Tuesday, September 19, 2006
If Madonna's "Confessions on a Dancefloor" was future disco, then Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds" is future retro. Where Madonna evoked everyone from Donna Summer to Depeche Mode, Justin evokes Prince and Michael Jackson from the height of their careers in the early to mid-80's. Whether you like him or not, you cannot deny that this man has a rare an undeniable talent. Unlike Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton, who hire the best producers in the business to make them sound good, Justin works with the best in the business because they are his peers and his friends and he knows together than can create some great music. One thing that can be said about the songs on this cd is that they really don't sound like anything else on the radio. The title track kicks off the CD with a heavy beat, a whispery vocal and a beat reminiscent of "Another One Bites the Dust." The keyboards are layered, as are the vocals. What is awesome about the layered keyboards is that they bring in different genres of music into one song. The first song goes right into the single "Sexyback" without missing a beat even though the two songs sound nothing alike. When SexyBack first hit the radio, it took a few listens for it to grow on me, but I'm hooked on the song. I like the way they used distorted sounds to create the beat. They actually recorded his voice through a guitar amp. This song could be be called "Justin Does Nine Inch Nails." In their early days, they used this same technique to record a lot of their songs. This is a sexy song and the lyrics call the rest of the pop boys to the table for having gotten so boring and generic. "I'm bringin' sexy back, those mother fuckers don't know how to act." He certainly nailed that one on the head. There isn't a male pop or R&B star right now that exudes any sex appeal at all. Still that's one hell of an undertaking, promising to bring sexy back. I'd say he pretty much stepped up to the plate. This cd isn't just sexy, it exudes sex. This isn't contrived sexiness like Jessica and Paris, this is the real thing like Prince and early Madonna. There are three 7 minute songs on the cd. Each of these songs starts as an R&B song and then brings in other elements that end up taking the songs through a musical transformation and elevating them to a new level. "Let Me Talk to You" starts as a spoken catchy R&B tune and then the spacey house-like keyboards come in followed by Justin singing in a sweet falsetto. Next comes the kick ass track "Love Stoned." This song is reminiscent of MJ in the early 80's. It's a catchy song about seeing a hot girl in the club. This is a synth heavy song that translates as an update on the 80's synth heavy R&B. In the middle of the song, it breaks down to a beat box and an electric guitar. Just when you think the song will fade to a close it starts layering some lush keyboards and then it drops right into a piano segment that echoes Coldplay. This is where he lifts the songs to a new level where he sings over layered keyboards and strings. This is one of the songs I play over and over in my car. "What Goes Around" is the musical/lyrical sequel to "Cry Me A River". It works on the cd, but it does sound a lot like it's predecessor. "Chop Me Up" finds Justin singing along with Timbaland and the Three-6 Mafia. What works in this song is that it's a collaboration on all levels, as opposed to a bland pop singer like J-Lo featuring different rappers to try and give her some false credibility. Justin's song "Damn Girl" is pure funk gem. You can pretty much guess from the title what the song is about. This song takes funk and then adds in a psychedelic keyboard all the while Justin sings in his falsetto. This could have been a Prince song from 1983. "Summer Love" is probably the most NSync sounding song on the cd. It's about driving around with the top down scoping out the girls. The song works and the beat and the layered vocals are great. "Set the Mood" reminds me of the New Jack Swing era of R&B from the late 80's. Artists like Keith Sweat, Al B. Sure, Johnny Gill, Tony Toni Tone and Guy. This has the sexiness of Al B. Sure with the layered cool vocal harmonies of Guy. This song sounds like it was produced by New Jack Swing legend Teddy Riley. This isn't the song you dance to at your wedding, rather this is the song you play on your wedding night. This song should go right to the ballad that closes the cd. but instead it takes this kick ass cd and slams it right into the wall with the outrageously bad and pretentious do-gooder song called "Losing My Way" about some guy named Bob who ruined his life with crack that sounds a lot like "What Would You Do?" by City High, except this song sucks. We get it, crack is whack (thank you Whitney), but this song has no place on this cd. Maybe it could have been a hidden track at the end, but it still wouldn't make the song good. If this had been the last song on the cd, it would have probably lead many people to give the cd a negative review, but luckily the cd ends with the beautiful R&B ballad "(Another Song) All Over Again." This is classic R&B at its best. Donnie Hathaway would have been proud. I suppose this cd will be categorized as pop because Justin is white, but this is damn good R&B and funk through and through. When asked why he chose "FutreLove/SexSounds" as the title, he said, "Because Purple Rain was already taken." I think I'm so hooked on this cd because the music is intricate in it's layers and it really doesn't sound like anything else on the radio. Unlike current artists who simply take different guitar, bass and rhythm tracks from old songs and just sing over them, Justin actually creates music that sounds like it was created in that era. This is a great club record. You could really get your groove on listening to this cd. If I were still DJing my soul/R&B happy hours, I'd be all over these tracks. When I was in the Army in the late 80's, my buddies and I were really into the New Jack Swing sound and we spent countless hours hanging out and listening to music. This cd would have fit right in. I have no idea how the rest of this cd will translate to radio, but I have no doubt that it will go down as one of the best cds of 2006. In a few years when Jesse McCartney, Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson are on "Where Are They Now?" Justin will still be cranking out some damn good music.