It’s true, I will die never having watched the King of Pop live. Performance extravaganza, entertainment histrionics aside, I honestly believe he was undoubtedly the king of groove, of beat, of soul and all that happy music. And there will never be another like him, nobody who hits those high notes with so much accuracy and body, gets the right groove with every song, and entertains as much as he did, I thought.
Until I listened to Justin Timberlake really carefully. Some time last year I got completely obsessed with the 20/20 Experience — his solo album that slipped in like a silent, calm evening wave. Lapping away gently, comfortably, without causing too much of an uproar. It was so comfy and smooth, I could listen to the whole album on loop a couple of times, as I went through my day, my chores, worked to it even — without realising how much time had gone by. Very few albums have that quality, that kind of listen-ability. It really got me thinking when the geeky chocolate boy from NSYNC turned into such a major dish. (AND he can act!)
Legend has it the album got its name because JT and Timbaland (who btw, I think is incredibly talented) locked themselves up in a studio for 20 days and banged out the whole album in 20 days. Quite a feat, given that every track on the album is upwards of 5 minutes long, blends at least 2 different sound styles seamlessly, and ends sounding nothing like the it did when it began. Every track has that inimitable JT touch of soul, enough to make you forgive the soppy lyrics, because there is just so much groove its hard not to have your knees go weak, but also shake your booty just a little bit. Of course most of the tracks, excluding a couple are very danceable and if you’ve been a fan of JT’s moves since you were like 16 (like I was, ahem) then you go back and google every video and drool over it for days on end.
So why am I talking about JT and a year-old obsession today? Lately, the radio has been digging out some older, lesser-known JT tracks. I don’t know why, maybe someone at the station discovered a forgotten compilation? Can’t complain because I realised, that JT has that quality MJ did. That incredible eye for music. I say eye, because I think it takes serious talent to picture music, and when he churns out tracks like this one, and this one, and this one, wait — must not link it up, you need to really see the deliciousness that is JT in a suit.
I can only imagine each of these were plotted out like a masterplan for how each track would pan out. You need an eye so acutely tuned to seeing music just so — to get that right lilting groove, the perfect tight arrangement, the movement from one style to another so distinct but effortless, and the groove, oh the groove. Many of those were my favourites. They switched all the time, and I think I obsessed over every track on the album at some point or the other.
There was a time when JT was segueing from his boyband days into a full-blown solo artist and while Sexy Back solidified his place in the bubblegum pop category, I think he’s really come a long, long way from there. His brilliantly tenor-gifted voice makes R&B and soul come so naturally, its impossible now for me to listen to him and not think of MJ. And every since I’ve made this connection, I’ve relaised the same happens when I listen to Bruno Mars.
Anyhow, so this is what I heard on the radio today that made me want to jiggy in my car seat a little bit. And it made me want to come home and look up the song and refresh my mind a bit.
A few days ago I heard this and swooned a little.
And just when I was wondering what kind of solid ear-popping magic might happen if MJ and JT had the opportunity to get together, I discovered this.
The legend lives on. It’s true, I will die never having watched the King of Pop live, but if I manage to catch JT, there’s hope yet.