#8) Justin Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveSounds, 2006

So now it is officially official: I am behind.  Christmas Day was a lot more tiring than I thought it would be, and blogging was simply not an option at the end of it.  Have no fear though, the list will go on, and if I must I will spend all of New Year’s Day counting down to #1. 

Although I knew quite early that this would make my list, I haven’t had the chance to listen to it straight through in the last month, so tonight after work I listened, sitting on my bed, drinking lemon ginger tea (because for Christmas, I got a cold) as I wrote this blog.  My first thought as I began was remembering a conversation I recently had with my niece.  She insisted that Timbaland’s real name is “Justin Timberland”, just like Justin Timberlake.  I don’t think she can fully tell the two apart!  And why should she be able to, with the incredible partnership they built up on this album? 

Right from the get-go FutureSex/LoveSounds (the song and album) is like nothing we had ever heard before from a boy-band member, or from Justin himself.  It has darker and sexier tones, that are only given more weight by Timbaland’s heavy bass and diverse sounds.  And then, as if he needed to state the obvious, Justin announces that he has brought Sexy Back.  As hot as this track was the first time I heard it on the radio, it packed way more of a punch on the album.  Naturally, it became one of the biggest dance tracks of the decade, by making each and every one of us want to bring some part of sexy back, in any small way we can. 
Sexy Ladies comes off sounding really cocky, but then he gets away with it by admitting it: “Now it might sound cocky, but is it really cocky if you know it’s true?”  Fine.  You’re forgiven.  I’ll even let you put “sexy” in the title of two of your songs back to back.  Who the heck can get away with that?
All of a sudden, I realize I must put joking aside.  Throughout FutureSex/LoveSounds, the Timb’s use “interludes” and “preludes” to tie songs together, and therefore contains some of the best transitions on a pop record.  For example the Let Me Talk to You prelude at the end of Sexy Ladies that leads into  My Love is so boss, I actually forget how the whole track goes until it starts up.  And then when it does and I’ve already heard the chorus several times, I’m not bored by it because of how different it feels.  The movement in the rhythmic synth riff is contagious, and I’m doing a sort of upper body dance that I don’t think should ever been seen by human eyes. 

And soon enough it happens all over again in LoveStoned/I Think She Knows.  Half way through the song, instrumentation strips down to beatbox and strings, and then cuts out again to a solo guitar vamping on the same pattern.  By the time Justin is singing again, it’s hard to remember that I’m actually listening to the same song – the same chorus even!  When he does move on to What Goes Around…/…Comes Back Around, he has to make it unmistakably new, yet I feel as though the semi-continuity of orchestral strings still ties the two tracks together a bit.  What Goes Around… sounds like a predictable pop song for once… until about 5.5 minutes in when you expect the song to round down, and instead and it shifts to an entirely different attitude.  I stop feeling sorry for Justin, and begin to feel his anger.
And anger is a good thing to feel a little of in the dirty sound, which is exactly where we’re headed with Chop Me Up.  Timbaland’s distorted echo is just nasty on this track.  Mafia Three 6 makes an appearance and slows the bounce considerably, but gets nowhere near stopping anything.  I wish the album could keep on going like this, instead of moving to Damn Girl, which sticks out like a sour thumb.  It’s not that it’s a bad track.  It’s a lot of fun, but it takes me a while to get into the old school groove and harmony after half an album of Timbaland’s unique and futuristic sounding influence.
But don’t worry, Timb’s back with Summer Love.  I am strutting all over the kitchen, living room, down the stairs, wherever with this one.  And although the next song, Until the End of Time, has a completely different tone, once again an incredibly crafted transition prepares me and takes me there, without me even realizing it.  The album is funneling down into a new thought and sound, and maybe conclusion, but there’s no forced-ness or awkwardness about it.
Loosing My Way comes across as far more humble than the rest of this sexy and confident album, although Justin gives himself the character named George.  This one is saturated with MJ influence, complete even with a children’s choir.  “Can anybody hear me, cause I can’t seem to hear myself…” is a prayer for help and forgiveness, which takes a moment to sink into, but ends up believable. 
Another Song (All Over Again) is the only other track on the album (other than Damn Girl) that is not produced by Timbaland.  And yet here I think it works a little better.  At the end of the album, it hits me as a very honest track: After he has been a love god in his own eyes, bringing sexy back and the whole bit, ultimately he’s left as a boy who’s messed up and is begging for a second chance. 

Another Song is very far from where we began FutureSex/LoveSounds, but one that was made by a journey of transitions.  Just as each track is crafted to perfection, the album is shaped in such a way that I do want to put the album on all over again to see just how they did it.  However, I have 7 more albums to listen to, so a repeat will have to wait. 

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