Monday, October 16, 2006

Lunch-hour Headphonics with Justin Timberlake

Before I tell you what's so loopy and great about this album, let's just make sure we all understand this is a JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE joint. If you don't go in for synthetic pop music with stretchy ryhmes, dreams of "toes in the sand", and singing that trades freely with squealing, you will not like this album.

HOWEVER, this album is awesome. What Timbaland does with controls and sounds is exactly what the springtime does with the earth: he makes something attractive, whips it into a frenzy, then lays it out to dry. And what other male singer but JT would allow himself to be so completely sonically manhandled, and then leave such a unique touch of songwriting and sensibility? His childish words ("Girl, you amaze me!") contrast refreshingly with Timbaland's rougher vocal cameos, and his simple melodies draw from the best tradition of recent pop: **the Bach counterpoint/robot bridge***. See the bridges of "Toxic" (where Britney sings high and you can't understand what she's saying) and "Cry Me a River" ("You. Don't. Have. To. Say./What. You. Did!...) for further proof of the brilliance of this musical tactic.

At first, I HATED the title, "FutureSex/LoveSounds", which sounds like contrived Prince mush. But then I heard the first track, "FutureSex/LoveSound" and changed my mind. First of all, the song is totally brilliant, and could have been conceived by Radiohead. Therefore, the first few times you hear this song you will have NO IDEA what the hell is going on. And guess what! This turns out to be true for most of the album, which has so many layers of loops (some of which sound like little battery-operated forest creatures) and other insanity-filtered sounds that it's hard to believe the whole thing is about the connection between romantic love and sex.

This connection is, for most people, of an importance, vitality, and centrality to their lives that is hard to understate, but think of how little it gets articulated in pop these days. I'm not saying pop songwriters are at a loss for new conceits, just that they've strayed away from this, the most basic and best of conceits: more often than not, falling in love IS falling in lust, and vice versa. Oh, there are songs of compulsion and lust like Toxic and lame songs of love like My Heart Will Go On but what about songs that blend both sentiments equally and gracefully? I haven't heard one since I Want to Hold Your Hand. "And when I touch you I feel happy inside/It's such a feeling that my love I CAN'T HIDE!!!". I think we all know what's going on here.

But I digress - this album is just crazy and you should hear it. JT's singing is often high-pitched, his lyrics are usually cheezy or just weird (but this can be a plus, for example "I'm bringing sexy back," which makes a lost-in-translation kind of anti-sense, the way Britney did when she sang "I cry watching the days")(and there's a song called "Chop Me Up") (and a song called "Losing My Way" where Justin sings from the perspective of a crackhead - seriously.), but it's my favorite album ever today.

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