here Justified was coy flirtation FutureSex/LoveSounds is “Hey You! Let’s fuck,” all post-post-breakup, reckless overcorrection with Justin Timberlake sowing his wild oats into a “futuristic” digital get-down. Sexy ladies, sexy love sounds, sexy backs, “Summer Love” = summer sex, “Love Stoned” = high from sex, “My Love” = my dick. It’s seduction without romance, penetration without pretense, “Good morning!” without breakfast. The Justin Timberlake of FutureSex/LoveSounds is the Promiscuous Boy: dude likes his coitus and he likes it No Strings Attached.
So if Justified was the album Michael Jackson should have made; FutureSex/LoveSounds is the Prince record only Justin Timberlake could have … with help, of course. The rejuvenated Timbaland and his collaborative partner Danja continue their hot streak from FutureSex/LoveSounds’s sister album, Nelly Furtado’s Loose, upping the sonic ante to create a decidedly progressive pop soundscape for Justin to spill his seed.
While the equation: “Timbaland + (fill in X artist here) = Mindcrushing Pop Perfection” could have won a damn Field’s Medal this year, there’s hardly anything formulaic about FutureSex/LoveSounds; it’s ambitious almost to a fault, with each song revealing a unique and distinct sonic character from the next. Whether it’s the percolating synth stabs and frantic stuttering rhythm of “My Love,” the approximated screw of “Chop Me Up” or the crisp scratched chicken-greasy funk of will.i.am’s “Damn Girl,” FutureSex/LoveSounds’s tracks match and often exceed the overwhelming expectations of the guy whose name is on the front of the record. It’s one thing to make Nelly Furtado a star; it’s an entirely different animal to maintain the success of one of the most famous people in the world. Timbo delivers.
But in as much as this could easily be a Timbaland review, FutureSex/LoveSounds, even with its schizophrenic song selection and jaw-dropping production, is still distinctly a Justin Timberlake record: he is the star of the show, with that soaring falsetto, sincere sensitivity, and charisma that’ll ooze out of your iPod’s headphone jack. Guys wanna be him, girls wanna bed him, and he wants to bed those girls.
As such, the first half of the album can only be described with one word: “horny.” Its opening title track sets the agenda: “Slide a little bit closer to me, little girl / Daddy’s on a mission to please.” It’s the ultimate in ulterior motives: Getting you off makes him look/feel good. Meanwhile, “Sexy Back” follows with even more pillow talk that would make R. Kelly blush. Over Timbo’s Buck Rogers Cha-Cha Slide he sings “Dirty babe / You see these shackles baby I’m your slave / I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave.” Subtle. Even “My Love,” with its seemingly sincere romantic sentiments, “Well, baby I’ve been around the world / But I ain't seen myself another girl (like you) / This ring here represents my heart” sounds like the kind of thing you’d say to a girl if you were just trying to get in her pants. Or maybe to make someone else jealous?
Which brings us to the album’s centerpiece: the epic “What Goes Around” and its companion track “Comes Around. ” Others may wrongfully dismiss this song, easily the album’s highlight, as merely “Cry Me a River: Part 2.” But that’s exactly what this is: its sequel, its next episode, its natural progression when the broken-hearted abandoned lover honestly doesn’t give a flying fuck whether you cry him a river or not. Over Timbaland’s grandiose swelling keyboard strings and stammering drum track Timberlake sings, “So it goes without saying that you left me feeling hurt … Girl you got what you deserved.” It’s anger, indignation, and devious satisfaction and it’s a long way from the self pity of “You told me you loved me / Why did you leave me, all alone.” Yeah, Justin. You tell her.
Elsewhere FutureSex/LoveSounds provides ample hot shit. “Summer Love” with its good foot hesitation boom-clap and cascading chorus synthline showcases Timberlake’s best vocal on the record: the beat drops out while he sings in perfect harmony, “Tell me how they got that pretty little face on that pretty little frame girl.” Mackness. “Damn Girl” captures vintage MJ soul almost as well as anything on Justified with its swirling organ melody, dirty live drums, and slinky bassline. And will.i.am produced it. And will.i.am raps on it. And it doesn’t suck. That’s an achievement all its own.
The record isn’t without some flaws. “Until the End of Time” is on some KC and JoJo ish. “Losing My Way” with its melodramatic tale of a crackhead named Bob accompanied by a massive embarrassing gospel choir is even more ridiculous than it sounds. And the smoky, lifeless “(Another Song) All Over Again” lacks the understated sincerity of Justified’s underappreciated “Never Again.” And all these songs occur one after the other to close the album. Not a good look.
Justified positioned Timberlake to become the new and undisputed King of Pop, making his curious absence over the last four years … well … curious. In that time Usher put out a terrible album that everyone loved; Beyonce became a freaking megastar; and Britney Spears, forever his muse, has devolved into a twice-married, twice pregnant southern fried train wreck. But with FutureSex/LoveSounds this horny bastard and his ever reliable collaborator have nearly much erased those four years. No dispute: Usher, Beyonce, Christina, Britney were just keeping the seat warm: The King’s back on his throne.
Reviewed by: Barry Schwartz
Reviewed on: 2006-09-12