this year and it's a shame that so many people will miss out on such a great song.
If the album does have any let downs it comes at the end with the syrupy and overwrought closing tracks that deal with drug abuse and other less than party filled joys. It always annoys me when albums as good as this end with songs as clichÃÂ©d and turgid as "Losing My Way," but it seems like everyone wants to show some sort of compassion even when it's not necessary. However the Special Edition does come with the Snoop collaboration "Pose" tacked on the end, whilst this writer must admit to not being a fan of bonus tracks, I'm quite glad that Jive put this on the end. It's a good solid self-referential ending for an album that would have otherwise been ruined by the previous three songs.
In a day and age where pop stars come and go after following a set path it is great to see Timberlake make such a different album. As we have seen in the past, the musicians that have long careers need to change to stay fresh and keep from going stale. Thankfully Timberlake has seen this and I hope that we hear more refreshing and challenging changes to his style for a long time to come.
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