The evolution of Justin Timberlake
Isla Rolland | 20 March 2017


In 2002, Justin Timberlake released his first solo album, Justified, which went on to sell seven million copies worldwide and win two Grammy awards. Five years later I received my first Justified album (a day that is unforgettable for every JT fan) and I have not stopped grooving to it since. To this day I am not ashamed to tell you that I still start my mornings harmonising to the sweet lyrical sensation that is Cry Me A River and then popping my hips unreservedly to Rock Your Body. Any person whose iPod does not behold the Justified album is missing out on some of the best R&B/hip-hop music around.


The introduction to the album is sublime; "Senorita" immediately demands your attention, in the style of a live performance, he leaves you wanting more (which is exactly what introductions should but rarely ever do). The rest of the album takes you on a fantastical R&B roller-coaster with a slight eighties soul feel and prominent Jackson inspiration throughout. Not only is Justified a music sensation, as the first successful attempt by a white teen artist to cross over to a black audience since George Michael, it also culturally significant. The release of this album also saw Justin Timberlake shake off his previous N*SYNC boy band image and catapult into a world of A-List fame, legendary collaborations and numerous music awards.


Justified also saw Timberlake go through a huge and necessary image upheaval, from denim on denim suits to a more dapper and refined look. Justified, as well as improving his look, landed Timberlake a well-respected spotlight in the urban music arena which allowed his career to evolve and skyrocket. The scene set, Timberlake’s 2006 release of FutureSex/LoveSounds went on to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart, selling 684,000 copies in the first week after release. The songs on this album share a theme and most importantly seamlessly blend into each other (something pop music lacks these days). This album loses the innocence and groove that Justified represented and takes on a very sexy and synthesised feel, he defiantly brings sexy back. Then, in 2007, the world saw one of the greatest collaborations of all time: JT and Madonna. The single was an international hit, topping the charts in over 21 countries worldwide, and for good reason - it is impossible not to be swept away by the slickness and legendary rhythm of this single.


FutureSex/LoveSounds was to be his last album for six years. Besides a collaboration with T.I for Dead and Gone in 2008, Timberlake largely disappeared from the music scene for a good five years. However, the musical hiatus saw his film career take off; Timberlake has appeared in The Social Network (2010), acted alongside Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, Mila Kunis in Friends with Benefits and Amanda Seyfried in In Time. His announcement in January 2013 that he was working on a new album with Jay Z created a huge buzz among die hard JT fans and the music industry; no one really knew what to expect.


Timberlake’s return with the 20/20 Experience has been monumental; the new album combines all of his best trademarks and more. The 32-year-old teams up again with producer Tim ‘Timbaland’ Mosley to form a quirky hybrid that combines high-tech rhythmic effects with old-school strings and classic Seventies soul styles, not only does this album sound great but the look it oozes is also so suave and smooth.


Justin Timberlake’s evolution is one of legend - from the boy band heartthrob with corn rows has emerged a slick solo artist with his own music empire. His up and coming sequel to the 20/20 Experience, the 20/20 Experience 2 of 2, promises even more bold musical statements and quirkiness. It’s safe to say JT is defiantly not dead and gone.


James Routledge 2016