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December 20-27, 2006

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'D**k in a Box'

D**k in a Box: Samberg and Timberlake compare packages.

Mūz

Justin Timberlake Revisited

By Bill Forman


Sadly, Justin Timberlake and Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg's poignant D**k in a Box collaboration (available at http://video.nbc.com/player.html?dlid=51289 or www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dmVU08zVpA) wasn't released in time for this year's Grammy consideration. The coup de grâce to Timberlake's appearance as host of SNL this past Saturday night, it was undeniably the show's best musical skit since Lazy Sunday hit around this time last year. (You remember "Lazy Sunday": the suburban gangsta sendup in which Samberg and Chris Parnell rhapsodize about the Chronic--what?--cles of Narnia and how Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious.) Awash in blue-eyed soul crooning, "D**k in a Box" is an instant holiday classic, with the visual punchline of Timberlake and Samberg sporting gift-wrapped packages just below their beltlines.

That particular gem, along with Timberlake's excellent Robin Gibb impersonation and live performances of two hits off his FutureSex/LoveSounds album, drove home the point that Timberlake may be the only recent teen idol with the talent to transcend his origins.

Indeed, the *NSYNC veteran's stunningly ambitious second album is the antithesis of a sophomore slump, as Timberlake's sly pop sensibilities and producer Timbaland's rhythmic invention push each other into whole new musical realms. Incandescent tracks like My Love and What Goes Around--both of which Timberlake performed on Saturday night's telecast--are part of a musically eclectic album that mixes a wild array of genres and influences, often within a single track.

With a falsetto that ranks up there among the likes of Scritti Politti and the Brothers Gibb, Timberlake brings his elastic vocal talents to an intriguingly experimental set of songs that are densely layered with unexpected changes and unforgettable hooks at seemingly every turn. As adventurous as many of the arrangements are, Timberlake still knows how to deliver a drop-dead gorgeous pop song, as he does on the closing (Another Song) All Over Again, a ballad that would not sound out of place on a Stevie Wonder album.

Of course, for disparagers of last decade's teen pop wave, Timberlake is still marked with the stigmata of a boy band past. And, in many ways, his current work is a logical outgrowth of a sound that was charged with being "prefabricated" at the time, simply because the production values behind it were fundamentally more rooted in Kraftwerk than in the Beatles.

Neither Timberlake's SNL appearance nor FutureSex/LoveSounds are likely to give birth to a critical revision of teen pop's place in our musical diaspora, but they don't need to. The artist's psychedelicized dance-pop stands on its own, and his latest album's unexpected experimentation bodes well for Timberlake's future growth as a musical talent.

Hey, the guy could even get famous.


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Mūz: Santa Cruz Music, Media and Arts
Concert notes and news.