Talent is a funny thing. I’ve seen some of the most talented singers, songwriters, guitarists over the years put out some amazing music, but when the day is said and done, they just don’t have “it”. They never quite catch on to the mainstream, and sell enough records to keep pushing that talent out to the masses. In today’s pop world, it seems the less talent, but better look you have, the more likely you are to get pushed to the top. While it may be hard to admit for some, today’s featured artist is the exact opposite of that trend. He’s not only immensely popular, but also potentially one of the most talented guys in show business.
Justin Timberlake was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1981. Early on in life he was inspired into making music by watching Janet Jackson, citing her live performances which showed such energy and exuberance. At age 11 he performed on the show “Star Search”, performing a couple country music songs. Shortly after, he joined the famed Mickey Mouse Club, where he’d meet the likes of: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez and Ryan Gosling. His friendship with JC would eventually lead to the two forming the idea for a boy band, from which ‘N Sync was born.
However today we focus on his solo career, and more specifically his debut album, Justified. The album came out in November of 2002, which was written and recorded in just a six week period while ‘N Sync was on hiatus. One of the goals of the album was to shed the teenage pop image, and start to appeal to a more adult audience. Focusing on more mature lyrics and an R&B sound were keys to Justin moving forward in his career. He spoke to Pharrell Williams, asking him to produce the record, and naturally he was on board. Many of the major starts at that moment were happy to be involved, as many could see the talent and potential Justin had.
The background is the album is supposed to be a modern take of pop and R&B, but more of that classic, timeless feel. The inspiration was set from listening to Earth, Wind and Fire records combined with a few Michael Jackson works. Working to highlight Justin’s solid vocal ability and less on the dancing and composition that made the boy band work. He also had recently ended his relationship with Britney Spears prior to recording, and they all decided to use that to contribute to the record. “Cry Me A River” was probably the main take from that inspiration, and it’s by far the best produced track on the album.
I think in total, the album was successful at launching his career, and it accomplished the goal of breaking him away from the tween pop scene. It’s still fairly pop music driven, but there is a sense of maturity compared to other popular stuff at the time. I wouldn’t argue this was his best album, but at 4 million copies sold and a Grammy nomination, it certainly isn’t a slouch in its own right. The R&B side of this album almost seems a little forced – but how bluesy can a 21 year old who’s had a decade in the business already actually be?
If you were into pop music in the early 2000s, putting this on will be a refreshing look back. If you aren’t familiar with this type of music, I don’t think you’ll be too put off either. It’s not something I’d generally listen to often, but it’s a really nice change of pace. There is no denying JT’s overall talent and ability, but while this may have put him on the map, it also set a bar that he probably knew he could leap over with the next one (side note: he did). But at $5 bucks, Justified is a great intro into a great artist.