‘Back’ In Style: Justin Timberlake Mixes Funk, Rock On New Single

Single is like David Bowie, David Byrne covering James Brown, singer says in Paris.

“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.”

(Can’t wait to hear Justin’s new sound? Listen to an exclusive clip of “SexyBack” and watch JT talk about his seductive single, only on Overdrive.)

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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Be the first to hear the singer’s new single, ‘SexyBack,’ and see what he has to say about his fresh ‘club funk.’


“I like that,” he said. “Anything that I do and anything Timbaland does is going to be funky. That’s a rule of thumb. And that’s how the song got started, going more dance rock, club funk. There are people out there pushing the boundaries of music; Gnarls Barkley, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they always push themselves. The most you can hope for is music that pushes your sound as much as they push theirs.”

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.”