Graceless he may be, but Timberlake is nevertheless kind of fascinating on FutureSex/LoveSounds since his fuses a clear musical vision -- misguided, yes, but clear all the same -- with a hammyness that only a child entertainer turned omnipresent 21st century celebrity can be. Timberlake yearns to be taken seriously, to be a soulful loverman like Marvin Gaye coupled with the musical audaciousness of Prince, yet still sell more records than Michael Jackson -- and he not only yearns for that recognition, he feels entitled to it, so he's cut and pasted pieces from all their careers, cobbling together his own blueprint, following it in a fashion where every wrong move is simultaneously obvious and surprising. There is no subtlety to his music, nor is there much style -- he's charmless in his affectations, and there's nothing but affectations in his music.
Perched at the top of this week's singles chart, backed by a thrilling mechanical clank provided by urban producer Timbaland, Justin Timberlake has a peculiar announcement to make. "I'm bringing sexy back," he snarls, his voice fraught with electronic distortion. "You motherfuckers don't know how to act." This seems an odd thing to sing on two counts.