Timberlake, now 32, has no such worries. The thing is – Timberlake and Timbaland do work well together, producing gorgeous melodies and grooves impossible to get out of your head. They mine R&B while simultaneously upgrading it, something that new jacks like Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and others try to do but without producer Tim’s prodigious production skills. (Though it must be said that Bruno Mars and Miguel, both ethnically ambiguous-looking men, are doing well with their own mashup of R&B and pop.)
But Timberlake has whiteness on his side, which means he has a built-in audience base that black R&B artists just as talented don’t have. (Frank Ocean being the exception, though his Grammy performance suggests he has a way to go before being anointed “the next big thing”.) Timberlake lost ground in the black community after his very public disrobing of Janet Jackson at the 2004 Superbowl. The infamous incident, which happened during their halftime performance, left many feeling as though Timberlake (then dubbed Timberfake) deserted Jackson after the fact. Urged to do so by CBS, who threatened to pull him from the Grammys, he apologized publicly, while throwing Jackson under the proverbial bus by not defending her.
After nine years, we can figure that all parties are probably past it now. (Though we don’t know if Janet has ever said that she still talks to Timberlake.) Whether he is supported by the black community or not, Timberlake will get his sales. “The 20/20 Experience” is immensely listenable, has some great ballads, irresistibly funky uptempo grooves and is much more fun to listen to than much of the so called “new” R&B put out by many pretenders to the R&B throne.
Sadly, though many of us bemoan the lack of “real” music, when folks like Mint Condition, Eric Benet, Kelly Price or Ledisi release a CD, they don’t get the numbers they should. Is it because they lack Timberlake’s promo opportunities, music has moved past them or there’s a smaller audience for them regardless? We don’t know. But we’ll admit, we’ll likely be grooving along to Timberlake regardless. “The 20/20 Experience” is just that good.