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Crítica “FutureSex/LoveShow”: Nashville

Justin Timberlake isn’t just another pretty face

There’s no real trick in the centrifugal force of teen pop: catch the wave and hang on. But when the tide ebbs, the jagged rocks of the washout can provide a painful and inevitable awakening. When it’s over—even for the talented—usually the ride is done. But that’s what sets Justin Timberlake, a teen idol who evoked Michael Jackson’s moves and sweet R&B, apart.

Timberlake was the cute one, the one who reduced the shrieking girls to quivering masses of throbbing hormones. But he rose from the ashes of boy-band supernova ‘N Sync intact, then continued—through savvy producer choices, an intrinsic sense of melody and groove and the deep South of Memphis love of soul music—to create a place at contemporary pop’s forefront.

Today, Timberlake, 26, doesn’t just define Contemporary Hit Radio and music videos—he’s his own man. And not just a guilty pleasure, but a serious hip-hop/soul-based artist—someone who’s garnered the kind of respect ‘N Sync could never aspire to.

His quick-cut grainy noir videos, especially the carnal intrigue of “SexyBack”, evoke an amalgam of Madonna’s “Justify My Love” and James Bond; his beats cut together with a sophisticated, effortless knowledge.

Justified, with its almost defensive name play, was a killer evolution on Jackson’s coming-of-age pop-confection Off the Wall. Like the lead freak of the supremely gifted but weird Jackson family, Timberlake knew he had plenty of preconceptions to overcome.

The result is a user-friendly survey of Latin rhythms, hip-hop beats, airy soul and possibly the most innocently and overtly sexual want ever articulated.

To shed the bopper-dom hairshirt, Timberlake smartly chose The Neptunes, Timbaland, P. Diddy and a thematic swerve between the fabulous player on the make and a bruised heart. Justified boasted the lush betrayal of “Cry Me a River”, the churning synthesizer-columned “Rock Your Body” and the straight up catch-and-release “Take Me Now”, featuring no stranger to the urban(e) erotic jungle, Janet Jackson.

Hiring the right producers and mining the fantasy life of youth-gone-wild may make for an engaging first project, but the measure of the man comes from how he steps up once the cred is established. To Timberlake’s credit—and wisdom—he sought broader horizons for Future Sex/Love Sounds.

Again working with the most of-the-moment collaborators, Timberlake delves deeper into erotics, landing somewhere between Marvin Gaye’s most sanctified sex and Prince’s unabashed nastiness. A whistle-stop through the masters of funk ‘n’ soul—Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, a dash of Roger Troutman—show the boy is not just a man, but a man in full.

“Sexy Ladies” and “Damn Girl” give libido crack-cocaine’s jolt, while “Summer Love” offers up the smooth plunge. Taken as bookends for the herky-jerky phased vocalizing of “SexyBack”, this offers the polemics of a modern lover set on the hot pink center of carnality.

His voice has grown gravelly, but it retains its shimmer, maintaining his stone R&B polish, but with just a note of musk to the mix. Timberlake knows what he’s got, replacing the earnest plea to “like me” in Justified with a relaxed confidence, even on the painful junkie’s lament “Losing My Way”.

Timberlake has done anything but. In a world of indulged excess, he refused to accept what could be easy, holding out for something more credible. In keeping with cultural kinetics, he emerges as sexy—back, front and center.

Justin Timberlake made his way into the booth
Justin Timberlake mentioned at his sold out show that it’s been too long since he was in Nashville and that he would make it up to us. He did more than just that, at a late night after party!

Word must have spread that some of J.T’.s crew was heading to Layla Rul after the show, because the line stretched around the building (about a hundred deep). If you did get in, then you had to fight your way upstairs and for good reason!

Famed producer Timbaland took over the DJ booth, playing a slew of his finely crafted songs. Justin Timberlake made his way into the booth, that’s connected to the small VIP area. After observing the crowd for a few songs, he bashfully made his way to the mic while biting on a yellow cup. JT busted into My Love and Sexy Back. It was awesome!

People swarmed the dance floor with their camera phones. Justin began ducking down behind the DJ booth, making it hard to see him while singing. After his 10 minutes or so on the mic, Justin went back to his corner spot in the VIP. His crew, mostly his back-up dancers, was in tow. Justin even stood and danced a bit. Not your typical JT dance, but a little shaking of his shoulders to the beats.

I watched several girls leap over the VIP trying to get as close as possible to the sexy singer. It was crazy! A little fight broke out close-by. Through all the madness I saw John Rich, of Big & Rich, hanging in the VIP and eventually country singer Trent Tomlinson made his way over as well. A club employee said Sara Evans and a member of Rascal Flatts also tried to hang in the roped off area.

By three the club finally cleared out, but VIP stayed open an extra hour or so for Justin. About 20 of us hung until after 4 in the morning. I still feel like it was all a dream.

I heard he was headed in the studio today with Reba.

Nashville loves you Justin!

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