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Guilty Pleasure: Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds

on July 12, 2009, 11:00am

In the ’90s, my mom carted my siblings and me to Los Angeles for a week. We road tripped to the shores of Malibu, kids rolling four deep in the back seat of the sedan. That car ride through the southern Cali hills was the first time I heard N*Sync. At 15, I thought, “Man, the West Coast gets all the GOOD stuff first!”

I returned to the East Coast enlightened by pop music’s newest princes, and there was soon a period of time where after a day at school (and, ok, many Friday nights), you could find my friends and I hunkered down at someone’s house, watching The Box. The Box was a magical concept for those of us without cable television and therefore no MTV or VH1. A television channel that operated like a music video jukebox, it allowed one to call and request any video you wanted to see for a mere 99 cents. I don’t think we ever forked over the dough, but we did sit there, hoping some other teen pop addict waved their mom’s credit card so N*Sync’s “Tearing Up My Heart” would be next. Yeah, it’s a fair and accurate statement to conclude that my time in high school was not my glory days.

Then, like every good college student, I became a music snob. Full of pride, I entered an era where I scoffed at N*Sync’s breakup and Justin Timberlake’s first solo album. I rolled my eyes and cranked up Guster and Dispatch on Napster. Music righteousness set in, and I blissfully stroked it until a fateful car ride the day after Christmas 2006. The man driving the car was someone I bonded with over Patty Griffin and Ryan Adams.  He dropped a disco ball on me, confessing he loved the Justin Timberlake album FutureSex/LoveSounds. After a brief moment of horror, during which time I felt the foundations of our relationship tremble, he turned up the CD.

I loved it. I didn’t want the car ride to end. I kept my cool through the first few tracks but was totally busted when I asked to replay the guitar riff interlude in “Lovestoned/I Think She Knows”. My pride shattered like the disco ball on the album art.

I am not a fan of every track on the album (the ones where Timberlake tries to go all Marvin Gaye give me the creeps), but the ones that have that special Timbaland vibe — “What Goes Around…”, “My Love”,  “Summer Love”, and “Chop Me Up” — own some of my top play counts of all time. With lyrics like “You ch-cheated girl, my heart bleeded girl,” this almost-English major and lover of lyrics forgives all grammatical missteps for Timberlake and Timbaland’s sweet, sassy, smooth, sultry beats. I run to it. I cook to it. I dance to it when no one is around. My love for this album almost drove me to buy Timbaland’s solo project. When I say Rick Rubin is a genius, it’s not just because of his work with Johnny Cash. There, it’s all out!

If I seem open about this, trust me, I feel guilty listening to it. Case in point: while I was writing this with FutureSex looping in the background, the cable man showed up to install my basic-basic of all basic package (thanks, government for making me do away with the perfectly good bunny ears that have served me just fine for six years). Anyway, I had to answer the door. I hit F3 and paused, my mouse hovering over my iTunes. I had a choice to make…and I caved and switched it to Rhett Miller. Dang! Guilty embarrassment won the day.

That’s what guilt does, doesn’t it? It makes us want to hide or put up a front. Bottom line, Timberlake has got this little lady screwed up off of his melody,  and until (if ever) I’m comfortable in hip-hop pop skin, I’ll live with the guilt… and the pleasure. However, I’ll gladly duck behind Patty Griffin when need be.

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