"I'm bringing sexy back," Justin Timberlake boasts on his new single, "SexyBack" — and he might as well be talking about himself, too.
Nearly four years after the release of his debut solo album, Justified, the singer has new music to share — though you might not recognize it as his.
"It's been awhile since the last record," Timberlake told MTV News in Paris on Thursday (July 6). "And I just wanted to try something new."
Timberlake worked with Rick Rubin and Will.I.Am for FutureSex/LoveSounds, but it wasn't until he hooked up with producer Timbaland that he figured out the direction he wanted the record to take (see "Justin Timberlake 'In A Good Place' With His Collabos").
"I sort of had an idea in mind where I wanted to go," he said, "and it turned out that I went completely left of that. But that's what music should do."
In "SexyBack," going "left" meant going more rock — not in how he constructed the song, but in how he sang it.
"I wanted to sing the song like a rock and roll singer, not an R&B singer," he said. "That's the approach."
Timberlake modeled himself after David Bowie and Prince, and describes "SexyBack" as Bowie and David Byrne covering James Brown's "Sex Machine." "That's the closest I could come," he said. "That's all of my influences for that song."
"SexyBack" doesn't qualify as rock or straight funk — and for now, Timberlake's happy with the description "club funk."
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Timberlake shot a video for the song while in Barcelona, Spain, making "SexyBack" the first clip the singer's shot overseas.
"Obviously we went for the architecture, the exteriors, the interiors — the vibe in Spain is different than anywhere else in the world," Timberlake said. "It's so cool to shoot there, but the girls are also pretty hot, so that doesn't hurt either."
The singer fleshed out the concept for the clip with director Michael Hausmann, picked for his work on Madonna's "Take a Bow."
"It's one of my favorite videos Madonna's ever done," Timberlake said. "Even today, I still remember the visuals, the images, how he captured her. A lot of times, Madonna seems like she's the person in control, and in that video, she seemed vulnerable. It was a cool thing to see."
Because "SexyBack" isn't exactly about Timberlake's vulnerable side (in the song, he boasts, "If that's your girl, better watch your back"), the video will have a very different approach than "Take a Bow."
"It's like a small film," Timberlake said, without giving away the details. "I've yet to see it. I hope it's cool."
For more on Justin Timberlake, check out the feature "A New Justification."