Is it possible to just be ‘whelmed’ by Justin Timberlake?

Unless you live under a rock bolted down by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, chances are you’ve heard about Justin Timberlake’s return to the music world.  Yes, ladies and gents, it’s true.  Last week, he took to Twitter to tease that he may be coming back.  He then released a video announcing that he was ready.

At the very moment the video was released, past N’Sync and JT fanatics absolutely lost it.  Plots to become the next Mrs. Timberlake thickened.  You couldn’t sign onto a single social network without being inundated by posts about Justin in OMG ALL CAPS (some with hearts) from guys and girls alike.  Excitement was at an all time high as people geared up for more information on his next album, “The 20/20 Experience.”

What we all got was a song with Jay-Z, titled “Suit and Tie.”

My thoughts on “Suit and Tie” can best be described with a quote from Gabrielle Union’s character in 10 Things I Hate About You.  “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”  As it turns out, you can be.  And as much as I hate to admit it…I’ve officially been whelmed by Justin Timberlake, something I never thought would be possible.  How so?  From an even pros/cons list.

We’ll start with the pros.

That falsetto: One of JT’s staples is his ability to sing in falsetto for…well, forever.  I’m eternally grateful that this was a huge part of “Suit and Tie” since it’s the reason so many fans melt the second he opens his mouth.

Motown vibe: I grew up listening to oldies music stations, cursing the fact that I wasn’t born decades earlier.  While fellow gradeschool classmates were having serious playground fights about who was better, N’Sync or Backstreet Boys (stop fighting, it’s clearly N’Sync), I was listening to The Temptations, The Mamas and The Papas and Michael Jackson, and creeping up to the front of a Beach Boys concert with my dad. (And I shook Mike Love’s hand.  I know, you’re jealous.) The fact that the Prince of Pop chose to pull inspiration from the past makes me want to give a standing ovation.

It’s catchy: Justin Timberlake has never had a hard time coming up with a solid hook and writing something sure to be stuck in everyone’s head for days, weeks, months, years.  In fact, I had “Rock Your Body” stuck in my head the other day for absolutely no reason at all.  I didn’t hate it.

And now, to justify just being whelmed by discussing the cons.

The first 43 seconds:  Truthfully, upon hearing the song for the first time my body froze.  It froze for 43 long seconds.  The sluggish intro left a sour taste in my mouth and it still upsets me each time I hear it.  There is nothing sluggish about Justin Timberlake.  He has more energy than a room full of sugar high first graders, but the song begins with a total drag.  Thank God for fast forward.

Jay-Z: It’s important that I start out by saying that I like Jay-Z.  Quite a bit, actually.  However, right when Justin has me convinced that we’re skipping along at his regular pace, Jay-Z brings us back to that sluggish feeling found in the intro.  He speeds up a bit with quicker triplets at the end of his piece, but I wish he had done something similar all along.

His past: Prepare yourselves for a backhanded compliment. I hate to compare this new song to everything else JT has done, but it’s hard not to when everything else has been so good.  Literally, everything else.  After the first time I heard “Suit and Tie” and even still after the umpteenth time, I’m left with the question…that’s it?  No really, that’s…it?  Is this a sad attempt at being Punk’d? It leaves me hoping there’s more to be found on his new album, so I’ll give him that.  And maybe that was the intention, to release a “whelming” song so that everyone is beyond excited with an album full of overwhelming material.

So there you have it. A score of 3-3. As it turns out, it’s possible to be whelmed by Justin Timberlake.  My fingers are crossed for the rest of “The 20/20 Experience,” though.  He’s a master trickster and here’s hoping he has some good ones up his sleeves.


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