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to Justin Timberlake - The 20 20 Experience CD

Wherever the remaining members of the 1990s boy band ‘N Sync are, they must hate Justin Timberlake and his seemingly unending wave of success.

The people who may be the most jealous include ex-members Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone, along with their controversial manager, Lou Pearlman, who listened to the then little-known Timberlake’s audition tape and selected him to join the group.

From the start JT was the heart of the group. He not only introduced two members to the band, his buddy JC Chasez and Lance Bass, but ‘N Sync was named after his mother when she exclaimed how in sync the quintet sang. Like him or not, JT was to ‘N Sync what Sisqo was to Dru Hill and what Bobby Brown was to New Edition – with less drama, of course.

If you were a music analyst at the time, you would have sensed that this young man was going to become a force to be reckoned with. And if you had a crystal ball, you’d also have known that he would go on to become a trendsetter and heart-throb chased by all the ladies. So it was only a matter of time before he would want to fly solo.

‘N Sync’s biggest mistake was to announce their temporary break-up in April, 2002. They were due to return to the studio later that year, but didn’t, because they had to give golden boy Timberlake room to concentrate on a solo project.

They were probably thinking that, like Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman, Timberlake needed to prove himself as a solo artist with the intention of returning to ‘N Sync, but that never happened. In fact, all the other members fingered Timberlake as the reason why the group would never reunite.

But you’d probably do the same if you dropped a hot single like Cry Me a River. In fact, if your first solo attempt earned you two Grammys why would you want to “regroup” (as it were)? Suddenly you realise those other dudes were actually holding you back and you can fly even higher without them.

So even though there was no official statement regarding their break-up, or a final tour, we are now sure that the chances of ‘N Sync reuniting are minute.

The disgruntled former members must have had a field day over that Timberlake/Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” on live TV during the Super Bowl’s half-time, an incident considered tasteless by critics.

But there was no stopping the gifted artist. In fact, he produced more hits and even went into acting, proving he was more than just a singer with some convincing performances. Check out Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan and the successful animated title, Shrek the Third. It was obvious JT had the world in his hand and anything he touched turned to gold. So, as the title of his debut album suggested, his leaving ‘N Sync was justified.

We can’t talk about Timberlake and not mention the album Future Sex/Love Songs, which included the tracks What Goes Around… Comes Around, My Love and Sexy Back. This album featured TI, Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg) and will.i.am and erased any doubts that JT could do it all by himself.

Not letting the success of this album cloud his head, Timberlake took a break from music and concentrated more on films.

On the social scene he was quite the heart-breaker, dating Cameron Diaz (post his infamous break-up with teen sweetheart, Britney Spears, which is said to have inspired Cry Me a River), and Scarlett Johansson before marrying actress Jessica Biel.

Now, six Grammys later, it’s great to hear that he’s releasing his third album, The 20/20 Experience, today. The single Suits & Tie even has Kanye West calling JT out because it features Jay-Z. It is surprising that after all the success Timberlake has earned, he has only done two albums before The 20/20 Experience.

Tonight had an exclusive listen to the pre-released album and this is what you can expect. (Unless you get the deluxe version with two bonus tracks, the normal album has 10 songs which define where JT’s headspace is at at the moment).

• Pusher Love Girl: A surprising grunge sound which parallels drug themes with a love- hate relationship. You will sing along after a second listen. ***

• Suit & Tie: You’ve probably heard this first single which borrows from Robin Thicke in the falsettos and the James Bond look. Sadly, it’s not Sexy Back and the Jay-Z rhymes are misplaced. **

• Don’t Hold the Wall: Reminiscent of the ‘N Sync sound, this is a club track that works from the first note. ***

• Strawberry Bubblegum: Think Barry White talking throughout the song as JT croons on the hooks. Very well done. ****

• Tunnel Vision: This track probably inspired the CD cover. It is as cheesy as R&B songs get, with catchy lyrics. Instant classic. *****

• Spaceship Coupe: With lines like: Let’s hop into the spaceship coupe, there’s only room for two on another infectious melody, JT manages to take you out of this world. ***

• That Girl: Borrowing from his acting prowess, the skit on this track will prepare you for a live setting where Timberlake explores an old sound in the vein of Dobie Gray or Percy Sledge. *****

• Let the Groove Get In: This is Sexy Back’s equivalent. African drums, simple chorus and an incredible changeover right at the end, 1990s style. Jay-Z should have featured on this one. *****

• Mirrors: This is the second single which saves Suit & Tie and it is as tight as What Goes Around… Comes Around and ignites a flame of curiosity about the whole album. ****

• Blue Ocean Floor: Cool, gentle way to end an album. The synthesisers will put you to sleep, and that’s not a bad thing. ***

• Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience is available on Monday at music stores.

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