Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Boy's Got Soul

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Boy's Got Soul

Article excerpt


He can sing, he can dance and he's Britney's ex. But now, with his first solo album, the former singer with America's biggest boyband, NSync, has suddenly become cool, too.

He's 22, he's worth an estimated $35 million, and the whole world knows he's single.

The boy can't help it. Justin Timberlake's well-toned torso is the one every one wants a piece of right now. Almost overnight it seems he's in the charts, in our hearts, the man of the moment. Except, of course, things were going well for Timberlake before we Brits caught onto him. He became famous back home as the main vocalist in America's biggest boy band *NSync with four albums notching up some 40 million sales.

But when it came to bland, manufactured pop and eager, hairless young men with too many teeth, we had no need for US imports: we had plenty of home-grown dross to buy. So while the US magazine Details put the boy on their December cover with the line: 'Can we ever forgive Justin Timberlake for all that sissy music?' in Britain all we really knew was that for four years he went out with Britney Spears.

So to recap: Timberlake was born in Memphis, Tennessee (his grandfather, a fire chief in the city, was apparently good friends with Elvis). Impressed by her son's singing, when he was eight his mother Lynn - still part of his management team - began taking him to TV talent contests. By the age of 12, he was appearing alongside Christina Aguilera and Britney on the Disney kids show Mickey Mouse Club, and two years later he moved to Florida to join *NSync.

The anodyne pop this band produced over the following decade should have forever banished Timberlake from the echelons of cool, but in every generation of boy bands, there's one who somehow slips through the net of naffness to surface with credibility intact. In the Eighties, New Kids on The Block gave us Donnie Wahlberg and little brother/pop protege Marky Mark, both now well-known as actors. In the Nineties Robbie Williams escaped Take That to whoop it up at Glastonbury with Oasis, and a star was born.

And now there's Timberlake, whose solo album Justified has critics hailing him as the new Michael Jackson, who in a neat parallel, also became a solo superstar after parting company with the original boy band, the Jackson Five.

So how did he pull it off? First, he stole his cool by association. There were clever guest vocal appearances on tracks by R&B stars Alicia Keys and Usher, and with the hugely successful rapper Nelly. His appearance at the Brits this year was typical Timberlake: not only did he sing with pop princess Kylie, he also dominated the next day's headlines by laying hands on her infamous bum. Contributors to the solo album were equally well-chosen.

They don't come much cooler than Timbaland and the Neptunes - innovative, cutting edge hiphop producers with a sharp ear for a pop hook. …

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