In the era of TRL and the battle of boy band supremacy there were two factions Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.
Both were started in Orlando and managed by Lou Pearlman. Both battled to sell the most records but with over 130 million records internationally Backstreet Boys reigned as the biggest selling boy band of all time.
While there were similarities between the two NSYNC had a breakout star.
Transitioning to taking a more interested effort in what their music sounded like by their third album, Celebrity both JC Chasez and Justin Timberlake wrote on 8 of the 13 tracks.
I feel Timberlake found a groove that carried over to his debut album.
Gone was a song Michael Jackson wanted to do a duet with JT and convinced him that he could make it as a solo artist.
Girlfriend was produced by The Neptunes, super producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, and Pharrell later said he recognized Timberlake was a star.
Both singles co-written by Timberlake charted in the Top 15 on Billboard and Gone was nominated for a Grammy.
During NSYNC’s hiatus Justin Timberlake went to Virginia and continued working with The Neptunes and released his first album Justified.
This is my favorite Justin album.
It is such a fresh sound, when they were criticized for becoming predictable or using too many synths they focused on bringing live instrumentation with string sections, acoustic guitars and live drums.
The album opens on my favorite track on the album, Señorita.
Pharrell greets us with his signature singsong welcoming Timberlake to the stage as JT sings “about this girl”.
This song is phenomenal, from the intro to infectious chorus and it’s callback call and response break where the men and women are summoned to sing to each other.
The next track is the first single, Like I Love You.
Again the live drums knock as a constant melody of acoustic guitar begins as Timberlake assures his girl not to fear him but embrace his advances.
This is a coming out party for rap group Clipse as Malice and Pusha T.
Both brothers deliver memorable bars with Pusha T rapping in a Ma$e style sleepy flow and Malice not disappointing especially with lines like “we can vibe now pumping NERD in the deck, funny how a few words turn into sex”.
The Neptunes continuing their tradition of giving the listeners amazing bridges to their songs deliver again on this track.
If it’s not seen by now my favorites from this album are their tracks.
It’s truly special whenever the Neptunes and JT collaborate made even so that this is the only Timberlake album with their production.
I understand he’s found a groove with another Virginia native Timbaland but I’d love a whole album produced by The Neptunes.
I’ve had a love for hip hop and orchestras coming together since Kanye West’s Late Registration and later live album Late Orchestration.
On Take It From Here we have beautiful strings and bass supporting as the melody as the guitar provides the melody.
This is a beautiful ballad with another memorable bridge while the lyrics assure his girl that he wants to be everything to and for her.
The most famous song off this album is Cry Me A River.
This legendary breakup song is produced by none other than Timbaland.
The production style is reminiscent of his work with R&B songstress Aaliyah.
There are sound effects and beatboxing made from Tim overlaid throughout the track.
JT was none to adding beatboxing to the NSYNC songs like Pop to bring it some edge and this is an opportunity to learn from the master.
This music video is iconic in it’s shade.
The director added touches that added to speculation like her Kangol hat to a back tattoo that was said to be similar to the pop superstar, Britney Spears.
I believe this record was the first that added choirs to his tracks it adds to the emotion and became a tradition on their collaborations with Future Sex/Love Sounds on Losing My Way.
On Future Sex/Love Sounds there are much longer tracks averaging from five to eight minutes we get a taste of that on Take Me Now.
This collaboration with Janet Jackson ends on a break that changes the feel of the track.
After around third and a half minutes there’s sound effects from the voice as an instrument from beatboxing to 80s style “ho”.
Then Timbaland singing this refrain “I’m like a hurricane just coasting along you better grab girl, I hope you take me now.”
It’s extremely catchy and the way he sings his vocal with a main line with his regular voice then a layered vocal at a higher pitch.
I love the beatboxing on the end of Rock Your Body it reminds me of the live version of Pop where Michael Jackson came out and Justin Timberlake began to beatbox while Mike danced.
This end showcases his skills as using not only his singing but his mouth as a vocal instrument.
Timbaland’s tracks are more inventive but the Neptunes tracks are more fresh.
It makes sense because What You Got, produced by Timbaland, has the arabic sound that he popularized at the time but listening back it’s becoming dated.
Initially the framework for Justified was birthed out of a desire for The Neptunes to produce for Michael Jackson and take him back to an updated Off The Wall sound so it makes sense why their tracks sound like classic pop with infectious bridges and live drums paired with funky synths and guitars.
This is such a great album and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Pharrell & Chad, Timbaland, R&B, NSYNC and of course Justin Timberlake.