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.