September 15, 2006

Mainstream Pop Hell: Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at September 15, 2006 2:12 PM

It's the album the indie kids are raving about! Pitchfork rated it 8.1/10, and Stylus, well, Stylus gave it a B+, but keep in mind that this is the guy so bland that he wrote the theme song for McDonalds, so that's pretty good. Did they send a wad of hundred-dollar bills with the review copies? Or is the album really that good? The only way to know for sure is to actually listen to it.

So I've started a long automated measurement, and I've got a stream of the album ready to go. (I'm going to assume that I'm not missing any subtle sonic nuances by listening to an internet stream over earbuds, rather than a CD on a proper set of speakers.) But first, let's take a look at the album cover.

The Title: On either side of the slash, you have a decent title for an album. Really, FutureSex would be fitting for, say, an Ellen Allien record. And LoveSounds, while somewhat generic, signals a certain mood for the album (and maybe alludes to the Beach Boys). But to use both titles suggests indecision. One imagines a marketing team sitting around a room, brainstorming names for the record, and being unable to choose between these two. "Let's just use both!" It's an indicator that this CD is targeted to the broadest possible audience. But wait, this is also indicated by the fact that the album cover says Justin Timberlake.

The Album Art: Courtesy Amazon, this is the front cover:

Here we see the artist gleefully stomping on a disco ball. Is this because the record is a stunning artistic breakthrough that will destroy the world of soulless, manufactured dance music? I find this unlikely. Turning to the back cover, we find a pair of mirrored images of the disco ball, with the tracklist extending phallicly above it. Perhaps stomping the disco ball is meant to be an emasculating image—a strange choice given the subject matter of the album, unless Timberlake is actually parodying the notion of the horndog pop star. Or maybe he just felt that it was a beautiful day to be stomping on things.

Taking a look at the background, I find that there's no better way to signal "bland and generic" than to use a completely blank, white room.

Well, I can't put this off forever. Let's get started.

1. Futuresex/Lovesound
The title of the album is also the title of the first song and the first lyrics, along with some assorted moaning (ew). Were they short on ideas? It goes on like this for about a minute and a half and--wait, that thing with the synth was actually pretty cool. But then it goes away, and we're back to the title of the song.

Hey, that cool bit came back with the chorus a couple more times. Otherwise, I am unimpressed. Rating: 2/5

2. SexyBack
In future, computers will not have space bars to increase sexy efficiency. This is the big single? It's a chaotic mess. I'm sure it's ubiquitous on the radio, which is why I lined my apartment with tinfoil in order to avoid it. (This is the first time I've heard it.) Indeed, the sexy went somewhere, but I don't think he's brought it back.

Is it still going? This song is about a minute and half too long. Rating: 1/5

3. Sexy Ladies
Justin finds the space bar, and also (apparently) sexy ladies. He's gone to a rapid-fire falsetto, possibly a result of stomping on his disco balls. At first this is a welcome change from the previous track, but it gets old at about 1:27 and now I'm grinding my teeth as the backup singers repeat the word "sexy". I'm going to send Justin a thesaurus. Rating: 0.5/5

4. Let Me Talk To You Prelude / My Love
"Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" Ok, you've got my attention now. "My love! My love! My love! My love!" This is going to go on for six minutes? What is this, the "My Humps" school of songwriting?

Is that still Timberlake singing? It must take a lot of stomping to reach that octave. But thankfully the lyrics have diversified and there is something that sounds like an actual verse. Following that some digital effect is going "eee! eee! eee!" in the background which is truly obnoxious.

A minute of so of somebody (presumably Timbaland) rapping. It's tolerable, and when verses emerge from this song it's not half bad. However, that eeping thing has got to go. Rating: 1.5/5

5. Lovestoned/I Think She Knows Interlude
Ah! An interlude, excellent. Wait, this track is seven minutes long, I guess there's a song first.

Ok, I'm a sucker for violins. Get rid of Timberlake and this would be a pretty good song. Once again he's only written about four lines of lyrics which get repeated. Then about a minute of beatboxing (but that violin's still around, happily). The vocals return, with the same lyrics of course, but the instrumentation's gone to "cheesy piano". Damn!

This song is so long it needs an intermission, not an interlude. Rating: 2/5

6. What Goes Around.../...Comes Around Interlude
What is that, a shamisen? I was in a Chinese restaurant yesterday where they were playing the Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber on an erhu. Anyway, we're in for another seven-minute marathon here.

"What goes around goes around goes around..." Timberlake is the master of the two word chorus. This song is reminiscent of his N'Sync origins. Because we didn't get enough of that the first time.

There is no excuse for this song being as long as it is. It's like one 30-second clip copied and pasted 15 times. Wasn't I promised an interlude? Oh, there it is. Finally.

In fact, this album is seventy minutes long, with only one song clocking in at under four minutes (and it's 3:58). I'm happy to get long albums from Yo La Tengo or Spiritualized, but does the world really need seventy minutes of Justin Timberlake songs? Rating: 0.5/5

7. Chop Me Up
Timbaland's back. The really good rapper names evoke yuppie clothing retailers. In fact, he's most of this track, with Justin jumping in for the chorus, but it still manages to be one of the blandest tracks yet. Incredibly boring. Rating: 0.5/5

8. Damn Girl
Actually not "Damn girl!" but "Damn, girl!". Hoping for punctuation in this album is somewhat futile, however. Hey, guess what the lyrics are! "Damn, girl! Damn, girl! Damn, girl!" These songs have very low entropy.

There's an electric organ here, which almost sounded cool except that it played a progression suitable for a baseball stadium. Charge! Rating: 0.5/5

9. Summer Love
Mercifully, a four-minute song. Isn't three minutes the canonical length for a pop song? Someone should tell him that.

I think he's under the impression that the word "girl" is punctuation, like an exclamation point or something.

"I can't wait to fall in love/ with you/ You can't wait to fall in love/ with me" I realize not every song can have Belle & Sebastian-quality lyrics, but damn, this is insipid. Rating: 0.5/5

10. Set The Mood Prelude/ Until The End Of Time
"Until The End Of Time" describes how long this song lasts--at 7:33 this is the longest track on the album. The prelude here is two minutes of "ooo ooo ooo", followed by a torturously slow transition into the main song.

Here the lyrics talk about "all the darkness in the world", but exhibit the level of insight into geopolitics displayed by my typical comment spammer. Lots of wailing here. "Everybody sing-- aaaah oooh woooaaaooo yeah!" Did he run out of words?

One minute left and it feels like a year. So slow... this song would be much better if it were sped up by a factor of four. But then JT's falsetto would be pitched outside the range of human hearing... like I said, much better. Rating: 0.5/5

11. Losing My Way
"Can anybody out there hear me, 'cause I can't seem to hear myself?" Yeah, obviously. Here's the sad tale about a guy trapped in a Justin Timberlake song. No, wait, he's a crack addict. Bonus points for having several verses with distinct lyrics, but they are canceled out by repeating the chorus approximately two hundred times. Rating: 1/5

12. (Another Song) All Over Again
Another slow ballad with lots of "woooo yeah". This would normally signal the end of the album except he's already done this two or three times. At least the title is accurate! One of these "I'm asking forgiveness, please give me another chance" songs. In fact, those are the exact lyrics. Naturally there's a sappy piano. An excruciating end to an overly long album, as if he's trying to squeeze every last minute out of the CD format. "Let me start over again," he pleads. Hell, no. Rating: 0.5/5

It's over! At last, blessed silence! Or, blessed hum of mechanical pumps anyway. The first half wasn't as bad as I expected, but the second half was agonizing. And it was so, so long. I think I hit the wall somewhere in track 10. Overall Rating: 1/5

Time to cleanse my brain with My Bloody Valentine.

Tags: Music

It was a beautiful song
but it played to long,
If you want to make a hit
you've got to make it quick,
So they cut it down to 3:05.

Perhaps that pre-packaged prescription provides the only possible platform for a typical pop star's performance to be palatable? Ptooey.

I'm glad I didn't have time to grab the album--I was also considering following along 30sec at a time via iTMS, but now I'm glad I've been stuck in a meeting for the past hour and a half.

Damn straight, you heard that right.

AG, you've just given me some sort of a psychological hard-on here: "In future, computers will not have space bars to increase sexy efficiency." I will honor you in the only way I know how, which I fear won't be enough--pointless rambling about my computing and video game habits!

I'm gonna talk about Quake--Q2, in particular. I was always terrible with the railgun (unlike AG, who could perform a vasectomy at nearly clipping-plane-distance), but I finally had some success with it when I began to use it like a shotgun with a tight spread--what this meant was that I had to seperate the act of aiming and the act of firing into two completely different tasks. On one hand, aiming was implemented as part of my moving/looking process--I only had to be certain that my crosshairs would pass through the enemy at some point, preferrably with a small relative angular velocity. A completely different part of my brain, idling most of the time, was responsible only for recognizing an opening and firing the weapon at the appropriate time. Multithreaded, bitch.

I thought I typed in manner similar to this, wrt the space bar, but in the process of writing this post I've realized that I'm mistaken. Hrm. Ponder ponder. I'm fairly certain I recall observing impressively asynchronous behaviour in my use of the space bar, but at this point I can't seem to remember exactly when that was, or under what circumstances.


Posted by: Lemming | September 15, 2006 3:36 PM

I have yet to read this in its entirety, but it sure seems as though your thoughts can be embodied in the words of Mindless Self Indulgence's I Hate Jimmy Page:

Your two minute song is just one minute and fifty-nine seconds too goddamn long

The good news is, it seems your pain was inspirational!

(The slashed FutureSex/LoveSounds reminds me of Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below... but that was at least a two-disc set of two different albums...)

Posted by: Josh | September 15, 2006 4:13 PM

AG: Has this helped you overcome your writer's block?

Posted by: Mason | September 15, 2006 4:13 PM

Awesome reviews. Now I know to avoid the album completely. :)

It sounds like almost all the songs were similar to "Title of the Song", yet lacking the vocabulary and emotive expression of that song.


Posted by: Zifnab | September 15, 2006 4:41 PM

One thing I forgot to mention: The standard time for pop songs these days is about 4 minutes. They have become longer over the years...

Posted by: Mason | September 15, 2006 5:21 PM

Great album review! You've inspired me to buy it and listen while reading Dan Brown novels.

And Z, "Title of the Song" is exactly what I thought of too.

Posted by: Jolene | September 15, 2006 6:19 PM

Lemming: For an accurate impression of the album, listen to those 30 second samples, but repeat each one enough times to cover the length of the entire song.

Mason: That has yet to be seen--I've had a couple ideas for posts since then but I haven't actually written them up.

One problem I was having was getting stuck composing individual sentences, and one nice aspect of the liveblogging format is that it forces me to write something and move on before the moment is lost. So that was helpful.

If it's too successful, however, I may have to repeat the process the next time I get stuck. Maybe this should be the subject of my next review?

Zifnab: Yeah, "Title of the Song" definitely came to mind (as you may have noticed from my use of that phrase in the review), especially in tracks 6 and 12.

Jolene: That combination could cause irreparable damage to the verbal centers of your brain...

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | September 15, 2006 10:20 PM

Gazebo: Actually, what you wrote nails the point (against a fence, no less) of why I don't get writer's block. I purposely blog in stream-of-consciousness because I live my life that way (hooray for delayed-blast filters!), and liveblogging forces a form of stream-of-consciousness.

Posted by: Mason | September 15, 2006 11:47 PM

esta guapisimo justin

LO AMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by: ana | May 22, 2007 2:55 PM

hola soy martin me encanta justin timberlake el mejor cantante la musik ke me inpreciono fue my love bueno eso es todo bye

Posted by: jose martin | July 12, 2007 11:46 AM
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