Review Summary: FutureSex/LoveSounds fully boasts Timberlake's four-year maturation, and with Timbaland's help, especially on the standout "My Love", is an addictive hip-pop album that's gonna be hard to beat.
Four years after his Justified debut, a rather innocent stepping out party for an inevitable solo star, Memphis-raised Justin Timberlake has a burning desire to be sexy. Those Mousketeer and NSYNC days behind him, he's grown now. Which means that he's free to objectify women, he can drop the F-bomb when he wants, he can stomp through a disco ball if he feels like it, because dammit, he's 26 years old now, he's a man, and men should be able to be, of all things, sexy… right?
Maybe he's taken it a bit too far. On the lead-in single "SexyBack", a catchy and addictive electro-bounce of a pop track, over raspy synthesizer Justin is gladly willing to be your filthy boy. "You see these shackles? / Baby I'm your slave / I'll let you whip me if I misbehave," he informs you. It's a fun, fun song, but while it's physically mastered both by Timbaland and Timberlake, you're not entirely convinced that Justin completely embodies the swagger of the song, or if the sophomore attempt, with its brow-raising title, will live up to its hype.
In short, it does, and then some. On FutureSex/LoveSounds, Timberlake shows significant maturation on all fronts, creating an album that, in large thanks to Timbaland's production on 11 of the 12 tracks, sounds deliciously R&B, but is still ultimately a pop album- and a damn good one at that. Where the Neptune-led cuts gave Justified a hip vibe, FutureSex dives fully into an almost-concept album that comes together to make an incredibly cohesive and certainly addictive set.
The title track reels you in from the start, with Justin channeling Prince in almost unrecognizable fashion, singing at next to whisper-level over Timbo's slutty yet impressive bass. It’s filled with indeed futuristic choruses, with its oozing synth and and smattering drums so sexy that it makes Justin's occasional moans help, not hurt, the track. "Just tell me which way you like that," he demands, and you can almost see the grin. It's pretty dirty pop. Pun intended.
But it's probably the only song where you let Justin's controlling sex demeanor win- on the rest of the album, he's not quite as convincing as a stud, though it doesn’t make a bit of difference on the album's pure enjoyability. Sex and women run rampant through the album- there's the funk-tastic "Sexy Ladies", where Justin isn't afraid to brag and boast: "I got sexy ladies all over the floor / You're talking to one of the greatest who did it before." The synthy hip-hop of "Summer Love" is another solid where Justin almost raps over a bass heavy drum and hand-clap, although when Justin sings "I can make you say my name, girl", I don't think you're supposed to take him seriously. The slower harp-laced "Set The Mood" as an afterthought is quite a nice touch. "What Goes Around" is a more honest and more acoustic "Cry Me A River" in the best way, in which a bewildered Timberlake ("Is this how we say goodbye?") pleads for a break-up explanation, but when it's the intense epilogue "Comes Around" kicks in that he picks himself up and gives the girl the real what for when he finds out she left him for another cheater ("Girl, you got what you deserved").
Sounds' true beauty, however, comes out when Timberlake and Timbaland learn how to match each other perfectly. "Let Me Talk To You" is a bouncing, clanging, maraca-shaking rap-off between the two, whether it's Timbaland begging "Lemme take you to the crib," Timberlake asking "Lemme take you to the back," or the two just going back and forth (Tim: Hey. Justin: Hey.), it works so well that you don't even acknowledge the fact that Justin Timberlake is attempting to rap. But just when you don't expect it, there's a sudden
"Ain't another woman that can take your spot, my-"
Oh my god, and then. By far, either one of the two's best work yet, the impeccable "My Love" is a spaced-out edgy marriage proposal on which Timbo crafts an amazingly perfect messy base for Justin to sweetly sing over. Beat-boxing works better than it ever has before under Justin's perfect falsetto: "If I wrote you a love note / And made you smile at every word I wrote / What would you do?" he croons. The chorus is monstrous even in it's repitition ("So don't give away / my love"), and with the crying baby, the moaning opera that fit perfectly together, the synth sputtering all over, and a word-for-word perfect contribution from T.I., this track is easily the must-hear; outside of the album, it's the most perfectly crafted song from the pop genre in years.
And as if you didn’t know, the duo can make you dance, too. “LoveStoned” is the only thing that comes close to “SexyBack” in terms of fun, and it’s a bit crazier: amidst the scattered signature Timbo sputtering and Timberlake beat-boxing there’s hand clapping and tambourine shaking that all mashes together to make perfect disco pop, but the real treat is what comes after: “I Think She Knows” is the most unique thing from the two in, well, ever. The beat suddenly goes from grounded to floating in space, and Timberlake airily echoes over gliding violins: “She’s got me love stoned… I think that she knows… Oh… oh…” Standing alone, it’s hard to beat as the most impressive 2.5 minutes on the album.
There’s misfires, however: "Another Song", his only attempt at a ballad, is immediately forgettable, "Losing My Way"'s druggie storyline as a nice thought is quite inspiring, but falls flat. "Chop Me Up", the album's only big mistake, is a crunk-tastic attempt at a southern Three-6-Mafia collaboration, but it seems like diversity for its sake, and should have been left off of the album entirely.
When it comes to the two albums, where Justified may been that much more consistent in style, FutureSex/LoveSounds is undoubtedly the stronger effort- it's bold and daring, and when it's good, it's REALLY GOOD. Timberlake has clearly made the kid-to-adult transformation that many pop acts before him have done in sluttier ways, and the resulting work is a significantly fresher, braver, and more creative effort. And it's dirtier, too, but don't let the Parental Advisory on the cover fool you- the man still keeps it classy.