Justin Timberlake – Justified
Record Label: Jive Records
Release Date: November 5th, 2002
With the release of Justin Timberlake’s new single “Suit & Tie,” I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and look back at Timberlake’s first solo album Justified. This was released during *NSYNC’s hiatus, and this record was that first step to take Timberlake from being “that guy in a boy band” to being a cemented artist. 2006’s FutureSex / LoveSounds made that even more apparent and got him even more respect from the music community. This record, on the other hand, is nowhere near perfect, but it’s wonderful in a few ways as well. The most obvious thing about this record is that it’s a straightforward pop record, but on the flip side, there’s a lot of variety in it. I can take a lot of things from this album, and the songs are very enjoyable, despite being mainly sappy and cheesy love songs. I’m a sucker for those every so often, and combined with Timberlake’s falsetto, I have no shame to admit that I enjoy this record quite a bit. As I mentioned, this record really did show that Timberlake is capable of making it on his own as a solo artist. In fact, the collaborations on this record are quite remarkable; Timbaland, Clipse, Bubba Sparxxx, Janet Jackson, and even Brian McKnight appears on the record. He doesn’t appear as a singer, but rather as a producer and he plays a lot of instruments on it as well. I’ll get to that later, though. This record must be quite enjoyable to a lot of people if it went triple platinum in the US, and won a Grammy award for best pop record of that year.
The record starts off with “Senorita,” and it features an intro by Pharrell with him introducing Timberlake, basically. It’s a gripping intro, and it certainly gets me excited for the song to actually start. It finally picks up around 40 seconds in, and Timberlake’s signature falsetto kicks in as he starts to tell a story of how he met a very attractive girl and tells her how that he can treat her right and whatnot. And the only complaint I have about this record are the lyrics, really; a majority of the songs have massive hooks and they work very well, but thirteen songs that are mainly love songs do get a bit stale. Some of them work very well, like I said, and I will get to those, but for the most part, they all sound rather the same. Well, lyrically speaking, anyway. The accompanying music on the other hand, is what keeps these tracks from becoming something forgettable. Going back to “Senorita,” this is one of the more “upbeat songs,” and this song is cool because it has a very nice Spanish feel to it, obviously because of the name of the song. It also has a very simplistic beat, which works quite well, though. There’s even some jazz-funk in it as well; horns are prominent instrument on this track, and to say the least, this song really sets the stage for the whole record. This is a great opening track, because it demonstrates everything that people love about Justin Timberlake – his voice, his lyrics, his enthusiasm, and just his overall demeanor. The only thing that is rather annoying about the track is at the bridge, Timberlake tries to do this “sing-along” thing with the listener, and has men and women singing different verses. It’s a bit cheesy, but it’s fun. Second track “Like I Love You” kind of follows in this format, really; well, the upbeat pop song format. What I really like about this track are the organic instruments. In fact, at the end of the song, there’s a really cool drum solo. It also features a rap verse by Clipse, and it’s not half bad. This is one of two songs that do feature a rapper, and it’s done to a minimum here, which is nice. It doesn’t hinder the song, and the lyrics actually are relevant to the song.
While the first two songs hit quite well, the rest of the album either hits or is just rather mediocre. It’s not because Timberlake is awful, either; his voice is always fantastic, and that’s what makes the record so great. It’s him. This is the first record where he’s able to say, “This is about me,” and he doesn’t have to worry about anyone else over shining him. This is great news to fans of *NSYNC fans who liked him the most. Regardless, there are some tracks that do hit quite well. The first one is fourth track is “Take It from Here.” This is the longest track, at a little over six minutes, but it’s a great R&B song that’s all about how a girl got hurt, and how Timberlake is going to take care of her. It’s really sweet and the lyrics are quite nice here. After that track, my two favorite tracks on the record come up – “Cry Me a River” and “Rock Your Body.” These are two of his most popular tracks and for good reason. The former is supposedly written about Timberlake’s ex Brittany Spears, but that’s disputable. Regardless, this is a song that’s about a girl who cheats on Timberlake, and when he confronts her about it, he says he already knows and tells her to cry him a river, metaphorically. This song is well executed, and I love it. I absolutely adore this song. Ironically, the latter has a completely opposite lyrical subject – sex. This is the only song that really is a “sexual” song. Even the title is pretty obvious, but this is another catchy pop song, and that’s all it really is. There’s nothing to take from this song, other than the fact it’s fun to listen to and to dance to.
As the record goes on, seventh track “Nothin’ Else” is definitely an interesting track. It’s a cheesy love song about how a girl is nothing like Timberlake has seen before. It’s a really cute R&B/pop track, but this is one of those tracks that rather forgettable in the end. That’s how most of the songs on this record are – they’re enjoyable, but end up lost in the mix of other songs that easily outshine them. Eighth track “Last Night” is an upbeat track, but the lyrics succumb to generic territory, sadly. That’s certainly one of those tracks I’m talking about. In all honesty, the last two songs are the most memorable songs of the second half of the record, “Let’s Take a Ride,” and “Never Again.” The former is a cute little song about Timberlake wanting to take a girl for a ride so they can escape from the problems that both of them deal with in everyday life, and the latter is a song that’s about how Timberlake won’t be dating a girl again, and he just merely wanted an apology from her. This song I can relate to quite a bit, because I’ve definitely wanted some apologies from certain people. Regardless, it ends the album on a very quiet and somber note, which is a nice contrast from the playful and light-hearted “Senorita” that started the record. Despite being an hour long, it’s a very enjoyable record, and while there are some songs that are rather mediocre, it’s Timberlake himself that really keep that afloat. His voice is very solid throughout the record even the lyrics he says aren’t too fantastic at times.