Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye Sound Board
6:23 AM CST, January 14, 2013
After squealing at a very suspect decibel for three solid minutes, it hit me that I didn't know what I wanted when I heard that Justin Timberlake was coming back. He's provided a lot of classic moments in music (I know, the "c" word applied to the guy who sang "It's gonna be me." Keep reading anyway.) After a flagrant false start last week, we received the new Justin Timberlake song late last night—the first since 2006. The collective response has been tepid at best. Here are a few things that caught my attention after more than a few listens.
The song sounds old. That's not a bad thing.
My guess is that people are going to be disappointed by the relatively safe approach Timberlake took with his comeback single. I agree. Upon first listen, "Suit & Tie" sounds like it was conceived, recorded, funded, and sponsored by a department store that hasn't been relevant in a long time. We wanted a grand slam. We got a one-run double.
Recently, a lot of modern pop has hitched its wagon to unneccessary EDM parlor tricks (synths/big bass drops/whatever the hell Ke$ha is doing) and I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect to hear some of that on this before it premiered. Beyond happy to say that I should have given all involved parties more credit than that. The decision to discard that style and avoid making some sort of Diplo-clone thunder house twerk concerto (I just made a lot of those genres up) should be applauded. Ain't nothing wrong with taking the soulful approach.
Now, don't get me wrong, the song isn't a masterpiece. It's fine. Yep. Just "fine." If anything, you might get to show off your two-step when it gets dropped in the club (Sidebar: If you frequent places that refer to themselves as "Ultra lounges," you will be hearing this song for quite a while. Enjoy!). Instead of whining about what we got, we should admit that our real complaint is "After all the anticipation this comeback had, I expected the best song ever made. Though I'm not really sure what "best song ever" sounds like, I'm mad I didn't get it."
Jay-Z phoned his feature in.
I know, I know. It's a pop song. I shouldn't expect "Sixty-Six Sixes" or some other lyrical exercise where Hov reminds us he might be the best to ever do it. Still, this is a lazy appearance. After being literally told to get out of his seat by Timberlake, Jay-Z drops off a middling bunch of verses that sound like he wrote them while waiting for Blue Ivy's bottle to warm up. He even does that "sprinkle a little showmanship wordplay so you don't think he's getting soft" move! We all know that move by now, Jigga! The only thing positive about his verse is that his consistent efforts to up the sartorial game of American males every few years or so soldiers on. For that I give him props, but that's where it stops.
2013 is about to be a very interesting year for R&B.
Yep. R&B. If releases from Frank Ocean, Miguel, Cassie, Solange, inc. taught us anything last year, the traditional idea of what the genre means isn't exactly applicable anymore. Stop thinking about what Teddy Pendergrass did and start thinking about R&B artists that fully embraced pop/disco/uptempo leanings (Chic, S.O.S Band, Rene and Angela, Yarborough and Peoples, etc.) If this single is any indication, that's where we're headed. Timberlake made a track that wouldn't be out of place at a Steppers party at R. Kelly's house. I look forward to seeing what comes next.
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