NEW YORK -- Justin Timberlake doesn't want to do the hard sell -- he'd rather let FutureSex/Love Sounds speak for itself.
So when it came time to hype his forthcoming album for a crowd of media, radio and retail folk for a Monday listening session called "Playback" at G Spa & Lounge, the singer kept it brief.
"I'm really excited about this record, but I don't want to talk it up too much," Timberlake said. "I just want to play it for you. Let's just play it."
"Pretend it's 3 a.m.," Barry Weiss, the CEO/president of Jive Records, suggested as someone pressed play. And it wasn't hard to pretend -- the G Spa staff kept the lights low, the music loud and a seemingly never-ending amount of champagne flowing. The informal sneak peek of Timberlake's album, which took place in the early evening, felt more like an after-hours club. The night offered the first taste of Timberlake's new music outside of his hit single "SexyBack" and his intimate club tour (see [article id="1538469"]"Justin Previews New Tracks At Hollywood Show With Help From Will.I.Am, Timbaland"[/article]).
Timberlake -- dressed casually in a black T-shirt and jeans -- and his producer Timbaland hung out in and outside of the VIP rooms but took a few moments to mingle with guests noshing on crab cakes, mini-burgers, chicken skewers and wontons. Most of the time, though, the dynamic duo kept the focus on the music, nodding their heads to the beats, starting with the infectious "FutureSex/LoveSound." The track thumped the speakers with its "Another One Bites the Dust"-like staccato beat, lyrical nods to INXS' "Need You Tonight" ("All I need is a moment," "Slide over here") and sexually suggestive come-ons ("Tell me which way you like that").
Sex stayed on the brain throughout the listening session -- after all, it's the focus of at least half of FutureSex. Timberlake reminds us that he's a sex god, boasting "She's going home with me tonight" in "LoveStoned/ I Think She Knows"; that he's going "from Casanova to supernova" in "Damn Girl"; and reasserting that claim, saying it might "sound cocky, but it's not really cocky if you know it's true" in the chunky, funky "Sexy Ladies."
But there was a sweet side to the album as well -- the LoveSounds influence -- which is most obviously found on the electro-Southern hip-hop of "My Love," the slow jam "Until the End of Time" and "What Goes Around Comes Around." The latter song sounds like it could fit alongside "Cry Me a River" on Timberlake's Justified debut, with its drop rhythm and intricate call-and-response backing vocals.
"That's a hell of a compliment," Timberlake said of the comparison between the two tracks. "That's my favorite song off the first record because of the lyrical content. But this record is completely un-autobiographical."
Timberlake steps out of his sex and love obsessions for a moment with "Losing My Way." Inspired by a documentary on crystal meth, the song is perhaps the most serious the singer attempts on the album.
"All of these songs are obviously motivated by sex and love," Timberlake said, "and then I watched that documentary and I just sat there and soaked up all of it. It was a specific story about someone who had lost his family and lost his relationship with his wife and daughter, but on the surface, he didn't look like someone you would assume someone with an abuse problem would look like. It just struck a chord with me."
The sweet side also surfaces in interludes that break down previously saucy songs (see "LoveStoned/ I Think She Knows") and lightens them up with string arrangements and Justin's famous falsetto. "LoveStoned" starts off as a boast that could be applied to anyone and then, nearly four and a half minutes into the song, transitions into an adoring two-minute love song about someone special.
"What Goes Around" also has an emotional shift, from hurt to angry and mocking (with a little laughter as one of the layers at the end). In the end, FutureSex/LoveSounds is about the very nature of how sex and love are interchangeable and immutable and contradictory and complementary all at once, so that the same words mean different things depending on what music is played or what mood is set.
No wonder Justin didn't want to say much.
For more on Timberlake's new release, check out "Justin's Future Shock."
The complete 2006 MTV Video Music Awards nominees:
- Video Of The Year
- Best Male Video
- Best Female Video
- Best Group Video
- Best Rap Video
- Best R&B Video
- Best Hip-Hop Video
- Best Dance Video
- Best Rock Video
- Best Pop Video
- Best New Artist In A Video
- Viewer's Choice
- MTV2 Award
- Ringtone Of The Year
- Best Direction In A Video
- Best Choreography In A Video
- Best Special Effects In A Video
- Best Art Direction In A Video
- Best Editing In A Video
- Best Cinematography In A Video
- Best Video Game Soundtrack
- Best Video Game Score