Justin Timberlake feat. T.I. — “My Love”

Released: 9.12.06

Peak: #1

We now know that Michael Jackson will never stutter and coo his way across a Timbaland track, even if some future posthumous splicing creates that illusion. So at least the super-producer who began his career by extrapolating an entire rhythmic language from “Wanna Be Starting Something” found a sympatico collaborator in Michael’s finest descendant. Like MJ, JT’s a rhythmic singer, and he’s learned more musical tricks from hip-hop than those new jacks who cop its wardrobe and misogyny but continue to ape a tired ’70s boudoir wail.

By 2006, Timbaland, per those ageist dipshits who think every artist has a finite creative span, had “fallen off” (the most pernicious concept hip-hop has introduced into the critical lexicon this side of “hater”). But his fling with global beat had run dry, and so Tim revisited his old style. Working here with Danja, he augmented the clickety “Are You That Somebody?” beatbox with a weird giggle, while staccato synth slabs curl back underneath the chorus to state the melody. “My Love” is as monumental as “Cry Me a River,” and a few degrees warmer.

There’s nothing virtuosic about Justin’s falsetto, but there’s plenty plaintive, and his performance brought sexy back more effectively than “Sexyback.” What Timberlake lacks are Michael’s essential neuroses, his ability to embody awkwardness and grace within the same moment. That bodes well for Justin’s life and career, perhaps (and just might have something to do with him being white), and if that means he will always simulate second-hand weirdness, sometimes that’s enough.

Oh, and T.I.? Well, he holds his own. Like he says here, “a stand up guy.”

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