Justin Timberlake – FutureSex / Love Sounds
Record Label: Jive Records
Release Date: September 12th, 2006
Pop music is an interesting genre, because despite it being so simplistic, pop music tends to repeat itself. What I mean by that is boy bands are making a comeback in a big way. There’s One Direction, Big Time Rush, and The Wanted, among others. Back in the late 90s, however, boy bands like *NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and others dominated CD players and pop charts. If you were a teenager or a young kid in the 90s as I was, you knew who all of these boy bands were. I certainly didn’t like them, but I knew who they were, nonetheless. One artist that really stuck out to me was a young Justin Timberlake, who was in *NSYNC. Most people would say he was the star of that boy band, essentially; he took the limelight, and for good reason. Even back then, he was insanely talented. When the band went on hiatus in 2002, Timberlake released a solo album entitled Justified, which was solid effort. It showed JT was able to be a solo artist, but he was still a pop artist, nonetheless. Fast-forward four years, and it took a long time, but he released FutureSex / LoveSounds. When the first single, “SexyBack” dropped, it was definitely a lot different from anything Timberlake had done in the past. People were quite surprised. I remember when this song was released about six years ago; it was everywhere, and for good reason. When the album itself finally dropped, it was definitely a shocker, because this was nothing that he really has done before. A few songs were more in the vein of Justified and his work with *NSYNC, but this was a new side of Timberlake. He was a genuine artist, and this album made people take him seriously. He’s more than a pop star, and it seems like that’s what he wanted from this record.
There are a couple of things that make this record really stand out from most other generc pop records, and the biggest thing is the overall music. While Timberlake is still grounded in pop, there’s a lot of other influences on this album, such as funk, blues, gospel, rock, and even some techno here and there. Every song has a different feel to it, which is one reason this record works so well. You’re not listening to the same pop song over and over, but rather, a myriad of sounds. Opening track, “FutureSex / LoveSound,” has a new-wave sound, while second track “SexyBack” has a club / dance sound to it. Every song does sound differently, so that already makes this an enjoyable album. Another thing that’s on here are a lot of interludes and preludes; basically, Timberlake wanted FutureSex / LoveSounds to be a rock-oriented album, but producer Timbaland didn’t want to alienate his fanbase, so they set up these preludes and interludes to serve as that rock basis. Some of them are great, but others just seem awkwardly placed, and I’ll get to those later. Also, the collaborations on this record are kept to a minimum. The only artists who make guest appearances are T.I (“My Love”), will.i.am (“Damn Girl”), Three Six Mafia (“Chop Me Up”), and Timbaland (various tracks / producer). Their appearances are also used quite sparingly. It’s clearly a Timberlake album, and Timberlake makes sure of it. That leads me to the final thing that makes this record stand out – Timberlake himself. He’s got a great voice, and although I never really liked *NSYNC, his voice was always something to marvel at. There was just something about him that said he was going to go far, and well, he has. Aside from music, he’s been in a lot of films, too. They haven’t been great films, but they’ve been films that weren’t half bad, nonetheless. After his film career began, this was the album that propelled him from being a pop star in that one boy band to being a genuine and well respected artist.
The album starts out with “FutureSex / LoveSound,” and this track has an electronic / new-wave sound to it. This track is quite interesting, because it doesn’t feature Timberlake’s falsetto, as he’s been known for. He’s very smooth, and that’s how I’d describe this album as a whole – smooth. It just sounds so clean, crisp, and very smooth. But this track sets up the rest of the album, basically; it really sets the stage for what’s to come. It’s quite repetitive, but the whole song flows smoothly. It leads into first single “SexyBack,” and this is where things get interesting. Judging from the name alone, you can assume this is a sexual song, but it’s more so in the vein of a song that’s about feeling sexy, essentially. The song is very strange, because it’s nothing that Timberlake has released before, so it was very new to people. Regardless, it was a hit as well. Timberlake has said that the album has two sides to it, hence the name FutureSex / LoveSounds. The more sexual songs are the FutureSex part, while the love songs (which are sprinkled throughout the album) are the LoveSounds part, obviously. The first three songs on this record, “FutureSex / LoveSound,” “SexyBack,” and third track, “Sexy Ladies.” “Sexy Ladies” is a followed by the first prelude, called “Let Me Talk To You.” “Sexy Ladies” is a nice track, but it’s just about what the title implies – Timberlake’s love for beautiful women. He’s very smooth and charming throughout the song, but the prelude is really interesting, because it has a rock-oriented beat but there’s some rapping done, some by Timberlake himself. This leads into “My Love,” which is another song most people know; this is a love song that is on the LoveSounds portion of the album, and this is a song that’s about how Timberlake would treat a girl, and he wants to be with her. There’s not much to it, but it’s a very catchy track, and this track also shows off his falsetto a bit more as well. T.I. also raps a verse on this track, and it’s not half bad, to be honest. This leads me to the only issue I really have with this album: the lyrics. At times, they’re quite cool, and really smooth, but with tracks like “Sexy Ladies,” they’re almost unbearable. I’ve heard worse, certainly, but nothing I haven’t heard before. There are a few tracks with some great lyrics on it, and those appear later into the album. Fourth track “Lovestoned / I Think She Knows (Interlude)” is another one of those tracks that I like, but that doesn’t really stick out to me. Even the interlude that follows it is interesting, but doesn’t quite fit the track that precedes it.
Sixth track “What Goes Around … / …Comes Around (Interlude)” is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album. This song is much more pop oriented, but it’s fantastic. This is all about a guy who was cheated on, and he wants to tell the girl, “What goes around, comes around.” It’s a great idea for a song, and really works. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album, because Timberlake just floors it. Seventh track “Chop Me Up” is t he track that features Three Six Mafia, and that’s the best thing about this song. They are great in this track, and I don’t really care for rapper in songs, to be honest. Well, guest appearances, I mean. Most of them seem very insincere and just out of place, but this one actually works quite nicely. Next track “Damn Girl” seems to be the equivalent of “Sexy Ladies,” because it has the exact same lyrical content. It’s not a bad song, but I will say that it wins the award for most times I’ve heard “damn” in a song.
The complete opposite is the ninth track, “Summer Love / Set the Mood (Interlude).” They’re both love songs, and “Summer Love” is about just having a significant other in the summertime, which is something a lot of people can relate to. The track is another “smooth” song but doesn’t do a lot for me. Timberlake’s vocals and the overall sound of the song are what make this a nice song. The “Set the Mood (Interlude)” is another interlude that I really like. It’s very R&B and sounds so great. This leads into next track “Until the End of Time.” This is another one of the best songs on the album. It’s another love song, but wow, this is great. Timberlake’s vocals are their peak here. Now the last two songs are the two “standout” tracks, because they are the most different. “Losing My Way” isn’t about love, or sex. It’s about a man who is suffering from a drug addiction and wants to find God, basically. This song features a choir, and it makes the song a lot bigger than you think it really is. The last song “(Another Song) All Over Again” is a homage to soul singer/songwriter Donny Hathaway, who committed suicide in 1979, and has been an influence on plenty of artists, including Timberlake.
This album is wonderful in a lot of ways, and the lyrics are the only issue I have with it. At some points, they’re great, but at other times, they’re almost unbearable. The thing that saves them are Timberlake and the music accompanying it. The album does a have a variety of sounds and you don’t see this in pop music much anymore. There are new-wave songs (“FutureSex / LoveSound”), gospel (“Losing My Way”), dance (“SexyBack”), R&B (“My Love” and “Until the End of the Time”) and even just straightforward pop (“What Comes Around… / …Comes Around (Interlude)”). There are plenty of twists and turns on this record, and it’s great. Justin Timberlake is certainly an artist who has left a lasting impact on music, unlike the majority of pop stars today.