Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Justin Timberlake

Considering everything he's done since he released FutureSex/LoveSound two years ago, it's easy to forget that Justin Timberlake is a pop star first and foremost. From "Dick in a Box" to Shrek the Third, Black Snake Moan and Alpha Dog, to his three restaurants, his William Rast designer label and his relationship with Jessica Biel, well, it almost seems that just being JT is enough to keep him busy.

From an undetermined source comes "Magic," a brand new (we think) track from Timberlake that is shockingly not the work of his mentor, Timbaland. Instead, those responsible are the next wave, shall we say, of uber-slick pop producers, the Norwegian team that's so unfortunately named Stargate (yeah, for reals). Known best for penning hits by Beyoncé ("Irreplaceable"), Ne-Yo ("So Sick"), Chris Brown ("With You") and Rihanna ("Take A Bow"), looking at Stargate's discography is not only eye-opening for what they've already done (Blue's "One Love"!), but for what they've done that's set to come out: R. Kelly's12 Play: Fourth Quarter, Rihanna's next album.

I like "Magic." It's not exactly "My Love" but I think moving on from Timbaland — something I'm certain isn't a complete emancipation — is a smart move for JT to find some new ground. He doesn't receive a complete makeover from Stargate, in fact, it's pretty Timbaland-ish, what with the funk guitar, farting synth slides, chopped vocal tricks, Jacko-obsessed bass riff and whip-cracking beats. But we don't get Timba's imposing guest appearance and that's important (at least to me), and perhaps more than ever, JT taps into Stevie Wonder's soul with a brief indulgence in electric piano and layered harmonies (see the 2:10 mark). Perhaps he is stepping on Robin Thicke's toes a little but let's face it, he gave this generation's white boys the opportunity to make music like this palatable.

As he sings, "Everything ain't what it seems," I do begin to wonder: what exactly is this? Where did it come from? Is it new or is it simply a FutureSex/LoveSoundthrowaway recovered from a dumpster somewhere? And most importantly, should we get our hopes up that this is a sign that Justin Timberlake's Third Studio Album will be with us sooner than we expected? Actually, most important is: whenever it comes out, will it be better than that tripe (i.e. "Four Minutes") he sold to Madonna?

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