Cool to See Justin Timberlake’s Take on Women Hasn’t Changed

"I'm selfish," the crooner admits in his attempt at a comeback single. The thing is, we knew that already. Britney told us.

Cool to See Justin Timberlake’s Take on Women Hasn’t Changed
Screenshot:YouTube (Other)

This just in: Justin Timberlake is back with “Selfish,” the first single from his forthcoming album, Everything I Thought It Was. Rolling Stone called it an expression of “vulnerability”; NME thought it “romantic”; and Variety purported it to be a “pulsating ballad.” Against my will, I have also heard it and would instead liken it to a throwaway track of a middling R&B singer circa 2001.

Save for some tracks to accompany a cartoon movie, the singer hasn’t released much new music since 2018. That said, I get why some folks are eager to learn what his new album—a reported 18-song tracklist—might sound like. Of course, public curiosity is only further piqued considering that no one’s really heard from Timberlake since his famed ex-girlfriend, Britney Spears, revealed the good (there wasn’t much!), the bad (infidelity, break up by text message, and an “agonizing” abortion at the age of 19), and the blaccent, when it came to their relationship in her memoir, The Woman In Me.

However, if “Selfish,” is any indication of what’s to come on the other 17 tracks, well, I fear Timberlake hasn’t evolved much since the end of his time with Spears—at least not sonically. The sound (boyband meets bootleg Keith Sweat) is certainly nothing new, and the lyrics are…as dated as a quirked-up white boy who’s co-opted AAVE. In 2013, women were “mirrors.” Eleven years later, they’re something to be put in “frames.” Timberlake, it seems, only remains stunted. Take the chorus, for example:

So if I get jealous, I can’t help it
I want every bit of you, I guess I’m selfish
It’s bad for my mental, but I can’t fight it, when
You’re out lookin’ like you do, but you can’t hide it, no

In a new interview about the single, Timberlake told Apple Music that while conceptualizing the single, he sought to expand on an apparently brand new, never-before-heard sensation: jealousy.

“We were talking about the song itself and just breaking down the idea that you just don’t hear that from men often, that they would express an emotion that makes them vulnerable,” he explained. “And then, growing up the way I grew up, you’re taught not to do that. But I don’t know, it just felt like a really honest song.” Yeah…because men have never once written a song about wishing they could control women. John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”? Doesn’t count. Nor does Nick Jonas’ “Jealous,” I guess. And “The Girl Is Mine”? Justin’s fo shiz fo shiz never heard of it!

“The lyrics just started to come out honestly,” he continued. “And when I listened to the whole album, I felt like it’s probably, of all the songs on the album, production-wise, probably the most straightforward, and I don’t want to say simple because it’s complex within its simplicity to me.” Alright, Walmart Mozart. Relax.

With all due respect to the other writers listed on the track—namely, the only woman, Amy Allen—this one didn’t work not just because it’s not exactly groundbreaking. But because, frankly, we already knew Timberlake was selfish—Spears literally just told us sans tired toe-tapping and air-humping.

Am I interested in what the remainder of Everything I Thought It Was might sound like? Not really. Could I be if Timberlake happened to acknowledge the harm he’s perpetrated against Spears (Janet Jackson and any other to whom it applies, too) and properly atoned for them? Yes. Because that would be actual vulnerability—or, in his words that thing we “just don’t hear from men often.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin