Friday, May 29, 2009

Is Andy Samberg making people like Justin Timberlake more?

We ask that question as we go to a very opinionated non-fan of Justin Timberlake...

The unforgivable sins of Justin Timberlake

By John Houder

It isn't easy for me to like Justin Timberlake.

He and four other hair-gelled male sirens are responsible for polluting international airwaves for more than a decade with some of the most trite, saccharine and meaningless music to ever spew from America's recording industry. Though predated by both Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block, Timberlake and his group of gyrating warblers are equally culpable in the brutal assault on popular music otherwise known as "the boy band craze."

In addition to sonically waterboarding the American public with a seemingly endless stream of Billboard hits, Timberlake also accosted the population by being everywhere you looked in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He and his ingeniously-named, prefabricated group, 'N Sync, dominated television and radio stations, played sold-out shows to thousands of fans and adorned Trapper Keepers, lunch boxes and countless magazine covers across the globe. They even clawed their way inside my subconscious every time I heard one of their songs, driving their infectious hooks into my brain like catchy railroad spikes.

Yet in spite of unforgivable musical offenses like "Tearin' Up My Heart," I find that I can’t hold a grudge against the man Rolling Stone magazine once crowned "The New King of Pop."

My tortured feelings about Timberlake started with his second appearance on "Saturday Night Live" when he paired with Andy Samberg for a hilarious, incredibly obscene digital short. Without giving too much away, it was a parody R&B music video about one of the most inappropriate gifts a man could give a woman during the holidays. As crude as the video is, and as much as I’ve seen it online, it still makes me laugh every time.

The subject matter of the song is extremely ridiculous, but it’s the classic music style – complete with bridges and breakdowns – and the look of the video that ingratiate the former Mouseketeer to me. When I finished watching it the first time, I thought it was incredible Timberlake actually had that good of a sense of humor that he would trust Samberg enough to put himself in such a precarious spot. I was amazed that I had just listened to Justin Timberlake sing a song and I didn't feel like putting my head in an oven. I actually liked him for doing it.

It wasn’t until watching the short again that I realized why I suddenly had a newfound affinity for the pop star I once held in such low regard. Justin Timberlake was making just as much fun of Justin Timberlake as I always had.

Though decked out in hilariously dated MC Hammer garb and an awful fake beard, Timberlake is just an extreme caricature of himself. The vocal flourishes and dance moves he uses are exaggerated and cheesy, but only slightly more than normal. His voice and style are still unmistakably his, and the reason he looks so comfortable in such a ridiculous video is because he's been there so many times before, lip syncing on one "slow jam" video after another. The main difference is that the song was written by a team of comedy writers, not boy band mastermind and current prison inmate Lou Pearlman.

This trend continued on Timberlake's third and most recent hosting stint on "SNL." He reprised his role with Samburg, putting the beard and blouse on again, and sang a duet about an even more inappropriate Mother's Day gift. The premise was basically the same, but the tempo and production value were both pumped up. They even arranged for Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon to play Samberg's mother so Timberlake could feel her up in a kitchen.

What sealed the deal for me, though, was his role in another sketch where he plays his own great-great-grandfather, Cornelius Timberlake, sailing to America for the first time with a group of immigrants. He predicts his great-great-grandson's eventual rise to stardom in astonishing detail, noting that although he'll make nonsensical wardrobe choices and sing in a strained falsetto, he'll somehow manage to pull it off.

He tries to explain how his future kin will become a millionaire by singing popular songs like "SexyBack" that don't make any sense, but the idea is as confusing to his fellow immigrants in 1883 as it is to me today:

Cornelius Timberlake: I actually dream of a day when my great-great-grandson will... bring sexy back.

Immigrant #1: Bring bring sexy back? What does that mean?

Cornelius Timberlake: It’ll be gone and he’ll bring it back!

Immigrant #3: Where did it go?

Cornelius Timberlake: Just trust me. People will be on board, OK?

Timberlake is even a good enough sport to say that his great-great-grandson will be so handsome, he'll eventually get tired of sleeping with beautiful women and will begin to dabble in homosexuality, just to mix things up a little. He pokes fun at his time with 'N Sync, likening it to working in a sweatshop, and acts offended when another immigrant thinks his singing sounds like a woman's. Timberlake tears down his entire career in less than four and a half minutes.

But does his sense of self-deprecation and apparent comedic ability excuse his acting in atrocious films like "Alpha Dog" and "The Love Guru"? Can I dismiss mortal musical sins like "Bye Bye Bye" and "It's Gonna Be Me" because Timberlake has the ability to draw laughter when surrounded by professional comedians?

I'm afraid Timberlake has hurt me too much in the past to forgive and forget so easily. His solo albums are worthy of at least some critical praise, but between pouring gasoline on the flames of the boy band wildfire and irreparably damaging America's children with his and Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction," he's at least a dozen parody music videos away from making things right.

I'm sorry, Justin, this just isn't going to work out. As you were so fond of saying while dancing in unison with your friends, "I know that I can't take no more. It ain't no lie, I wanna see you out that door. Baby, bye, bye, bye."



Wow. It sounds like Andy Samberg is helping more people like Justin Timberlake. They also need to point to Justin with Andy in the leotard dancer skit and the Cathy & Jessica Rabbit skit. The two are amazingly hilarious together!


1 comment:

KellyLovins said...

This article is crazy! It's entertaining, but dude, anyone who can bring at least a little laughter to our society right now is definitely worth a sparkling high-five. And good for Andy Samberg for being able to bring out the best in people.

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