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Sneak Peek: Justin Timberlake "FutureSex/LoveSounds"

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The pop world has gone a little mad. A few artists who are considered major stars and could do nothing wrong in the recent past are now being marginalized by mediocre album releases that simply are not living up to expectations. Take for example Beyonce who seems to have gotten totally off track in the studio with a sound that is chaotic, overproduced and simply oversung. Another example is Christina Aguilera who deserves kudos for thinking out of the box, but has not delivered the goods her core fan base was hoping for, and is disconnected from the pop loving crowd that propelled her to fame. And let's not forgot Janet Jackson's stalling comeback effort.

But I have good news for you. There is one exception to all the madness this season. Justin Timberlake's new record "FutureSex/LoveSounds" is a triumphant effort that successfully combines contemporary pop sensibilities while satisfying the singer's own desire for innovation. It is not necessarily the most original achievement, but it pushes a few buttons that will surely get many into the groove. Thankfully, we don't have to rely on Jessica Simpson to move the pop genre a little forward.

"FutureSex/LoveSounds" is an impressive blend of '80 inspired pop, R&B, funk, soul and rock that echoes Michael Jackson, Prince and, yes, James Brown. Timberlake produced all twelve songs on the album together with Timbaland, will.i.am and Rick Rubin who is mostly know from his work with Johnny Cash and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Undisputed highlight on the album is "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows" that is nearly 8 minutes longs. The song progresses from a bouncy R&B jive into an epic tune that truly blew me away. If you think that "Sexyback" is on the bleeding edge of what Timberlake can serve up, you are grossly mistaken.

The only drawback of Timberlake's music is a lack of lyrical depth. Most of his songs deal with relationships and sex, but not in clever or thought-provoking ways. I believe that Timberlake's sound is mostly music that you feel and tap to led by his soulful crooning. There is one striking exception to my observation. The song "Losing My Way" is a gripping and unambiguous tale about drugs and addiction that will surely shock many of his teenage fans.

"FutureSex/Love Sounds" is in stores in two weeks from now, on September 12. I have written up a brief song-by-song review after the jump.

"FutureSex/LoveSound": A slow, throbbing groove with bouncy '80s-style synth bass that is basically a tongue in cheek song about making love. A signature Timbaland tune with a chorus that is somewhat reminiscent of Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous."

"SexyBack": Unmistakably the first singe, of course, with that oddly infectious static sound element. I'm still hearing Janet Jackson saying "yes" during the chorus of the song. But that's probably my wishful thinking.

"Sexy Ladies/Let Me Talk to You Prelude": A sexy funk stomper with a rippling bass line that invokes memories of early '80s Prince. Not only because of the song's production stylings, but also due to Timberlake's vocal inflection.

"My Love" (featuring T.I.): This mid-tempo jam is the second single that will be lifted from the album. Similar production values as "SexyBack" but has more melodious, soulful vocal parts. Cute is the addition of Justin's human beat box that is sampled throughout the track.

"LoveStoned/I Think She Knows Interlude": By far the best track on the album that is almost 8 minutes long. It really is one song with two different chapters, starting out fun and frisky with a delicious bass line (mark my words) and turning into an epic, propulsive pop rock anthem with a haunting string section and electric guitars around the 5 minutes mark. The last few minutes sent chills downs my spine. Really good stuff.

"What Goes Around/Comes Around Interlude": When I first heard Justin perform this track in Amsterdam I dubbed this his new "Cry Me River." A mid-tempo ballad in which he sings about heartache and revenge. This is a great single candidate that is more song than groove compared to "SexyBack" and "My Love." "What Goes Up" will have you humming along wheter you want it or not.

Chop Me Up (ft. Timbaland, Three 6 Mafia): Menacing hip-hop tune with multi-layered chorus of rap and vocals. Chaotic and overproduced. Timbaland should leave the soundboard alone once in a while. Enough is enough.

"Damn Girl" (ft. will.i.am): Hot track sang almost entirely in falsetto by Timberlake. Production has a sweet, vintage soul vibe. I dare say he sounds like a young James Brown including the oohs and aahs.

"Summer Love/Set The Mood Prelude": Another hot jam with heavy percussion and sizzling synth bass. The song progresses in a sensual ballad with gospel-type background singers.

"Until The End Of Time" (ft. Benjamin Orchestra Wright): This is a pure soul ballad that is perfect for Timberlake's distinct falsetto ad-libs. I recognize elements of the "Purple Rain" percussion that Prince made famous back in the day.

"Losing My Way": It appears Timberlake is singing about drug addiction on this track. "Hi, my name is Rob and I work at my job making 40 something dollars a day.  I used to be the man in my hometown until I started losing my way," he sings. "Now I got a problem with that little white rock. And I can't put down the pipe. It is breaking me down." Nice touch is the children's choir at the end of the song, which turns it into a full-out prayer.

"(Another Song) All Over Again": This song was produced by Rick Rubin. But there is nothing rocky or grungy about it. Instead it invokes memories of a dark, smokey jazz lounge with Timberlake singing this homage to his favorite singer Donny Hathaway. This song is a worthy effort, but I prefer having the young Timberlake. This song makes him sound 20 years older.

(Click here to pre-order "FutureSex/LoveSounds" on Amazon.)

August 29, 2006 in Sneak Peek | Permalink

Comments

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Hey Arjan,

Futuresex/Lovesounds actually gets on my nerves! I feel like I'm listening to a guy trying to create his own sound, but ending up being a rip-off of his influences. You said it yourself in this review, it sounds a bit Michael Jackson, a bit Prince etc. I think there are 3 great tracks and the rest are just overproduced synth tracks. I especially dislike "Sexy Ladies" and "Damn Girl"! And his vocals... listen to the track "Like I Love You", followed by new track "Futuresex/Love Sounds" and you'll have a hard time believing it's the same person.
Beyonce's "B'Day" on the other hand is a grower. "Deja Vu" is actually a good song, though I couldn't stand it at first. Much better album than "Dangerously In Love". Much better than any Destiny's Child album. Whether it sells or not is another story.

Posted by: Timbo at Aug 29, 2006 5:19:51 AM

I have to say that this album beats Timberland's Nelly Furtado collabouration of the Summer. I am no afficionato hip-hop, but I do like this album. I also like Kelis' album too. When I think of these albums, I think of vocal talent. I think that Kelis and Justin should get together, have some kids, and make an album like the Partridge family.

Posted by: Josh at Aug 29, 2006 7:05:00 AM

I totally agree with Arjan. Only "Chop me up" is a pretty nice track, but Three Six Mafia bring a little too much hiphop to the table than Justin really needs. If it was up to me I would let Justin & Tim make a mixed third verse themselves.
But anyway, it is very different from Justified, which I loved, but that isn't a bad thing. It's great album, it has to grow, but I do love it, a lot. It's very true that Justin is setting the tone of Popular music atm. I mean Beyonce's Deja vu, could've been called Crazy In Love and I still wouldn't hear difference. Even though I like her voice and all (not only that;)) I don't hear difference. Which is important for a sophmore album to impress people. Justin did that! And In my opinion will succeed. He may lose some less broad-minded fans, but earn a lot more! I always thought Justin was an amazing artist, I'm judging his music (I'm a straight dude) and this album brings him to a whole other level. Excellent!
4.5-4.75/5 if you ask me!

Posted by: PrinzZ at Aug 29, 2006 7:29:39 AM

I totally agree with Arjan. Only "Chop me up" is a pretty nice track, but Three Six Mafia bring a little too much hiphop to the table than Justin really needs. If it was up to me I would let Justin & Tim make a mixed third verse themselves.
But anyway, it is very different from Justified, which I loved, but that isn't a bad thing. It's great album, it has to grow, but I do love it, a lot. It's very true that Justin is setting the tone of Popular music atm. I mean Beyonce's Deja vu, could've been called Crazy In Love and I still wouldn't hear difference. Even though I like her voice and all (not only that;)) I don't hear difference. Which is important for a sophmore album to impress people. Justin did that! And In my opinion will succeed. He may lose some less broad-minded fans, but earn a lot more! I always thought Justin was an amazing artist, I'm judging his music (I'm a straight dude) and this album brings him to a whole other level. Excellent!
4.5-4.75/5 if you ask me!

Posted by: PrinzZ at Aug 29, 2006 7:29:40 AM

Rick Rubin - best known for his work with Red Hot Chilli and Johnny Cash? HUH maybe in the past 4 years! the guy is a legend. he is best known for his work in hiphop and metal. He MADE the beastie boys, RUN DMC, System of A Down, etc!

Posted by: jojo at Aug 29, 2006 10:51:08 AM

ps - Justins new album is style over substance. Lyrically uninspired. The music is fully Timbalands. Leaves you asking...who exactly is JT and besides his signature voice - is he really an artist?

Posted by: jojo at Aug 29, 2006 10:52:56 AM

May I comment on that, Jojo? If you haven't noticed that Justin's style and feel for melody is clearly present in the song "What Goes Around" and "Losing My Way". Not even to mention "End of time". You have not noticed his potential 'cause it's all so obvious that those songs wouldn't be what they are (absolutely amazing) if Justin hadn't contributed. From those sliding falsetto's and melodies in My Love to his groovy slick voice in "Sexy Ladies", it's clearly that he makes what the songs are now. What do you expect, if the album is supposed to be sexy in a less obvious way, that he writes deep-minded and thought-through songs? ofcourse not! At least he's not writing "I wanna have sex on the beach" or something like that. But it's lyrically the best way to express your sexual feelings (see futuresex/lovesound, first song) and loving feelings (see "until the end of time") It's remotely ridiculous that you think Timbaland owned this album. Then you don't know justin's music but at all, obviously.

PS: Arjan, it's "What goes around"=)
Prolly a miss-type

Posted by: Prinzz at Aug 29, 2006 1:28:59 PM

I agree with Jojo about the production. Timbaland with JT on top. I am sick of these beat-centric records right now. Give me something NEW!

Posted by: xolondon at Aug 29, 2006 5:21:00 PM

I like Beyonce's effort the best. Justin's is a bit too referential to me. He seems to have put forth the love theme in an identical way on each track. No variety, no sense of humor. Ultimately that becomes unsexy. The song about the drug addict is WAY out of place too. The production is just a summary of hip-hop capabilities in the last 2 years or so. I doubt it'll grow on me.

Posted by: bubba at Aug 29, 2006 7:05:23 PM

I was only ever interested in the singles on "Justified" but "FutureSex" totally grabbed me from start to finish (and I usually can't stand the addition of hip-hop cameos). The best tracks are obviously the emotive "LoveStoned" and "What Goes Around..." which sees Justin going out on a pop limb (gotta love strings used imaginatively), IMO.

I actually think Justin is singing better and feeling the groove a whole lot more on this album. I like the slight electro flourishes and the underplayed hip-hop beats. This is definitely a better effort than Beyonce's safe and boring recent effort(s).

Posted by: zen~ at Aug 30, 2006 3:50:05 PM

The first thing i thought after listening to the album is, that it sounds more like a new Timberland album. "Losing my way" is the first song on the album that actually made me listen.
I love the way he sings on "All over again". Alot more soul in his voice and less proccessing, effects and editting on the vocals. I like the groove of the track "Pose". Very funky rhythm and way of singing. Snoop Dogg is a perfect choice for the song. I nearly had to laugh when i heared the last track with Three-6 Mafia. Justin is trying so hard to talk like he's from the south too.

Posted by: Ferry at Sep 5, 2006 4:18:01 AM

I'm really not getting this new work of JT's. Nowhere in this CD do I get a feel of his own sound; his own being as an artist who is growing and taking himself to a new level above the "boy band" stigma that we know him from. Granted, I think he does well vocally and some of the songs are actually not bad but all 'n all, it's a mish-mash, a pastiche of all the influences he is borrowing from without any hint of JT himself.

One song that really doesn't work for me is "Losing My Way". This is a great song; very heavy. But it loses all credibility for me hearing it from a "boy from Tennessee who got his start in The Mickey Mouse Club with Britney Spears". Sorry, you just can't sing a song like that without having lived a little bit of it. Also, how is it exactly that he is bringing "SexyBack"? I don't find anything "sexy" about the song or the video. Sex and sexiness is around us constantly and I don't think it has left or has been gone recently. So, if he's bringing sexy back, he hasn't brought anything new. I think he really needs to find one producer who can work with him to find his sound. In his case, I really think less would be more. I still think this CD will sell big for him and I personally will give it some play but in the end, I prefer substance over style.

Posted by: Marcus at Sep 5, 2006 12:37:51 PM

Err...? Over produced? Am I hearing this correctly? You have to be kidding, right? If anyone who has posted has gotten into music production (as I have) then you would undoubtedly have much respect for this album. Im sick of people saying things like, "oh its to chaotic", "over-produced", "too many sounds", people open your ears! Stop getting stuck into these 4-track, kick drum, snare, hand clap, bass, songs. The tracks present here are a true testament to skills. Timbaland's(and also Rick Rubin, Will.iam) skills or should I say talents (no one does what he/they does) are incredible. In every track Timb' produced on this album something new entered the beat at numerous intervals. It was great for me to just listen and catch just what excatly he was adding throughout the song. Many times I dont like songs for the simple fact that it becomes a repetitive 4 measure loop after the chorus. I can understand people though not liking most of Timbaland's tracks because not even every artist can get on a Timb' track, it takes alot to sing over it. Plus most people aren't delving that deep into production as I do (or are willing to/can listen to it) or others who are interested in the same thing. The biggest selling point for this whole album for me was strictly the producers. Granted Justin did a great job of singing on each track and really bringing them to life for me the production was the highlight. Same with Justified (Neptunes & Timbaland). This album is awesome for me. I do wish they had an instrumental version on CD I could find. Other than that I see what Justin is doing. I personally enjoy albums that bounce all over the place with song themes and production this album does a good job of doing that and Im loving it.

Posted by: RodB at Sep 5, 2006 6:13:16 PM

Dude (RodB), I completely agree with you! Justin's new tracks rock my socks.

Posted by: Alexa at Sep 6, 2006 9:06:35 AM

hey man...i listened to sexyback by JT and i thought that i heard Janet Jackson in the background with her trademark voice...then i read your review of his cd and you mentioned the same thing...i think we are on to something...is it really her? how could we find out?

Posted by: charlie at Sep 7, 2006 4:40:20 AM

why is there a different tracklisting for futuresex/lovesounds. i see there is a different one at amazon.co.uk. i emailed them twice about whether the tracklisting is correct and they said it is. so its on them.

Posted by: MistaTimbaland at Sep 10, 2006 1:29:17 PM

r u albanian?

Posted by: at Sep 13, 2006 2:36:48 PM

DUDE R U ALBANIAN?

Posted by: at Sep 13, 2006 2:37:52 PM

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