Last week, the first single from Michael Jackson’s upcoming album was released online. The track, “Love Never Felt So Good,” featured Justin Timberlake. But JT says that he and the King of Pop nearly first collaborated over a decade ago.
“The first real seed of that was this song I had written, called ‘Gone,’ ” the singer told Oprah Winfrey’s OWN. “It ended up on our third and last album [for *NSYNC]. And it was the first song I kind of cut by myself, and then brought it to the guys and included them. We were having an A&R meeting for the third *NSYNC album at that time, and I said, ‘Well, I have this other song, but I originally wrote it for Michael.’ I originally wrote that song for Michael Jackson.”
Unfortunately for Timberlake, Michael’s people turned the song down. Rather than letting it go to waste, he and his groupmates used it themselves.
And then, once it came out, Michael heard it.
“And he called me on the phone and said that he wanted to cut the record, but he wanted it to be a duet between himself and I,” the “Mirrors” singer recalled. “And I said, ‘It’s already out. We’ve already cut this song as an *NSYNC record.’”
Naturally, he felt a bit of regret.
“I’m on the phone, I’m literally punching myself in the face, because I said, ‘I can’t do that. Could we do an *NSYNC featuring Michael Jackson? Or Michael Jackson featuring *NSYNC?’ And he was very absolute about the fact that he wanted it to be a duet between himself and I.”
Even though that moment didn’t turn out like Justin may have hoped — with a collaboration with Jackson, basically — he still credits it as a turning point in his career.
“I think it’s the first idea I ever got about doing something on my own, because it was the first time I have ever really felt the confidence to do it,” he admitted. “And I knew that the music that I was interested in and was writing at the time was different than what we had previously done. And it felt like a real departure.”
XSCAPE, Jackson’s new album, which features “Love Never Felt So Good” as well as 16 other songs on the deluxe edition and eight total on the standard, drops on May 9.