Saturday, February 24, 2007

Justin Timberlake is Really, Really Good

[Admin Note: This blog is probably going to move shortly to Does anyone know how to move all my past blogs without having to copy-paste them one by one?]

Anyway, I've been holding on to this super-secret allegiance to Justin Timberlake for some time now. I hated him in N'Sync just like everybody else, laughed when he released "Justified" just like everybody else, and generally dismissed his ongoing solo career--just like everybody else. I called him a retread, a packaged, corporate, commerical pop product, and propounded that he, along with certain others--Christina, Britney, the Simpson sisters, Michael Jackson's corpse--was ruining music.
Then he brought sexy back, and pledged his affection for his love. Then he performed on the Grammys and completely blew The Police off the stage.

In this convoluted, convulsive literary world, there are not many writers to whom I look up. Most are either too stodgy or too colloquial, or too bound up in their own success to breathe appreciable material. I do have one influence/unbeknownst-to-him-mentor-and-muse: Bill Simmons, or "The Sports Guy," the columnist essentially paid to blog about sports and culture. He doesn't do interviews, doesn't cite statistics, and certainly doesn't have any particular expertise other than rabid fandom and a knack for uncanny self-expression.
Bill (yes, we're on a first-name basis) kept a running diary along with the Grammys, and offered this during Mr. Timberlake's "My Love" performance:

"Justin Timberlake is performing right now, although he made the tragic decision not to sing "D*** in a Box." Hey, it's OK to think he's talented, right? Two hit albums AND he's one of the best SNL hosts ever AND he sold at the highest point possible on Britney's stock AND he wrote the best revenge song ever (the "Cry Me A River" song that pretty much murdered Britney's soul) AND he's plowing through every hot female in Hollywood right now. He's a hero, I say."

I second that, Bill. Let's examine Bill's argument, piece by piece:
-Obviously, two hit albums are factually inarguable. The guy had two hit albums, regardless of anyone's relativist/subjective evaluation of said albums.

-One of the best SNL hosts ever? That may be something of an overstatement; indeed, SNL has suffered a gradual, painful, incessant deterioration since the early '90s, while purists (read: my dad) would argue that the original cast (Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Garrett Morris--the original Tim Meadows/Tracy Morgan uproarious token black guy) embodied the pinnacle from which subsequent broadcasts have declined.
Still, JT was one of the best "crappy modern era" hosts, replete with humor, passable acting, and, as Bill mentioned, the all-time-great Dick in a Box. That and Lazy Sunday are the overwhelmingly best programming of the past 2 years. Is it merely coincidence that an all-time modern SNL highlight coincided with JT? Hell no.

-The Britney argument is what pushes Justin over the edge. Just like one might not agree that he was one of the best SNL hosts ever, one might reasonably assert that Britney's stock rose slightly after the break-up, followed by her precipitous drop from glory, punctuated by K-Fed, kid in the car, and finally, ex-K-FED, the most inglorious implosion we've seen since OJ high-tailed it in a Bronco. But this much is incontrovertible: Justin Timberlake had Britney for the bulk of her glory days, probably took her virginity (or at least took most of it), and had the foresight to sell at or near her peak. That is beyond talent--that is prescient, brilliant, and inspirational.

-JT did NOT, however, write the best revenge song ever. Come on, Bill: ain't you ever heard 2Pac's "Hit 'Em Up?" The dude got shot, then stole Biggie's song, wrote new and better lyrics, and mercilessly eviscerated Biggie, Bad Boy, and east coast rap. Oh, and he also included the claim that he slept with Biggie's wife.

-Just like his two hit albums, that he's plowing through every hot female in Hollywood is also a factual truth. Take Bill Simmons' near-9pm note:
"8:59 -- [John] Mayer upsets Timberlake to win the Grammy for "Best Pop Vocal Album." JT looks bummed out for a split second until remembering that he bagged Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johannson in the past three weeks."
Exactly--plus, he just broke up with Cameron Diaz, and, of course, he had Britney a while back.

All of this goes to show that, despite our misgivings about what JT represents, or via what medium he achieved fame, the guy is a dynamo. Not to mention that the tracks off his new album are the best-produced hip-hop songs we've heard since Outkast's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below." It's better than The Roots' "Game Theory" in terms of production value and dynamics, and dwarfs "Idlewild" by an urban mile (hell, the songs I write on my laptop during political science are better than most of "Idlewild." What was Outkast thinking? That they'd sell tons of albums on the coattails of "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"? Well, probably, because that's exactly what they did.)

And did you see him at the Grammys? If you didn't, log on to YouTube and search for "Timberlake Grammys." His voice is no studio mirage--he can wail, he can go low, his vibrato is masterful, and he can dance the hell out of a song. Plus, you KNOW he boned the girl who sang with him. It ranks high in Guaranteed Score pantheon, just ahead of Tommy Lee with any country blonde and a shade behind Tommy Lee with any country blonde with big boobs.

A hero, though? That's where Bill went to too far: JT hasn't had a string of solid releases yet, nor has he endeared himself to the musician community--he can't play 20 instruments like Prince, and his vocal/dance/performance talent isn't so transcendent, a la Michael Jackson, that die-hard afficianados wholly appreciate him. At the rate he's going, though, he'll get there one day, suit-clad and crew-cut, Hollywood bombshell in tow, professing his love for his love.

Stay spectacular, JT
DJ Divisive (hopefully not, but let's see how people react to this)

No comments: