If you’re like me, you’re a HUGE Justin Timberlake fan, and you still have “My Love” on your gym playlist to this day. If you’re like me, your ears perked up at the news of possible new music from JT in 2016. The photos of him in the studio with Pharrell surely meant a new album was on the way. But also if you’re like me, you felt a little deflated during your first listen of his new song, “Can’t Stop The Feeling”, the lead single from this fall’s Trolls soundtrack.
it’s been 3 years since The 20/20 Experience. As a longtime Justin Timberlake fan, I’ve grown accustomed to the prolonged periods between albums. Because the guy is a new dad for Christ’s sake. Plus, the end result of that waiting period is typically life-changing music. But this time around, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Other Justin Timberlake fans seem to be rallying around his sugary sweet new jam simply because it exists. But I can’t stand with them in pop solidarity and ultimate fandom.
In the grand scheme of music in 2016, this song seems oddly displaced. The music of now is sorrowful, dark, menacing, and perfectly tailored for people who wear Supreme and Vetements. Even pop’s most visible stars have taken detours into futuristic R&B and trap (i.e. Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez). Even Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” was a bit of a banger (you know you liked it).
Yes, I am aware that this song is from a children’s film, but it manages to skip right over what made Pharrell’s “Happy” an accessible and unstoppable hit. It worked for Despicable Me, but it also sounded completely different from what was on the radio. It was just childish enough for a kids’ movie but universal enough to be enjoyed on its own. With a contagious melody, simple concept, and fresh update of classic soul, it was undeniable.
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” is catchy (I’ll give it that), but it’s pulling from the era of disco pop. And in the current year, disco pop isn’t a genre anyone is pulling from. The marketing team behind this single is trying to convince us that the song is the next “Happy”. Many sites and blogs are even declaring it’s an early contender for song of the summer. But in an era where streaming reigns king, do we really need a song of the summer? I’m fine if my songs of the summer are specific to me and not the general public.
This version of JT seems bland. I’m a fan of FutureSexLoveSounds JT, who fittingly paid tribute to Prince in a way no one else had managed to do and created a flawless album that’s still more forward-thinking than most of what’s on the radio today. Even Justified JT had a vision fueled by the soul of Stevie Wonder and set to the beats of the Neptunes. What’s missing here are his key collaborators (Timbaland & Pharrell) who are major ingredients in his secret sauce. Max Martin seems to have washed all the soul right out of the “Suit and Tie” singer. It’s like what happened to Janet Jackson when she stopped working with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. It’s as anonymous as that new single from Alicia Keys. It’s not even as strong as the worst songs on The 20/20 Experience Part 2 of 2.
I side with Idolator on this one. I appreciate this offering from JT, but I’ll pass in favor of a proper first single from his next album. Which I hope sounds nothing like this.