Over the past few months, it seems Justin Timberlake wouldn’t be caught dead in an unpressed suit or tousled hairdo. The “Suit & Tie” singer has taken his now-inescapable lyrics to heart as he continues to promote his long-awaited return to music — rarely taking any stage not “pressed up in black and white.” And when he took the stage mere feet away from President Barack Obama Tuesday night, he made sure his wardrobe was especially polished.
On paper, a performance at the White House seems like a pretty formal affair. But in video posted online, Timberlake got pretty casual during hissyrupy take on “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay,” even having the entire first family bobbing their heads and singing along.
His performance was part of the “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul,” which celebrated the city’s sounds of the 1960s and welcomed soul-inspired performers old and new — from legends like Mavis Staples and Booker T. Jones to newbies like the Alabama Shakes and “American Idol” finalist Joshua Ledet.
Despite the fact that he was onstage with 71-year-old guitarist Steve Cropper and that “they had to make us follow Mavis” in the lineup, the 20/20 Experience singer seemed quite at home among the crowd of Washington elites, whom he had feeling like they were really just watching the tide roll away. Before he closed out the Otis Redding classic in his silky smooth falsetto, Timberlake had no fear commanding the Commander-in-Chief to take it away. “Mr. President, everybody, come on,” he told the audience, letting them sing the chorus before wrapping up.
Also in the crowd was Timberlake’s wife, Jessica Biel. While she looked poised in a white dress and red lips, judging from her frenetic tweets earlier in the day, may not have taken the presidential affair so casually.
“I hugged POTUS. I hugged POTUS. I hugged POTUS,” Biel tweeted Tuesday afternoon. Hours before his performance, Timberlake sat alongside Staples, Ben Harper, Charlie Musselwhite and Sam Moore for the first lady’s “Soulsville USA” student workshop. More than 100 high school students were invited to The House to discuss what Mrs. Obama called “the rhythmic groove of Memphis soul.”
“In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” will air Tuesday at 8 p.m. on PBS. The series started during President Carter’s administration to celebrate every genre of American music. The previous special, last February’s “Red, White and Blues,” boasted a legendary lineup including B.B. King, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger and Gary Clark Jr.