Reinventing Justin

Friday, April 17, 2009 Permalink

People reinvent themselves all of the time, but some do it better than others.  In my (humble) opinion, one of those who has achieved the great rebirth, is Justin Timberlake.

This came to me while ensconced in front of channel V last night (damn school holidays and the TV repeats they bring!  What, do TV executives think people don’t watch television while on holidays?!)

But, back to Justin….The fact that he is even now (mostly) known at JT is a big change from the boy who started his career in the Mickey Mouse Club with the girl who was to become his high-profile ‘other half’.  In fact, what I remember most about JT’s earlier life, was the relationship with Britney Spears.  More than his successful career with boy-band ‘NSYNC’ and all of the teenage adulation (and hit songs) that came with that.

Sure, it appeared that he could sing and dance, well as much as you expect of a boy band member.  But it was pretty much cookie-cutter stuff.  Nothing new, nothing amazing.  And then came the 2002 Justin-Britney bust up.  The childhood sweethearts were over.  Rumours flew, but they kept quiet about the why.

But, rather than fade into oblivion, JT moved on to Cameron Diaz and a seemingly ‘grown-up’ relationship and, with his boy-band behind him, he struck out on his own.

I am not an huge music fan, but revel in Saturday and Sunday mornings with the papers spread before me, diet coke a-plenty, left over Chinese (if I am lucky) and music videos on tv.

So, I was surprised when JT first emerged post-Britney and post NSYNC with Like I Love You.  There he was with some rappers, dancing and singing and looking kinda cool.  With them.  Not a boy-band pirouette/twirly-thing in sight.  The curls were gone and cropped hair hidden under a skull cap.  I wondered how the collaboration came about.  I was shocked: that legitimate ‘cool guys’ would actually deign to be seen with JT, let alone record with him; and even more so, that it seemed to be a good fit.  For him.

And then they kept on coming. The songs – as a solo artist and the collaborations – with very hip and legit producers and artists.

He has had a stack of hits since he started his solo career in 2002, from Like I Love You, Senorita, My Love, Rock Your Body to the more melodic Cry Me a River and What Goes Around…Comes Around.

But what I find interesting is that he has continued the collaborations with popular and obscure artists alike, from Beyonce to 50 Cent.  As well as a long-standing relationship with the way-cool Timbaland (Sexy Back, Give it to me), he has recently worked with Madonna (4 Minutes), Rihanna (Rehab) and TI (the current, Dead and Gone).  It interests me that, in some of these songs – Rehab, Give it to me – JT barely features.  In fact, on some occasions I am shocked to even discover he was involved.  I find myself admiring him.  A guy who doesn’t need the credit, or the adulation.  A guy happy to just get on with it, in the background.  Just doing the thing he loves doing.

I remember hearing feedback from a tour he did here a few years ago.  The die-hard (been-there-since-NSYNC) fans were disappointed.  The musos out there weren’t.  I gather that JT loves nothing better than just ‘jamming’ with his band, which is what he did on stage.  So, in my eyes his reinvention was complete.

He has pulled off what so many of his boy-band contemporaries have been unable to do.  While still able to ‘bring’ the moves, he seems content to focus on the music.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against boy bands, or performers (hey, I like the Pussy Cat Dolls for God’s sake), but I find myself bowing to this guy who has gone from clichéd boy-band member to cool and legit muso in a few short years.

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