Justin Timberlake is mainly known for his days in Nsync but when he decided to breakout out of the boy band shadow in 2002, he stood on his two feet leaving the other members in the where are they now pile. Though the album may not be groundbreaking, it’s still an impressive solo record. There are tons of songs to get your ass shaking along with some bitter moments that we can only assume are about a girl named Britney.
I have to admit, I used to listen to Nsync like any other 10 year old girl in the 90s, but I never liked Justin. He wasn’t cute, he had stupid curly hair, and he sounded like a sheep. Of course when I heard he was making a solo record I scoffed. I wasn’t expecting anything and I never would’ve listened to it if it wasn’t for my brother bringing it home and playing it in the house. When I heard the first few songs I was really impressed. The songs were catchy, the vocals were less nasally, and his haircut was much improved. And now, just like the rest of the world, I love Timberlake (mainly because of his hilarious appearances on SNL).
Just like any good pop record, the songs here are catchy. They’re the type of songs that make you stop and sing them whenever they come on. From the latin flavored “Senorita” to the disco infused “Rock Your Body” it’s hard to resist singing with Justin. The songs also make you want to move, especially since Timberlake mentions the urge to dance in every other track. There are times where it seems like he goes back to his boy band days with certain elements of the music, mostly with spoken word parts. I have never been a fan of these even in the 90’s. They’re just cheesy and interrupt the song. It’s a part like this that ruins the flow and vibe of “Like I Love You.” What’s worse is you’ll find these parts in just about every track.
There are quite a few slow songs on the album and for the most part they’re good. A track like “Take It From Here” sounds sweet, but is still a pretty sappy love song with Justin talking about wanting to be there for the girl no matter what. It’s basically a typical love song. The track “Nothin’ Else” has creeping, almost suspicious music until it turns to an upbeat melody from the 70’s during the chorus. It’s another love song, but some of the lyrics get corny unless you find a line like “You’re outta this world ‘cept you’re not green” romantic. Some of the lyrics may be cheesy, but they’re forgivable.
The biggest problem with the album is that the second half sounds like the first half of the record. The music sounds pretty much the same, the content of the songs are the same, and the subject matter is the same also: sex and dancing. Timberlake wanted to make a more mature record to avoid any association with Nsync and I guess more mature means talk a lot about sex. It’s not explicit, but it’s pretty obvious what he’s talking about. While the songs aren’t bad, it starts to wear on you after the fifth track because everything else sound pretty much the same.
Another issue is that it seems like he held himself back on the record. Everyone thinks all the songs are about Britney, but in reality only two or three songs are obviously about her and these are probably the best songs on the album. The popular “Cry Me a River” is the perfect revenge song after a nasty break up. You can easily feel the anger, frustration, and hurt here because Justin is speaking from the heart. It’s a pretty intense track thanks to the heavy beat and rhythm of the music. It’s definitely a stand out song.
The heartbreaking “Never Again” is another song that’s obviously about Britney. Timberlake speaks of losing trust in a relationship and wanting nothing but an apology and not getting it. When you listen to it, you can tell how badly his heart was broken. If Justin would’ve used that raw emotion for more songs, the album would’ve been stronger and had a better variety of songs. It also would’ve kept the songs from getting stale. These are the strongest tracks on the album and if there were more songs like these two, it would’ve made for an outstanding record.
Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. It’s a pretty good record filled with catchy tunes sure to make you sing and dance. While all the songs are decent, they start to get old during the second half of the album since they start sounding the same. The album also would’ve been stronger if Timberlake didn’t hold back his hurt from his infamous break up. The songs would have more depth and more variety, so we aren’t stuck with 13 songs about dancing and sex. Still, it’s an impressive album from the former Nsync “heartthrob.”