Album Review: Justin Timberlake, “FutureSex/LoveSounds” (2006)

Justin Timberlake has certainly got one hell of an ego. I guess it’s to be expected; after all, he spent most of his adolescence and early adult years being the idol of one of the world’s biggest boy bands. Still, his ladies man persona becomes a bit tiring at times, and I often wonder if all his bravado is justified (heh…no pun intended. Unless you laughed, in which case, pun intended ;)).

When you really look at the facts, Timberlake isn’t that fantastic. He’s a good singer- more than just decent, but certainly not great. He is a good dancer, but it’s not like he’d really win So You Think You Can Dance?, or anything. We’ve already learned from his Justified that he isn’t the best songwriter around, either. I think it’s the combination of Timberlake’s slightly-above-standard talents and the producers/songwriters (which for FutureSex/LoveSounds is mostly Timbaland) that he works with that makes him so successful. And it can’t hurt that his swagger actually comes off as being a bit sexy at times.

The album begins with the title track, which boasts a sultry, pulsating beat. I still have no idea just what “Futuresex” is and what these “Lovesounds” are, and the song doesn’t exactly explain it either (the closest we get is a line during the chorus- “Her body’s pressed up on me, I think she’s ready to blow/Must be my future sex love sound.”). Maybe I’m just too young to understand. Anyway, Timberlake’s falsetto is nice and the song has a sexy vibe that makes it perfect for the club.

Immediately following is the massive hit single, SexyBack. I’ll admit to not liking the it the first few times I heard it; the backing music sounded cheap and cheesy to me, and Timbaland’s “yeahs!” and other shouts during the verses and choruses were really annoying. But, like most things that you can’t escape, the song eventually grew on me. Timberlake’s ego also returns as he proclaims that “he’s bringing sexy back” (though I had no idea “sexy” left in the first place), but again, the slick beat and danceable sound are what makes the song so good. Next up is Sexy Ladies/Let Me Talk To You Prelude. The album has several preludes/interludes, and this is just the first of many. Sexy Ladies isn’t anything too special- the throbbing beat and repetitive lyrics are okay, but the song goes on for far too long. Let Me Talk To You is again a bore lyrically, but the Latin/samba beat is fun and refreshing.

The prelude leads to another of the album’s hit singles, My Love. I think I was an immediate fan of this song; the hip-hop sound reminds me of some of Timbaland’s older stuff (think Ginuwine and Aaliyah’searly albums), and despite being clichéd, the lyrics are actually kinda sweet (“I can see us holding hands/Walking on the beach, our toes in the sand/I can see us on the countryside/Sitting on the grass, laying side by side/You could be my baby, let me make you my lady/Girl, you amaze me/Ain’t gotta do nothing crazy/See, all I want you to do is be my love”). Rapper T.I. makes an appearance, and his smooth flow adds to the song’s appeal.

More good stuff follows with LoveStoned/I Think She Knows interlude. LoveStoned is another fast-paced track that’s perfect for the club. Lyrically, the song is a bit more interesting than some of the others- Timberlake tells of meeting a girl in a club and being attracted to her (or “LoveStoned”), but then realizing that his attraction is purely lust driven. Sure, nothing groundbreaking, but like I said, the lyrical content is actually somewhat interesting this time around. Anyway, Timberlake beat boxes in the background, which actually sounds really good and is a great part of the song. The I Think She Knows interlude is also great. The tempo slows down significantly, and the melody from LoveStoned is slowed down as well (with acoustic guitar thrown in). Some of the lyrics are quietly repeated, giving the song a soft and relaxing feeling.

My favorite song on the album is easily What Goes Around…. The mid-tempo ballad is a more mature follow-up to Cry Me A River (Timberlake says it’s not about Britney, but he originally said that about Cry Me A River, too.), though the piano creates a gorgeous melody. Timberlake seems genuine as he sings about being betrayed (“Hey girl.. is he everything you wanted in a man?/You know I gave you the world/You had me in the palm of your hand/So why your love went away?/I just can’t seem to understand/Thought it was me and you baby/Me and you until the end, but I guess I was wrong”) and anyone that’s every experienced a bad breakup will be able to relate to this song. This song also has an interlude attached, and …Comes Around is just as good as the song before it. Once again, the tempo switches up a bit and Timberlake almost raps his lines. The bitterness continues (“I heard you found out that he’s doing to you/What you did to me, ain’t that the way it goes/
When you cheated girl, my heart bleeded girl/So it goes without saying that ya left me feeling hurt&#133/You wished you had somebody that could come and make it right/Well girl I ain’t somebody with a lot of sympathy (you’ll see)/What goes around comes back around”), but the song sounds so good that you’ll want to take Timberlake’s side anyway.

Three 6 Mafia making an appearance on a Justin Timberlake album might seem weird but they’re definitely what makes Chop Me Up a good song. The beat sounds like something you’d hear on a rap album, and Timberlake returns to “rapping” during the verses, which sounds a lot better than you’re probably imagining. I’m always surprised by the fact that I like this song, but the combination of the hip-hop beat, Three 6 Mafia’s spots, Timberlake’s delivery, and Timbaland’s production makes the song one of the best on the album. Summer Love boasts an old-school hip hop sound to it that works well, and the song happens to be another favorite. The lyrics are once again sweet and simple (“I can’t wait to fall in love with you/You can’t wait to fall in love with me/This just can’t be summer love, you’ll see”), and it’s easy to see that the focus is on the beat, rather than the lyrics, which is actually fine.

The best of the album pretty much ends there. Damn Girl was produced and features an appearance by will.i.am (from the Black Eyed Peas), but is extremely repetitive and annoying. Timberlake’s vocals are even irritating, especially during the choruses, and will.i.am’s guest spot is extremely unnecessary. Until The End Of Time sounds like a standard R&B ballad that I’ve heard a million times before, though at least the chorus is a bit catchy. Losing My Way probably has some of the best lyrics on the album (“It all goes back to when I dropped out at school/Having fun, I was living the life/But now I got a problem with that little white rock/See I can&#146t put down the pipe&#133/ Can anybody out there hear me?/&#146Cause I can’t seem to hear myself/Keep losing my way”), but the lyrics get lost in a highly unremarkable melody.

The album ends on an incredibly dull note with another ballad, this time titled (Another Song) All Over Again. Timberlake channels Brian McKnight for the bittersweet R&B track. There’s nothing reallywrong with the song, exactly; the lyrics are pretty standard (“I’m not a saint/I’m just a man/Who had heaven and earth in the palm of his hand/But I threw it away/So now I stand here today asking forgiveness/And if you could just/Please give me another chance/To write you another song”) and Timberlake’s soft crooning is actually quite lovely, but then again, there’s nothing really amazing about the song either. Perhaps it’s the song to turn to if you need to find solace after a breakup, but until then, it’s not really a song that’s worth listening to.

So again, as with Justin Timberlake’s first effort, we’re left with nothing more than a decent album. Futuresex/LoveSounds has a handful of really good tracks, but most of the disc falls flat with bland lyrics, useless guest spots, bad production, and boring songs. Hopefully Timberlake will get it together and make an album that’ll receive more than just a three star rating.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. FutureSex/ LoveSound
2. SexyBack – (with Timbaland)
3. Sexy Ladies
4. My Love – (with T.I.)
5. Love Stoned
6. What Goes Around
7. Chop Me Up – (with Timbaland/Three 6 Mafia)
8. Damn Girl – (with Will.i.am)
9. Summer Love
10. Until The End Of Time
11. Losing My Way
12. All Over Again (Another Song)
13. Another Song

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOrnUquxtwA]
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