Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown is the hit 2002 debut solo album Justified by former-NSYNC member Justin Timberlake. Is this album a Justified purchase, or should you Cry a River at the money you wasted? Read on…
This 14 track album opens with a great Spanish sound, and that perfectly ushers in Señorita. Pharrell Williams provides some additional vocals here (he has 7 writing credits on this album, and numerous production/musician credits), but Justin unmistakably owns this song. This song is also somewhat RnB tinged and at times sounds like Justin is channeling Michael Jackson. There’s also a great male vs female question/answer section, which feels like a great musical throwback, and one that no doubt would help this song in radio/clubs when this track became the fourth and final single from the album, The video really compliments it.
Next up is lead single Like I Love You, which continues the Spanish music theme with some wonderful acoustic guitar before the delicious beat kicks in. This song is much faster, and I think that it’s a challenge not to at least try and dance to this song. It’s catchy, has some brilliant vocals from Justin – who covers quite a range here, it also features a rap from Clipse. It is a little reminiscent of Britney Spears.
This is followed by (Oh No) What You Got which isn’t as catchy as the previous two tracks, but relies on some almost Indian-sounding percussion.
Take It From Here follows, and this is a lavish strings-laden song courtesy of Charles Veal and The Southwest Chamber Orchestra. Acoustic guitar carries the verses, as Justin sings softly about his girl. It’s a slow, smooth, funky (great bassline) number. ‘I wanna be your lighthouse when you get lost‘ he sings, and again he sounds vocally like he’s channeling a Thriller album track.
Second single Cry Me A River is up next, and this musically sounds again like a Britney Spears song of the time, mixed with Björk‘s Triumph Of A Heart thanks to the human-made instruments in the background. This song is much slower than Like I Love You and Señorita, but this song gave Justin the chance to show his musical diversity through his singles. It’s definitely a sing-along song, but I don’t think it’s his strongest single here.
Up next is the great Rock Your Body, which has a funky disco bassline, and it feels like it’s sampling a swathe of disco greats, but I can’t see any sampling credits in the sleeve. Justin is joined on vocals by Vanessa Marquez. Apparently Michael Jackson rejected this song from his 2001 Invincible album, and thankfully the song became Justin’s.
A smooth slow Nothin’ Else is up next, and this includes crackling vinyl sounds, and a great beat. There’s plenty of backing vocals here that help lace together the sparse musical instruments. This is a nice warm song, but it’s feeling a bit like a filler. There’s also a part of the song that reminds me exactly of an old 70s song… but it’s bugging me as to what it is.
Last Night follows this and this feels like a companion piece to Like I Love You. There’s not much to dislike here, but there’s also not really much fresh ground when compared to the previous few tracks.
Up next is Still On My Brain – a slow ballad – that opens like a Mariah or Whitney number. This does at least allow Justin to show off some of his softer vocals again, and musically it gives him the space to do so. There’s some great vocal harmonies here.
Some funky wah and beats weave their way continuously through next track (And She Said) Take Me Now, which also features Janet Jackson on some of her trademark breathy backing vocals. This song builds up gently and fades out at about 3 minutes 40s into a harder style of rappers vs synth, before fading out completely at 5min 31s. Janet doesn’t seem to get a line by herself.
Right For Me is up next, featuring a rap from Bubba Sparxxx, and additional vocals from Timbaland. Musically, there’s an element of this song (the handclaps) that reminded me straight away of the Holly Valance cover of Kiss Kiss.
Tenth track Let’s Take A Ride continues the handclaps from Right For Me, but feels much more up-beat. An acoustic guitar loop, gentle beats, and even a little birdsong make this a really nice simple song. There’s some really nice vocal arrangement here, and the harmonies work well. The synth feels a little basic, but the rest of the song makes up for this.
On the standard edition, this album ends with Never Again, but this edition that I’ve rescued, makes this song the penultimate. It opens with piano and strings before Justin begins singing. This is clearly meant to be the closing track, as it’s another example of a song that could easily have been a Mariah or Whitney song. ‘Sadness has me at the end of the line‘ he sings, perhaps also referring to the end of the record.
…and the album closes with Worthy Of, a track that doesn’t appear on the sleeve, and was added to the Australian edition of the album. We’re back in funky bassline and heavy beats territory, and this time there’s also a great little guitar riff. This is much more upbeat, and maybe that’s the best way to end a JT album, not with some schmaltzy ballad, but with some funky beats.
Where is Justin Timberlake now?
After this album, Justin’s career continued to fly high, seeing him release his second album FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006 and giving him a string of huge hits. He released his third and fourth albums in 2013.
He also pumped a large amount of money into ailing social media network Myspace, which after a long period of decline due to Facebook’s rise. He became co-owner, and his investment helped it reshape and re-launch in 2013.
He has won numerous awards, including nine Grammy Awards.
POP RESCUE RATING:
Over all, this album is very slickly produced by the likes of Pharrell and Timbaland, and that no doubt helped to cement Justin’s rightly-placed position in the music charts. Mopping up Michael Jackson rejects was also another great move, and perhaps a painful one for Jackson, whose career after this point suffered significantly, whilst Justin’s took off.
Whilst there’s a couple of fillers here, when it’s good it’s brilliant, and when it’s weak, it’s full-on paint-by-numbers fromage. That said, this album is a welcome addition to my music collection.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2002 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified 6x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from an RSPCA charity store.