Sure, nobody really wants a “Di– in a Box” for Christmas. But “Saturday Night Live” breakout star Andy Samberg is hoping fans of his digital shorts will fiend for a full album of his spot-on hip-hop and R&B knock-offs. Once he gets around to actually recording them, that is.
“It’s something we’ve always wanted to do and we’ve been working on putting it together,” said Samberg of an LP he’s hoping to record soon with his Lonely Island troupe writing partners, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. “It’s about finding the time, but we’ve definitely got some ideas.”
The trio, who’ve already worked up such viral hits as last year’s “Lazy Sunday” and a gangsta rap by Natalie Portman, unleashed their latest YouTube phenomenon last weekend on “SNL” with the Justin Timberlake/ Samberg duet “Di– in a Box.” Thanks to a partnership between NBC and YouTube, the clip quickly jumped into the top 20 most viewed on the site and became one of the quickest, most ubiquitous viral hits of the year according to Scott Button, CEO of ViralVideoChart.com, which trolls several million blogs a day to determine which videos are the most popular.
Samberg said the writing team originally came up with a different idea for Timberlake, but show honcho Lorne Michaels insisted they exploit his musical side. “We wanted to do an early-’90s-style R&B song and Jorma came up with the ’Di– in a Box’ premise,” he said of the smooth, Color Me Badd-esque ballad about an unexpected holiday surprise.
“We presented it to Justin once we thought it was funny enough and he didn’t even blink,” Samberg recalled. “He was like, ’Oh yeah! Absolutely!’ ” Inspired by some of the music the Lonely Islanders grew up listening to as kids in the San Francisco Bay Area — Jodeci, R. Kelly, the Isley Brothers, LeVert and “any ’90s R&B band who had a song with the word ’freak’ in it” — the song was a perfect fit for Timberlake, who was also a fan of all those acts. Plus, the former boy-bander was more than willing to poke a bit of fun at his harmonizing past and dress up in the goofy color-coordinated suits, oversized shades and complex facial hair.
And though the group thought they had written a pretty solid song, it never hurts to get a little advice from the host — when he’s a musical wizard. “He basically came up with the hook,” Samberg said of Timberlake’s smooth but dirty chorus. “I had a loose melody and he took the reigns and schooled us on how to record and make it sound fantastic. He added pauses to make it more catchy. And that ’Midday at the grocery store’ line? That was his.” In addition to online fire, the skit has already inspired a knock-off T-shirt with Timberlake’s easy-to-follow instructions: 1. Cut a hole in the box; 2. Put your junk in that box; 3. Make her open the box.
Though his voice cracked a few times during recording and he was a bit nervous working with Timberlake, Samberg said the former ’NSYNC-er’s “insanely” easygoing attitude put him at ease. “We traded messages after [the whole thing took off online],” Samberg said. “He loves it.”
They couldn’t decide on a name for the fictional duo (2:30 a.m. and Bootknockaz were in the running) or a title for their fictional album (“it would probably be self-titled”), but Samberg said that now that he’s done filming the big-screen comedy “Hot Rod,” directed by Schaffer and featuring Taccone, he’s hoping to get working on that album.