#06: Justin Timberlake feat. T.I. — My Love
Every time that shivering, stop-start synth line unfurls slowly through my headphones, «My Love» transports me to the exotic isle where JT and whoever he’s singing to frolic on the beach with their «toes in the sand». More than any other major producer, Timbaland knows how silence works, how it creates breathing room, leaves open spaces for possibility. Though the arrangement is improbably cluttered for such an easy-breathing thing—tongue pops and clicks churn furiously underneath the shimmer—the track glides along like weightlessly. Then, Justin Timberlake opens his mouth and exhales the most ethereal sound in pop this year, a gender- and gravity-defying falsetto that initially sounds like another patch-in on Timbaland’s keyboard. And T.I., heavy-lidded and grinning from the track’s buzz, pushes words into the song’s nooks and crannies, selling a line as ridiculous as «They call me candle guy / Simply cuz I am on fire» with the easy ebb and flow of his cadence. If a song can sound post-coital, this is it.
#25: Justin Timberlake — SexyBack
JT didn’t quite bestride 2006 in the same colossal fashion that he had 2003, but, lest we forget, Justified took a few months of bubbling under before his snake-hipped tilt at cultural ubiquity fully manifested. Laid low with nasty nodules on his voicebox for long enough to wreck the career of anyone else, when he re-emerged it was without proper punctuation, but with a fully expressed desire to «bring sexy back». I’m not sure it had ever fully been away, but «SexyBack» itself—cussing, grinding, mechanized filth monger signposting its own g-spots—saw both JT and his architect, Timbaland, effortlessly hitting form, equal parts teenfunk, discopop, and sexpunk. You could barely tell it was him unless you saw the video, but that was the point—with your eyes closed, your other senses come alive.
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