How Justin Timberlake sold me on Justin TimberlakeBy Ricardo Baca | March 20th, 2013 | 2 comments
The peak of saturation that surrounds large media events these days â€” say, the release of a big record or a major film â€” can backfire on a multiplatinum artist or blockbuster film just as easily as it can propel them to record sales numbers. But itâ€™s impossible to see those end results until a few weeks after the big bang goes down.
Justin Timberlakeâ€™s big bang dropped this week, when his third album, â€śThe 20/20 Experience,â€ť was released on Tuesday. The lead-up was intense, including but not limited to: A much-hyped Grammys performance, a smashing performance on â€śSaturday Night Liveâ€ť as both host and musical guest, an all-week-long stint on â€śLate Night With Jimmy Fallonâ€ť and an awesomely intimate concert in Austin during the South by Southwest Music Festival.
Between those events and others â€” including his recent stop into BETâ€™s â€ś106 and Park,â€ť his exclusive at Target stores (also a collaboration with Clear Channel Radio and The CW) and a plethora of other new/old media promotions â€” thereâ€™s a good chance you knew JT was releasing an album this week. But did that daunting amalgam of hype fuel your inner consumer, or did it turn you off to Justin Timberlakeâ€™s likable visage?
Speaking for myself, I couldnâ€™t get enough. I still canâ€™t.
With every meaningful opportunity to spend time with Justin Timberlake, I jumped. I finished (opening monologue-last skit) my first â€śSNLâ€ť episode of the season because of him. I visited iTunes for the first time in 2013 because JTâ€™s album was streaming there. I waited in line at SXSW on Saturday for Timberlakeâ€™s appearance at the Myspace Secret Show, missing many other bands in the process; After getting in, I stood in a stiflingly crowded room full of over-it festivalgoers only to witness his magic live.
And Iâ€™ve been singing his songs ever since. They just wonâ€™t leave my head. And for any one artist to stand out after such a mammoth music festival experience, itâ€™s a telling sign.
His first record, â€śJustified,â€ť will always be my favorite, so those songs are the strongest in my mindâ€™s playlist. (I canâ€™t help but recall confessing to my friends in 2002 my adoration of his very first single, â€śLike I Love You,â€ť and their elitist shunning of me and the former boy-bander.) But Iâ€™ve also had Timberlakeâ€™s brand new material in my head since seeing him on Saturday.
It took that experience for me to understand the complexities of â€śSuit & Tie,â€ť the new pop-soul single that revels in formalwear and looking fly for your partner. â€śPusher Love Girlâ€ť has been ringing in my head, too, as if it were on repeat.
After SXSW, I returned to Denver with JTâ€™s embedded in my brain and the knowledge that Iâ€™d missed some of his comings and goings of the last week. And so I looked up his many performances from Jimmy Fallonâ€™s show, and it all started coming back to me â€” the way he glides across the stage, the confident manner of his falsetto, his bandâ€™s good-times grins and their thoroughly modern compositions of songs, old and new.
I posted the Fallon links to my Facebook, admitting that Justin Timberlakeâ€™s lauded performance from SXSW 2013 left a larger impression than Jack Whiteâ€™s lauded performance from SXSW 2012; It was on social media where I found more like-minded fans who had also been soaking in the rays of Timberlakeâ€™s recent work.
On the drive to work earlier this week, I listened as NPR critic Ken Tucker carefully talked about Timberlakeâ€™s new release. The respected critic was enthusiastic about it, but it seemed as if he didnâ€™t want to come right out and sing its praises. He was steadied when talking about its potential success, and props to Tucker for keeping his cool.
â€™Cos Iâ€™m about to lose mine.
JTâ€™s â€śThe 20/20 Experienceâ€ť is the best record of 2013, so far. And granted weâ€™re only a quarter of the way into the year, donâ€™t be surprised when itâ€™s still dominating the national conversation nine months from now. Will â€śSuit & Tieâ€ť still be that omnipresent earworm? That or another song from â€ś20/20.â€ť And that excitement â€” of falling in love with another song, another beat, another nuance â€” is what fandom is all about.