A couple days ago people I knew started frothing about an announcement that JT would be dropping a new song soon. I thought to myself, "Is that even a big deal?" I mean, people around me were getting mobile alerts and shit! Reading Tweets aloud! I thought people just released songs whenever now; for a minute there, I was getting a Chris Brown song in my inbox (and promptly deleting them) every week. I didn't realize Timberlake hadn't put anything out since 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds, cause, c'mon—the fuck I look like. (Hit me when the D'Angelo album comes out.) Far be it from me to cool-guy* a multi-millionaire singer/actor/bidness bro, but I have always viewed people's frothed-over excitement over all things Timberlake with some bemused measure of detatchment. I mean, in the bad old days when boy bands ruled the earth, he was the kid with the Top Ramen on his head.
A few years later, when I was working in an office with a bunch of KUBE93-loving ladies (selling the kind of shady mortgages that would send our nation into the shitter), he was the dude singing songs that were written and produced for, and ultimately rejected by, Michael Jackson. Justified was cool, but I never really wanted to listen to the burned copy that one of those KUBE-listening ladies gave me. FutureSex was pretty slick, too, an he was surpisingly funny on SNL whenever he'd be on.
Yet he was still, to me, like that one cat you see around town forever that everybody loves, but for some reason that you can't pinpoint, you-just-don't. No hate, just an arms length. It wasn't until that Superbowl foolery that it made sense. As Internets Celebrity Dallas Penn put it:
That is, in fact, that shit I don't like. I could finally feel Justified in my low-level suspicion, as he'd now proven his low, mark-ass character. If ol' boy had told the media at the time, "Uh, hell yeah we planned that, together, that whole shit, duhh...and what? (*flips press conference table over, doffs undershirt revealing "Thug Life" stomach rocker)"—well then I'd rep dude forever. Nah, he left the great Janet Jackson—the sister, mind you, of the dude to whom he owes his whole style—just hanging. Not that he lives for my approval, but that's grimy.
This is when I digress, though, because this song, which dropped last night, is cool with me. Jay-Z drops an age-defyingly slick verse, opening up with a sharp scenario of sartorial code-switching ("All black at the white shows/white shoes at the black shows") and some killer wordplay ("you got good genes/that's why niggas trying to cuff you"). What's more, Timbaland is credited as the producer, and it isn't even the worst; no, it's a multi-gear, R.Kelly-peppy, champagne-high production—and that alone is a nice change from the hot doodoo patties Timbaland's been steaming up ever since, well, the last Timberlake album. (Congrats to whoever actually produced the damn thing.) It's kind of a squarebear anthem for sure, its hook celebrating the ceremonial armor of white western patriarchy—but I'm not mad, and that's all that matters in the end to everybody, right?
*For the record, the go-to knowledgeable reaction to this song has been that it's a wholesale ripoff of Robin Thicke's vibe. I don't really listen to Alan Thicke's son, the R&B singer, so I couldn't call it.