Following the Grammy’s very public ushering of Justin Timberlake back into position as one of the most charismatic, talented, male artists in the game, the official video for “Suit & Tie” has arrived.
Helmed by David Fincher — who started out in pop videos before graduating to features, and directed Timberlake in The Social Network — the result is 5.30 minutes of catchy, nuance loaded, R&B pop brilliance.
At the heart of the monochrome elegance on offer, the singer broods, gets a massage, makes a set entrance on a four-poster bed, plays chess with a half-naked dancer, eats cereal with guest Jay-Z, hits up a speakeasy, before dancing up a black and white storm in the last seconds in what can only be described as pure MJ [à la "Leave me Alone" and "Black and White."]
More on the black and white theme. It’s working. It’s amazing how pleasurable it is to get away from the ‘unbearable LMFAO colorfulness of being’ and swim in the shadows and sex of “Suit & Tie.”
Unsurprisingly, the video and entire feel of Timberlake’s musical return ties in with themes of his recent interviews. Describing the process of working with producer and longtime collaborator Timbaland as creating a “sonic palette,” the singer recalls a friend dubbing his new album The 20/20 Experience as “music you can see.”
The meta narrative of “Suit & Tie,” then, all scrunched beats, familiar falsetto, and lush vintage visuals, is Timberlake’s maturation. Yes, he’s returned to the top table of R&B/Pop — but not as he left it.
A sign that the singer is carrying some interesting baggage came at the end of a 90 minute post-Grammy’s gig he played at the Hollywood Palladium.
Yelling “I love you, Los Angeles – don’t let that stupid f***ing media tell you any different!” at the climax of “SexyBack,” Timberlake’s sign-off puzzled many in the media, particularly those who have covered the slick marketing drive behind him with genuine delight.
From the “I’m Ready” announcement on January 10, to the reveal of 20/20’s artwork and release of “Suit And Tie,” the Grammy’s, a new song “Mirrors” that appeared online immediately after the music event, and Timberlake’s new role as Creative Director at Bud Light Platinum — mostly, all of this has been received by critics with open arms.
An insight into where Timberlake is coming from emotionally can be seen in a recent Rolling Stone interview he gave to two high school students.
When asked by the students why he was giving them the interview and not seasoned music scribes, the 32-year-old replied:
“Because I like talking to people who love music. I don’t necessarily do a lot of interviews anymore because a lot of times, a writer will interview you for an editorial piece and – this happened to me when I was younger – you end up reading the article and it becomes more about them than it even is about the subject.”
“I’d much rather talk to somebody who is younger than me that was excited about music and wanted to talk about music rather than have to sit around and answer questions that have nothing to do with even the Grammys or anything. It’s like, ‘So what’s your favorite pasta? What you do in your free time?’ Stuff that I don’t want to tell you, like private stuff; you know what private means, right?”
Looking at some of the snark Timberlake has received in the press, arguably he has a point.
Moving on. The 20/20 Experience is released on March 19. An announcement confirming news of a 11-13 date stadium tour possibly with Jay-Z is expected shortly.
Confirmed to perform at the UK’s Brits awards on February 20 and a concert at London’s HMV Forum that same night, a full throttle Timberlake has stepped back on to the world stage older, wiser, and with an intriguing bite to his step.
In short, we’re not in Kansas anymore.