My Man Crush

28 Aug

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There was once a time where I was embarrassed to admit this crush, when I would listen to “Senorita” or “Rock Your Body” in the solitary confines of my room and no where else. This was a secret love, one that other men wouldn’t understand.

But somewhere along the line, something changed. Maybe it was that Justin Timberlake evolved from a baby faced kid with a beach blonde afro and not an ounce of masculinity on him into a man who so perfectly symbolizes the axiom woman want to be with him, men want to be him. Or maybe it’s that we, the generation of now mid-20-year-olds who grew up listening to N’SYNC, Backstreet Boys and the like, have gotten older, meaning that Justin Timberlake is now performing for a bunch of professional working men and woman—although these days, maybe not—and no longer claques of screaming little girls. Or maybe it’s just that his music has gotten really good.

Whatever it is, I no longer have to keep my crush a secret. Which is pretty awesome. And liberating. I think. It may also backfire.

For those who didn’t see, or don’t realize that Miley Cyrus* wasn’t the only one at the MTV’s VMAs earlier this week, Justin Timberlake was given some sort of Michael Jackson lifetime achievement award. Before accepting it, though, he performed a medley of nearly every one of his hits. Simply put: it was fucking awesome.

*I’m too lazy to look up it up, but let’s just say that the VMAs have been going on for 20 years. Well then for the past 20 years people have been spending the day after the VMAs discussing that Crazy Thing that happened the night before, and “Can you believe it?” and “Oh my God, will somebody please think about the children that watched this crazy thing happen?!?” THE CHILDREN. It gets annoying. Yes, the VMAs push certain boundaries. That’s what they do. Who gives a shit?!?

Though I have to say, I like this medley that he did for Jimmy Fallon a bit more.

Pop music is something that everyone, for the most part, loves. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be pop. That’s the basic definition of it. The problem is that, over the years, the genre has changed. Pop music is now mostly synonymous with bad music. Generally, the explanation you’ll hear from someone for why they “like” a certain pop song is that they don’t like it, but rather they just find it fun and/or catchy. Becoming a guilty pleasure is often the highest compliment a pop song can hope to achieve.

So what makes Timberlake—or JT, as some of us like to call him— different? For one, he’s actually, you know, a musician. With talent. Who can sing. For real. Even when he’s performing. That latter point, at least for me, is the difference, and at the heart of what makes Timberlake the rare modern pop star who you can actually envision one day being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He actually sings. In those two videos above, every word that’s sung during his performances either comes from his mouth or from those of his band members. There’s no lip-synching. No dubbing. Just his voice. And he hits his notes. I don’t think you can count on one hand how many pop singers even attempt to do that today, let alone can do it.

Oh, AND HE HAS A BAND! And it’s not just for eye candy; you can hear the difference between his live songs and the recorded ones. The live ones take on a different feel, a different form. Sometimes, such as in the “Cry Me a River” from above, they sound more like rock and less like pop. Combined with his stage presence and seemingly innate feel and ability to just entertain people, and what you have is a performer who is actually able to turn his live acts into, you know, those crazy unicorn-like things called performances. This is something that, maybe, five other modern pop singers can do. And honestly I think that number might be too high.

Pop music doesn’t have to be shitty remixes, cheap knockoffs of whatever band is currently “making it” (I’m looking at you Lumineers, Philip Phillips, and every other Mumford and Sons copycat), or annoying hypnotizing and brain erasing beats. It’s allowed to have some sort of substance. Once upon a time it did. I’m not a music critic (shocking, I know), so I’m not going to pretend to offer up an explanation for all this. All I will say is that modern pop music is godawful. And that’s when you hear it on the radio over and over and over. Live it’s usually even worse.

Timberlake is the exception to all those complaints. You may not like his music or lyrics or persona—I happen to, but that opinion, like all music except Bruce Springsteen, can be subjective—but you have to respect his talents and the fact that he is a musician who seems to understand what music can be, and what it should be.

Oh, and then there’s this!

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