Justin Timberlake’s solo career has always struck me as a profound exercise in insincerity. And his arrogance has always been almost insultingly transparent, but no one seems to notice it – or care.
Take this nugget from his “beggin for a black pass” 2003 Vibe cover story where the woman who taught him how to “sing black” – herself a white woman (lawd!) – basically outs him as a poseur at the very same moment we were supposed to be believing we were getting the real Justin:
Although Timberlake loved R&B growing up, he didn’t perform it professionally until he became a regular on The Mickey Mouse Club. His vocal coach, Robin Wiley, who was a producer on the show, remembers how the then 12-year-old had to adjust. “He hadn’t sung a ton of R&B-ish stuff, mostly country, and the show covered whatever was on the radio,” Wiley says.
Or the fact that Justified was really just equal parts Timbaland’s unique brilliance and Pharrell’s “repurposing” of shit he’d written for Michael Jackson. Also from the Vibe article:
The Neptunes could easily have given Timberlake a “Girlfriend Part 2,”and no one would have been mad. “I wanted to break the rules in terms of what people thought we were going to do for Justin,” Williams says. So the producers decided to use Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall as inspiration. In fact, they dusted off five songs they submitted for Jackson’s HIStory Volume 1 and Invincible albums that were rejected. Williams rewrote parts of those songs with Timberlake and created new versions of “Senorita,” “Let’s Take a Ride,” “Last Night,” “Nothin’ Else,” and “Take It From Here.”
But I get it. People record other people’s leftovers all the time. Why does Justin doing this bother me so much? Continue reading →
There are so many small pleasures in this song that grab me. The first time the hook comes in and you hear these amazing voices in harmony. The depth and power of Gerald Levert and Christopher Williams ("it _taint_easayyyy"). The stunning clear tones of Joe and Brian McKnight. The absolutely devastingly beautiful performance of R. Kelly, who takes that moment – "woo hoo" – to let the message sink in.
But it's Raphael Saadiq and McKnight who choke me up every single time:
And then I got stronger And tired of the pain That’s when I picked up the pieces And I regained my name
I love the vulnerability of the couplet- "That's when I picked up the pieces/And I regained my name." It's the heart of the song for me. It's the moment that the song reveals itself to be more than an anthem. It's empathy for black male brokenness makes the whole thing work so that when you hear "you must act like a man" it doesn't feel like judgment. It's recognition. And I regained my name.
The song is hopeful of course, but that undercurrent of profound sadness actually makes its anthemic qualities resonate more deeply. It's literally the struggle to be a whole, healthy black man in song.
Chico DeBarge will release his new album on July 12!!!!
In the late 90s, Chico DeBarge was more or less my favorite black male singer not Rahsaan Patterson. For me, he was D’Angelo without the unnecessary pretention and grandiose self-obsession.
But then he went away to deal with his addictions and personal issues. There isn’t really an artist like Chico DeBarge in the game and having him back to do his thing is truly thrilling, expecially because two songs floating out on the net right now are as good, if not better, than what he released during his late 90s heyday.
First up – Oh No. It’s my favorite of the two because it reminds me of work on Long Time No See, but tighter and more expressive. Listen to it on Kedar’s Chico page.
Second – She Loves Me. This has the feeling of stuff on his The Game album (a masterpiece, by the by).
There is quite a bit of chatter about the kind of album that Michael Jackson should be doing. The current producer/songwriter names rumored to be working on Mike’s comeback album range from Ne-Yo (naturally) to Akon to will.i.am.
And folks are talking about what constitutes a great Mike comeback album, some good and some eh…not so good.
So I’ve decided to put together my dream list of collaborators for Mike.
How I like to think of Mike.
Full disclosure: my favorite Mike album is Dangerous, though I do think that creatively Off The Wall is his strongest (only because Dangerous is overlong and the Free Willy song and Heal The World are on there).
That said, I don’t want him to recreate either of those albums.
But I do want him to go into this album with the same mindset that created those albums. That is: I want him to collaborate with the best songwriters of this generation to make an album that is both current and timeless.