Justin Timberlake returns with the highly anticipated album Future Sex/ Love Sounds, the sexy follow-up to the mega-hit Justified. Co-written by Timberlake along with hit-makers Timbaland, Rick Rubin and will.i. am., Future Sex/ Love Sounds is infused with the hip-hop based R&B sound that has launched Justin as one of the genre's premier performers.
One spin of FutureSex/LoveSounds and it's hard to believe that Justin Timberlake was ever a boy-band barnstormer--no modern-day male artist beats him when it comes to single-minded self assurance or suavity. "SexyBack," the inescapable summer sizzler of a first single off this short and thrillingly unwholesome disc, makes that clear on its own: If there was ever any question about whether sexy was in need of reviving--a doubtful proposition at best, given the sheer volume of JT's gyrating counterparts--he lays it to rest instantly over a small but insistent Timbaland-concocted beat. On that track, Timberlake's appeal is his sweet but newly thuggish-sounding voice--here's a good kid gone bad, and he's determined to convince us of it not only by tossing a few well-timed mother****ers our way but also with such lyrics as "I'll let you whip me if I misbehave." The rest of FutureSex will feel familiar to anyone who picked up 2002's brilliantly funk-flecked Justified: "Love Stoned/I Think She Knows Me," shifts from Michael Jackson-esque paranoid trilling to pulsating guitar rock; "Chop Me Up," a collaboration with Three 6 Mafia and Timbaland, gives up the grit rap-style but still manages to recall both Prince and Stevie Wonder; "My Love," with T.I., mines classic Timberlake territory with meltaway lyrics like "I can see us holding hands walking on the beach/Our clothes in the sand"; and the straight-up but groovy lament "Losing My Way" asks, searchingly, what may be the silliest question a squeal-inducing pop star has ever posed: "Can anybody out there feel me?" Rest assured, JT: we feel every past-, present-, and future-sexy verse. --Tammy La Gorce