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The pop star offers his ambitious, grandiose sophomore album: Almost entirely produced by Timbaland-- and with a more pronounced hip-hop edge than its predecessor-- the album abandons the feelgood sheen which the Neptunes peddled so adroitly on his debut, Justified , but makes up for it with the largesse of its sonic embrace. How Justin Timberlake must have sweated and strained over following his debut, Justified : As an album it was merely good, but it was graced by four singles so monumental they made him one of the decade's most celebrated pop icons. According to the laws of momentum which govern pop music, any sequel could only be either be a pale reflection or a hubristic monstrosity. Nothing is necessarily gained and often much is lost when pop music attires itself in notions of artistry and ambition, but with Justin it is, perversely, what makes him such a good pop star: As with Christina Aguilera, towering self-belief and stylistic metamorphoses provide a spectacle which papers over his stumbles and adds lustre to his successes. Almost entirely produced by Timbaland-- and with a more pronounced hip-hop edge than its predecessor-- the album abandons the feelgood sheen which the Neptunes peddled so adroitly on Justified , but makes up for it with the largesse of its sonic embrace, with Timbaland resurrecting many of his most effective guises, from rubbery synthetic funk to pseudo-crunk blare to eerie Eastern opulence. Throughout, the grooves are defined by their melodic intensity: It's the searing synth riffs and skyscraping strings which grab your attention, not stuttering beats or startling sound effects-- although these, too, are present in abundance. Here, Timberlake magnifies the persona he adopted on his debut, somehow both consummate lover and desperately needy. On hyperactive second single "My Love" his sexual propositions constantly elide into a proposal, as if anything less than matrimony is barely worth contemplating. Likewise, the suavely portentous title track-- poised between the carnal strut of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" well, its verses and the masochistic flutter of the Junior Boys-- derives its charm from its lofty aspirations, like a familiar lover staging an elaborately exaggerated seduction.
The pop star ended up utilizing the four-year gap between albums to launch his acting career and recover from the burnout of heavy touring and promotion of his debut, as he stated in a Rolling Stone cover story. He spent the break snowboarding and playing golf with then-girlfriend Cameron Diaz and launched his acting career after a surprisingly adept, hilarious turn as both host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Now, I thought, I need to make an epic record, a consistent sound, a body of work. It has to be better than the last one. As Timberlake slowly eased himself back into the recording process, he reached out to both tried-and-true collaborators as well as new ones. Before the EDM boom that would follow a few years later, producer Danja was intrigued with where techno and trance would go in mainstream music. What made FutureSex feel so innovative at the time was its clubby, gritty sound, which separated the pop album from the more straightforward synth or hip-hop influences in mainstream music during that era. I just wanted to have that energy and have people going crazy.