There are things Justin Timberlake is good at: acting, designing clothes. There's things he's great at: singing, dancing. And then there's things he does so effortlessly it's just not fair to the others.
Making classic videos is in the latter category. For further proof you need only look at the full lyric video for JT's Jay-Z assisted comeback single, "Suit & Tie," which MTV premiered on Thursday morning (January 24).
For most artists, a lyric video is the equivalent of a seat-filler: a low-budget space-holder until they get around to filming a proper narrative for a song, or a fan-generated YouTube trifle they're happy to have out there at no cost to their bottom line.
But increasingly, labels are putting a bit of elbow grease into the clips and Timberlake's "Tie" clip might be the new standard. In the process it also very cleverly reveals when we can expect Timberlake's third solo album, but only if you pay really close attention.
If we never get an "official" video for the song, the lyric take overseen by skateboarder-turned-director Laban Pheidias (Adam Lambert, Alicia Keys), is plenty. In it, the ever-suave Timberlake makes like a modern-day Frank Sinatra, rolling through the streets of Los Angeles in a classic ride and suiting up for a photo shoot to promote his upcoming comeback album, The 20/20 Experience.
With white cartoon horns dancing in the corners announcing the song's opening riffs, the first image we see is JT climbing into his car as the lyrics to the song bounce all over the screen in bold white and yellow letters. When the Timbaland beat finally kicks in, Justin is in front of a mirror shaping up his his five o'clock shadow just right in the mirror, and then in a barber chair getting a quick trim as the camera pans over his assortment of, yes, ties, cufflinks, gloves, shoes and hats.
The only special effects in the black-and-white clip are the periodic cartoony bursts of action we see as Justin snaps his cuffs or clicks his heels. Once properly suited up, Timberlake makes his way to the set and sits down at a piano, a cigarette burning in the ash tray alongside a cup of coffee, horn-rimmed glasses, sheet music and an old-fashioned microphone like the one Ol' Blue Eyes would have used.
He spends some time snapping his fingers and studying the arrangement and practicing his best poses and dance moves, before firing up a cig and having his lady friend adjust his bow tie. Then, it's time to burn a cigar and watch the smoke swirl as Jay drops his verse amid cartoon images of suits, swirling liquor, fireworks and dresses dancing in the air.
Time's a wasting, though, so after another quick costume change, JT hits the casino, glass in hand, poses some more in front of another classic car and hits the town at night in his tuxedo on his way to the photo shoot. The video ends with Justin wielding a hammer and smashing a plate glass window that reads: "The 20/20 Experience: Coming Soon."
Actually, rewind that, it said March 19! So now we know when we have to have our suit pressed by!
"Tie" has already set some personal and professional records for JT. It blew past Timberlake's previous top digital sales week moving 310,087 copies, beating his earlier personal record holder, the genre-busting "SexyBack," which moved 250,000 copies back in 2006.
According to his label, despite a sneak-attack release, the song also reached #1 on iTunes singles charts in 31 countries, including the U.S., England, Canada, Sweden, France and Brazil. Internationally, the song with the Jay-Z cameo made it into the top 10 on the iTunes singles charts in 54 countries.
Justin will make his live comeback during Super Bowl weekend, when he performs at the DIRECTV Super Saturday Night charity event on February 2 in New Orleans.