Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Justin Timberlake—Everything I Thought It Was

Justin Timberlake releases a new album for the first time since 2018.

Justin Timberlake is an American singer/songwriter who rose to fame in the 90s with pop hits. In his solo career, he has moved towards R&B. His newest album features collaborations with artists Fireboy DML, Tobe Nwigwe, and *NSYNC. With 18 songs, the album is about 1h20min long.

“Memphis” is the first song on the album. It is a moody, reflective piece in honour of his hometown. He discusses his ambivalent feelings towards fame. The looping, dreamy beat is abruptly followed by “F**kin’ Up The Disco,” a much more cheerful song. The album mostly contains these more upbeat numbers, as well as a few love ballads.

In recent years he has collaborated with his former bandmates of NSYNC on songs, including on his most recent album. Everything I Thought It Was explores Timberlake’s feelings about fame, from the past to the present. He calls back directly to his past in some songs, and more vaguely in others.

There is a religious theme in a few of the songs. “No Angels,” “Sanctified” featuring Tobe Nwigwe, and, arguably, “Paradise” featuring *NSYNC. This serves as an interesting connector throughout the album and also ties back to his past. His father was a church choir director, which has had a clear impact in his sound and the religious themes he chooses to explore. The religious throughline may also be a reference to his hometown once again, as Memphis is the home of a Baptist megachurch. 

In the song “Play,” he references his very early career, when he was on Star Search, singing: “I’ve been makin’ first impressions since I was barely eleven.” This ties into the larger theme of him looking at his past, and perhaps wishing to reinvent himself. From “Memphis,” we can see that he feels pressured in his current role. With new music, artists are constantly reinventing themselves. This album embraces that.

His distinctive use of harmonies is evident throughout the album. Timberlake mixes his unique voice and harmonies with R&B and pop beats. Each song fits within his pop persona whilst exploring very personal themes. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in his collaboration piece with *NSYNC. “Paradise” is the emotional core of this album. In this collaboration with his former bandmates, Timberlake reminisces about his past and about everything that brought him to this moment. It is a very sweet song about believing in yourself and appreciating your past. Even if he may want to reimagine himself, he is still grateful for his experiences.

This album is a fun listening experience. Even if you’re not familiar with Timberlake’s work, I think his approach to music brings out his unique talents and his understanding of what the public wants.

Each song is distinctive but cohesive. The album has a strong identity. Timberlake acknowledges who he used to be whilst continuing to build a new persona for himself. One that is, most likely, more true to who he is.


Trial Track: Sanctified featuring Tobe Nwigwe

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