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(9/9/06) KYLE MUNSON for Des Moines Register
Pop star Justin Timberlake — whose hit single “SexyBack” is perched at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and whose sophomore solo album “FutureSex/LoveSounds” hits stores Tuesday — was asked this morning whether he would like to be considered an entertainer, actor or serious musician.
“I don’t want people to forget I’m an entertainer,” Timberlake told a batch of journalists during the teleconference, “but I like people to realize I am a musician as well. As far as being an actor, that still remains to be seen.”
For the better part of an hour Timberlake fielded questions about working with hip-hop producer Timbaland; the prospects of reuniting ‘N Sync; his film role alongside Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey in the straight-to-DVD feature “Edison Force”; and his arena tour that launches across North America in January.
There were no Cameron Diaz questions.
He had nothing but kind words for “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks: “I admire everyone who has had thick enough skin to make it through that show,” Timberlake said. “I don’t know anyone from that show. That’s the most I can really say about it.”
Here’s the latest from Timberlake on …
THE SOUND OF “FUTURESEX/LOVESOUNDS”: “We really kind of used a hip-hop application at sort of creating this album. … I really made an effort … to bring it to the other colors of music as well. … I definitely was semi-conscious of the fact that I wanted to do something different from ‘Justified.’ I think I’ve continued to wear my heroes on my sleeve, so to speak. I think that I’ll continue to be inspired by all different genres of music but definitely with this album, Timbaland and I, when we first met, I said to him, ‘This has to sound like nothing that we’ve ever heard before.’ We have to find a niche in the studio that says, OK, not only are the songs equally good as the ones on ‘Justified,’ but we have to sort of grab people by the collar as far as the production and the sound of it. (Timbaland’s) so innovative I think that he took to that challenge very well. He definitely wasn’t intimidated by it, because I think that he knew in his mind that he had some tricks up his sleeve as well. … Even these songs in their rough form they sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. And putting the string arrangements on, the extra vocals, if there was vocal percussion, and coming back and sitting down with him as well and putting more guitar parts on and more keyboard parts. … It’s like baking a cake. We felt like we just kind of kept adding these elements that kept giving it more ear candy. I definitely felt like in taking our time and really being conscious of trying to create something that just sounded fresh — I don’t want to say a new sound, but something that just sounded fresh — I think that we really accomplished our goal.”
COINING THE PHRASE “SEXYBACK”: “I did coin the phrase. It was the first line that I came up with on the song. Originally I wasn’t even planning on calling the song ‘SexyBack.’ … I definitely didn’t think it would become the most worn-out joke of 2006, or phrase, I mean. I definitely didn’t know it was gonna start what it started. It just sounded like a nice opening to the song. … I thought we were bringing fun back to music. … I don’t pull any punches about being able to make an R&B-slash-dance-slash-hip-hop record — and slash-electronica, whatever you want to call it. …I don’t pull any punches about melding different genres. …It’s sort of one of those records, the louder you turn it up the better it gets.”
THE FLOW OF HIS ALBUM: “I said to Tim, we should do interludes … because the sound of a lot of these songs is so consistent we should find a way to sort of meld them together. … The original statement I made to (Timbaland) was, what if the songs became remix versions of themselves? … Some of (the interludes) are sort of musical contradictions. The prelude to ‘My Love’ is a doubletime kind of Latin-flavored prelude, and then the interlude out of ‘Love Stoned’ … flips the beat sort of on its head and becomes a droney, melodic rock version of the song. … ‘What Goes Around’ … goes pretty hip-hop. … But all in all the idea of them for the record was to, like a musical or a movie, give the listener or the audience something to not just sort of keep their attention but literally change their mood for what was coming next to give it a sense of continuity. … I think in some interesting way we’ve kind of turned the album itself, which not a lot of people really make any more, on its head. We’ve given it I think a new life. … The music is constantly changing. That was the original effort, was to sort of build a roller coaster and take people on that ride.”
THE TRUE DRUG TALE THAT INSPIRED THE SONG “LOSING MY WAY”: “I wrote all the lyrics and melody to that song. Actually, there is a specific story that goes with that song. I can’t remember if it was like an A&E documentary, or if it was on an ‘HBO Undercover’ documentary. I kind of got writer’s block for a second. (Timbaland) and his buddy Nate, who is sort of his protégé, they started working on this track in between a different song that I was working on, and I heard it and I remember feeling like it was influenced by a little bit of gospel music. I remember just sort of feeling that, and I said to myself, wow, whatever the lyrics I write on this song they have to have a message that I feel runs a lot deeper than just futuresex, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I remember going upstairs and I watched TV for a while. It was following the lives for three or four different people with substance abuse problems, particularly crack and crystal meth. There was a story of this guy who on the surface he didn’t look like a crack addict, but he was. He was somebody who was working a minimum wage job and trying to get his life back on track. To a lot of his friends he appeared that he didn’t have that problem. … There was something about him that was an everyday man to me. It’s not the sort of dramatization of, you know, a drug addict that we’re used to seeing. … For some reason it just really hit home with me. And I didn’t feel like anyone musically had attacked that issue yet. … That was what inspired that song and I immediately went downstairs and starting writing that song.”
WORKING WITH TIMBALAND: “I feel that I’ve found a definite co-producer, co-collaborator. … Timbaland’s extremely good at putting beats together, definitely kind of abstract beats that all of a sudden start to make sense. … We think the same when it comes to rhythm and melody. … He definitely engulfs himself into the creating of the beat and the creating of the sounds on the track. … I don’t know if anyone pushes him as hard as I push him to come with something so fresh and originial as far as the beats and the production. … I think Timbaland’s sort of mastered that sort of, you know, hop-step time. A lot of people call it the stutter beat. I kind of think he made it famous. He has such an ear for percussion.”
LEAVING ‘N SYNC: “I was the youngest one in the group, 14 when we signed our deal … I think as I started to learn more about music and not just the biz I think that I decided I wanted to do something that really met my creative urge and this was the venue for me. And I knew that it wouldn’t work any other way. … I think there was just something inside me that said if you don’t do this now you might never do it.”
REUNITING WITH ‘N SYNC: “What we did doesn’t work anymore. I think that that would be tough to predict. As of right now I don’t see it in the near future. … I’ve written and produced stuff for JC’s new solo album that I’m extremely proud of. I feel like we found a sound for him in working together. … It’s kind of hard to make something work that was a moment in time, especially when you’re all such different people now.”
HIS FLEDGLING FILM CAREER: “I did make a conscious effort to do smaller films. … I didn’t feel that I had anything to prove to anyone … I took it seriously and I wanted the experience of working with great directors and great actors … It also was a bit of a coincidence that those films were smaller films with smaller budgets and no studio. … It was sort of the material I was responding to at the time. … With the success of music, I think people automatically expect you to maybe do what would be considered a popcorn film. For me I don’t have any aspirations to sort of be a movie star, so to speak. … I just really wanted the experience of doing some genuine acting in film. … I don’t think any of us signed onto (“Edison Force”) knowing that what was gonna happen to it. … For me it was really the experience of playing a part opposite such amazing other players. … I learned from osmosis. Just being around Morgan Freeman was like Acting 101. That’s what I take away from that. I’m not disappointed in anything that it’s become or that it’s doing.”
DIGITAL MUSIC: “We live in the digital era of the music industry. It’s kind of like the third party in a political race sort of. It’s kind of like this thing that people are still getting used to. … Obviously it’s working with things like iTunes. … It is a business, but it is my art. The latter half of that is more important to me. Once I kind of realized that success in the world of the music business is not as important as personal success of what you feel you’ve created I think that’s helped me a lot. Being a part of an era where album sales were peaking, it’s sort of the opposite of where we are right now. But I think that while technology will continue to influence music, for me personally I think that I’m an extreme lucky artist that I get to tour as well. … I definitely don’t place all of my enthusiasms into just album sales.”
RECORDING IN VIRGINIA BEACH: “I find it funny that we created such a club friendly record in such a desolate area of the world.”
HIS ARENA TOUR THAT STARTS IN JANUARY: “Me and my manager are just getting together who we’re gonna take out with us on tour. … The trick for me is to find a way to bring the vibe that we’ve created, myself and my band, with the club show to an arena. That’s the trick. That’s definitely what I’m going after. Whether we can pull it off or not definitely remains to be seen.”