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?
Billboard unveils new methodology today for the long-standing Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Latin Songs charts. Each receive a major consumer-influenced face-lift, as digital download sales (tracked by Nielsen SoundScan) and streaming data (tracked by Nielsen BDS from such services as Spotify, Muve, Slacker, Rhapsody, Rdio and Xbox Music, among others) will now be factored into the 50-position rankings, along with existing radio airplay data monitored by Nielsen BDS. The makeovers will enable these charts to match the methodology applied to Billboard’s signature all-genre songs ranking, the Billboard Hot 100. (emphasis mine)
I placed emphasis on that last sentence for a reason.
That is: the genre charts are now solely about reflecting how each genre is selling (or being listened to) everywhere, rather than reflecting (albeit imperfectly) the different music listening habits of different demographics. It will now be a mistake to look at the R&B chart or the Country chart and make assumptions about what black people or people in Nashville like the most. People should be aware of that.
That loss is significant, but it’s not as tragic as it sounds because this is a process that’s been occurring for more than 30 years. People have always listened across genres, at least to some degree. But in the 30 or so years since Michael Jackson basically destroyed the radio format and made crossover the only way to measure success and media consolidated so that there are no longer any independent (black and other) radio stations that cater to their communities rather than push a national playlist, the non-Hot 100 Billboard charts have increasingly measured something that exists less and less each year.
Even the fact that people are upset about the fact that Rihanna isn’t “R&B” is an example of just how little the chart reflects what it used to reflect – and how little people know what the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart has been for its entire existence: a measure of what is popular in black neighborhoods and hangouts. Without independent black radio (as well as black folks’ total allegiance to crossover), it hasn’t really been that for a while so it makes sense that Billboard would go ahead and make it (along with the other genre lists) a straight “ranking of how many people in America listen to songs of this type” chart.
Post-racial America is coming. Sure, it's true that many executives who live in Beverly Hills don't live in one — yet. But many aspire to it and thirst for it in the programming they consume. Hollywood has good intentions but no sensitivity. It clearly have no real understanding of how America is evolving.
Someone needs to take the pin out of the Hollywood bubble, just as they have done within the music industry and the advertising world.
After the jump is a slight edit of a review of Usher’s Here I Stand – an album I have tremendous respect for, so much so that I thought was the best black pop album of 2008 – that I initially wrote for Popmatters.com a few years ago that was never published.
But will Joe Jonas be believable as a real rock star? Can the fans ever forget that they loved him in fourth grade?
“I look at Joe’s scenario as kind of like when Justin Timberlake broke out of ‘N Sync,” says Rob Knox, a producer working on Joe’s solo project who previously teamed up with Rihanna and Jamie Foxx. “Justin was 21 when he came out as a solo artist. Joe is coming to producers who know how to create that edgier pop feeling. We’re not doing any boy-band songs.”
What they are doing, Joe says, is an eclectic mixture of “electro indie pop rock.” “It’s Joe’s album, it’s not just something put together for him,” says Danja, another veteran producer on the project, whose past work includes Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. “He’s collaborating with the writing. He’s very different from what you’d expect. All I can say is he’s an adult man. He has a rock-star edge about him.”
The entire Details piece reads exactly the way all the articles about Justin Timberlake before he released Justified read – Joe really likes girls! Joe drinks! Joe is kinda sorta embarrassed by the Jonas Brothers! Joe is a rock star trapped in teen idol purgatory!