Perhaps the greatest mystery surrounding the release of Justin Timberlake’s sophomore album FutureSex/LoveSounds is: Where the hell did “sexy” go before JT brought it back? Knowing whether or not “sexy” is an adjective, curious noun, or maybe even an enigmatic proper noun could help us crack this riddle, too. Whatever the case, whether “sexy” be a modifier or just the dude down the hall who bathes in cologne and keeps a lifetime supply of rubber bands to hold back his hair, Cameron Diaz’s boy toy has found him, it, whatever and returned him, it, whatever to the world of pop music. Hence, “SexyBack,” the first single off the follow-up to Justified and a precursor of things to come: Singles so sexy they should come wrapped in prophylactics.
The two Timbers — co-producers Timberlake and Timberland — have whipped up a dense collage of futuristic New Wave, hip-hop, soul, and dance-pop that at times can come on strong, maybe even be a bit disorienting. But when tracks like “My Love,” with its synth-heavy R&B groove, hit, you begin to realize that maybe Timberlake is his generation’s Prince. “Sexy Ladies / Let Me Talk to You” seals the deal.
Sure, most of the time the lyrics are so absolutely mindless, to listen to them too closely might provoke an aneurysm — anti-crack ballad “Losing My Way” is the most glaring example — but that doesn’t really matter anyway. Timberlake’s voice, drifting between a falsetto and a desperate bedroom whisper, is pretty much just getting you in the mood to have sex with someone. Anyone. Don’t listen to FutureSex/LoveSounds before going out, even for a donut; you’ll end up bent over a countertop — or bending someone else over one. For some people, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, under the right circumstances. That’s what Timberlake is for, though, making you want it and want it bad. The guy knows “sexy,” whoever he, it, whatever is.
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