The incredible rise of Justin Timberlake

This was originally written on March 3, 2009

Watching Jimmy Fallon last night (more on that in a second), I realized that we have an incredible story on our hands. A story that has gone vastly under the radar over the past two or three years. I’m talking, of course, about the meteoric rise of JustinTimberlake, especially in the male demographic. Let’s take a look at JT’s incredible career.
First, he started on The Mickey Mouse Club. So you could say that his life was pretty sweet from the beginning. He was 12 years old, and he was hanging out with Britney Spears and ChristinaAguilera.

At age 14, he gets recruited to an all-male singing group. Their name? ‘N Sync. And along with the Backstreet Boys, they changed the face of the music industry forever.

At the point they started making it big in America (1998), I was just 10 years old and in 3rd grade. By the time they hit their peak in popularity (in 2000 with the release of No Strings Attached), I was in 5th grade and I understood girls enough to know that they were all in love with ‘N Sync, and specifically, Justin Timberlake.

Of course, the boys could care less. And the fawning over these stupid teenage celebrities (JT was 19 at the time of No Strings Attached‘s release) was absolutely unnecessary in our eyes. That, and making fun of girls was a necessity in order to flirt with them. Add those things together with the complete prissiness thatboybands engaged in, and it was really, really easy to hate on them.

Justin Timberlake became the face of ‘N Sync. So therefore, he became the most fawned over by girls, and the most hated by guys. He had become such a star that he decided he wanted to work on his own solo album. Most people thought this wouldn’t end well, but the boyband era was dying off, and it seemed like a good business decision.

Justified came out in August of 2002. To the surprise of many, it was very R&B influenced. Those expecting a Clay Aitken-esquepop effort were taken by surprise; JT had completely revitalized his sound. He obviously owes the Neptunes and Timbaland a lot for this portion of his career for the amazing production, but he did have a hand in writing every single song on the album. And with that, his solo pop career was off.

I remember the first time I heard “Rock Your Body.” Finding out it was JT was shocking. I sat there, thinking to myself, “But this song is kinda good! How could I like anything by JT?” Turns out a lot of guys thought this too (it is also rumored that the song was originally intended for a Michael Jackson comeback). Justified ended up being nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys.

But still, you’d be hard-pressed to find any male that remembered the boyband era that would admit to being a fan ofTimberlake. Then the Super Bowl happened.

Obviously, we are all familiar with the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show “incident” that occurred between Timberlake and Janet Jackson, which ended up with one of Jackson’s breasts being exposed on air in front of 140 million people watching on TV for a brief moment. JT was part of it. He was also the one who coined “wardrobe malfunction.” It was at this point that some people thought “maybe he’s not that bad.” At least I did. But I still would never admit to being a fan.

Between Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, he began a film career. He really didn’t appear in any movies of note, except for perhaps Shrek the Third (as a voice, obviously). He also began collaborating with other artists. “Where Is The Love?”, his duet with the Black Eyed Peas, hits number one on the pop charts and becomes a very popular song with males and females alike. JTsinging the catchy hook is a huge part of that. He then had the chance to work with Snoop Dogg on the song “Signs.” Anyone who works with Snoop Dogg can’t be that bad.

By this point, any man can justify saying he’s a fan of JT. However, it’s hard to say that a majority of males would actually do so. The stigma of the boyband era is still there. “SexyBack” is released as the lead single of FutureSex/LoveSounds, and a lot of that changes. “SexyBack” is obviously catchy as hell and garners a lot of praise among those fans of pop music. And which one of those among us at least didn’t know the pre-chorus and chorus? I remember in the fall of 2006, our Cross Country team, while warming up for a meet, sang the entire song aloud as a group. It scared a lot of people, but that was the kinda song it was.

However, the moment that by far put him over the edge of coolness occurred on December 16, 2006. JT was both hostingSaturday Night Live and pulling double-duty as the musical guest. On that day, the infamous “Dick In A Box” skit occurred. at that moment, JT was officially among the coolest people on the planet. He really hasn’t looked back since. He had a great cameo in “Jizz In My Pants” and has proven to be a genuinely funny guy. He honestly has a career in comedy if he ever wants to end his music career. And he’s among the coolest, most popular guys on the face of the planet. He’s banged Britney Spears (in her prime), Cameron Diaz, Alyssa Milano, Scarlett Johansson, and JessicaBiel. He’s a 6-handicap in golf. The guy is unbelievable. And 10 years ago, you never would have convinced me that.

Anyway, Fallon last night. I thought his opening monologue was great. I thought his interview with JT was great (he obviously needed someone he was comfortable working with, and JT was an awesome choice). Between the bookends, however, he wasn’t too good. “Lick it for 10” needs to either become more nasty or be dropped. Everything was nice, new and clean. No problem for any of the guests, and no entertainment. The interview with De Nirowas awkward – he never let De Niro talk. It was obvious he was sweating bullets the entire time; I can’t imagine what it looked like in HD. And that SNL-esque skit with De Niro? Absolutely horrid.

I guess I’ll give him time (it took Conan quite awhile to settle into the role). Maybe he won’t be as nervous tonight, especially with Tina Fey on the program. But he needs to improve.

About aarongernes

Well, I like TV and movies and I love sports. So expect a lot about that.
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