Justin Timberlake was born on January 31, 1981, in Memphis, Tennessee. He’s one of the biggest musical stars our generation has seen, from the early part of his career when he was a member of arguably the most popular boy band of all time ‘NSync, to becoming a solo artist who has won numerous Grammys and can claim a handful of number one albums. Timberlake is also a celebrated actor with multiple Emmy Awards, appearing numerous times on Saturday Night Live and starring in movies, the most notable being his role as Napster co-founder Sean Parker in The Social Network in 2010.
Currently, only at the age of 37, does he have a lifetime’s worth of accomplishments that very few entertainers can compare to.
His music career started at a young age. His grandfather played in a bluegrass band, teaching him how to play the guitar and introducing him to songs by artists like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Timberlake felt out of place sometimes as a kid growing up with his peers because he knew he was different, but he was able to find his voice when he started singing at his church.
He was able to be more confident in his singing, knowing that no matter how he performed the audience would always say amen and applaud. As written in the Biography article, “at the age of 11, he auditioned at a mall for the old television show Star Search, singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge and “Two of a Kind” by Garth Brooks.
The audition went well enough for him to be invited to audition on the show in front of a national audience, singing “Love’s Got a Hold on You” by Alan Jackson. Although he wouldn’t advance in the show, shortly after he was cast in the Mickey Mouse Club with other future entertainers like Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. The show only lasted two seasons, but this was the starting point of what would end up being one of the most successful careers in the modern music industry.
Timberlake was able to convince his mother that they should move to Los Angeles so he could audition for sitcom roles, but a month before they were going to leave, they received a call from someone who wanted him for a new boy band in Orlando. That call came from his agent, who also represented future ‘NSync member Chris Kirkpatrick. At the age of 14, Timberlake joined Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, JC Chasez, and Lance Bass to form the boyband group ‘NSync. After Lou Pearlman, who was also the manager of another massively successful boy band the Backstreet Boys, signed the group, their self-titled debut album ‘NSync was released in 1997 and sold 11 million copies, launching the new group into stardom. Lou Pearlman ended up being a con artist, secretly taking away profits from the group for his gain. Once the group saw their checks did not match the success of their debut album was, they took Pearlman to court. After dealing with what was a very public legal battle with Pearlman, the group soon released their second album No Strings Attached. All the fanfare and popularity were solidified when the album sold 1 million copies on the very first day, eventually becoming the best-selling album of the year and best-selling album of the decade.
Even with all the success ‘, NSync was having, Timberlake was itching to go solo and start his path in music. One of the final straws happened while Timberlake was writing the song “Gone” which would appear on the group’s last album. Originally, he wrote the song as a duet with Michael Jackson but was turned down by Jackson’s label. A little bit of time after ‘NSync released it, Jackson called Timberlake wanting to do the duet but only with Justin himself. Since the song was already recorded by the group, they were unable to do the duet that Timberlake wanted to do. Justin Timberlake officially went solo in 2002, partnering up with Pharrell and Timbaland to produce his music. He released his first solo album the same year, Justified. The solo album was an instant success, winning two Grammys in 2004 for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. This also included the Grammy Award-winning song “Cry Me a River”, which he was inspired to write after getting into an argument with ex-girlfriend Britney Spears, he revealed during an interview in 2011. His second solo album FutureSex/LoveSounds debuted at number one on the Billboard chart in 2006. The lead single “SexyBack” spent several weeks at number one on the charts, while two other songs from the album “What Goes Around Comes Around” and “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows” earned him a couple of more Grammys.
It was around the time during the release of his second album that Timberlake started to get more involved with acting, and not so much music. In 2006, he made his first appearance on Saturday Night Live as both a host and a musical guest. In 2009 and 2011, he won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his appearances on Saturday Night Live. Timberlake started to act in movies as well, covering multiple genres and roles throughout seven years. Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan, The Social Network, Bad Teacher, Friends with Benefits, In Time, and Runner Runner are just some of the movies he’s acted in. He’s also been involved with movies as a voice actor, including Yogi Bear, Shrek the Third, and Trolls.
All in all, he scored four number one solo albums including the 20/20 Experienced Pt. 1 and 2 released in 2013, and Man of the Woods released in 2018. Along with that, he also has two number one albums with ‘NSync, giving him six in total. Combining his solo and group efforts, Timberlake has six number one songs, twenty-five top ten songs, and forty-five songs in total on the Billboard charts. Outside of entertainment, “he has his tequila brand, hosts a PGA Tour tournament that has raised millions for Shriners Hospitals for Children, and owns an eco-friendly golf course, Mirimichi, in his hometown.” He’s also opened several restaurants, started a clothing line, and participates in humanitarian efforts in Tennessee.
Timberlake has been in the public eye for pretty much his entire life. His relationships with Britney Spears and Cameron Diaz were followed in the tabloids. With the way media works and with different media outlets picking each side of the relationship, when those ended some would paint Timberlake as an immature pop star not being able to be mature enough in a relationship, among other things. Whether these statements are correct or incorrect, these views can stick with some of the readers and form an opinion about him. In 2007, he began dating Jessica Biel, and after an on-and-off relationship that lasted a couple of years, the couple got married in 2012 in Italy. In April of 2015, he became a father after welcoming his son Silas Timberlake into the world, maybe changing the public perception of some people that he would never be able to grow up and settle down. With all the awards he has received through music and entertainment, including being one of the few artists to claim both Grammy and Emmy Awards, I would say the general public realizes how talented he is. This didn’t come without any controversies, though.
The 2004 Super Bowl halftime show is one of the most controversial events of all time in all of pop culture. While performing on the stage with Janet Jackson, Timberlake ripped off an article of her clothes revealing her bare breast to millions and millions of viewers watching around the world. Calling it a “wardrobe malfunction,” a lot of the public was outraged at Timberlake for what had happened, blaming the whole situation on him. This event changed Super Bowl halftime shows forever, no longer going with wild pop star acts up until a couple of years ago when Lady Gaga took the stage in 2017. This also caused the networks hosting the Super Bowl to use tape delay for the shows, so something like this could never happen again. In 2018, Timberlake had a chance to redeem himself from what happened in 2004 by being the headline act for the Super Bowl halftime show again. Weeks before, Janet Jackson fans on social media were still upset at him for what happened to her years ago, feeling like she took the worst end of what had happened and feeling like all the blame was put on her. On top of that, there was a rumor that he planned on using a Prince hologram during the show which brought more controversy, as Prince fans cited in an interview that the recently deceased artist opposed that kind of special effect being used. Timberlake went through with the idea anyway, and generally got good reviews for the show his second time around. Over time the general public’s view of him because of the two Super Bowl performances seemed to wear off, as Timberlake has shown numerous times, he’s a good-hearted human being through his humanitarian efforts, and the music he puts out always sells high. I believe that people will remember him as a cultural icon, and one of the true mega superstars during the 2000s. The people loved the music he put out, and his album, and record sales reflected that. He was able to make people laugh, as his award-winning Saturday Night Live appearances proved. The serious roles he had in some of his movies were usually critically acclaimed, proving his worth as an actor. Once a global pop icon, he transitions over currently into a more relaxed family man.
Personally, Justin Timberlake has released some of my favorite albums especially when I was younger, more specifically Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds. His music has always been easy for me to listen to, ranging from his more upbeat funk songs to his slowed-down R&B songs. What I like most about his musical style is he doesn’t rush albums out, only releasing five albums since he became a solo artist about sixteen years ago. It’s the pride Timberlake takes in his music that stands out to me, and I believe it’s what makes him stand out as an artist in this musical age where it seems like most artists don’t take their time and release as much music as possible, regardless of quality. Most musicians have a hard time crossing over into the movie industry, very few have made it look as easy as he has which is another thing that stands out to me. The Saturday Night Live appearances were gold and something I remember having a good time watching, and he’s smooth in the serious roles he’s had in movies which is very impressive to me. You could never tell that he was one a boyband teen sweetheart and it takes real talent to be able to transition over without any real issues. In April of this year, I attended a Timberlake concert at the T-Mobile Arena after waiting so long for a tour, and it was an awesome experience. The show itself was a magnificent display, but what was most amazing to me was there was no difference between the quality of sound live compared to an audio recording, his voice was just as well live and that’s not always the case with live performances. It was a very memorable show for me and reminded me why I was always such a big fan of his. Recently he’s had issues with his vocal cords, having to cancel multiple shows on his most recent tour. With Timberlake getting older, having a family now and the vocal cord issues coming about, his musical career could be slowly coming to an end. Being able to see one of his shows on what could be his last major tour is something that I’ll always find neat. He’s currently one of my five favorite artists of all time, and I find it unlikely my mind will ever be changed from that.