After the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning success of Justin Timberlake’s 2002 solo debut Justified, it was clear *NSYNC was not simply on “hiatus,” as the members of the boy band claimed; in fact, the group had now gone bye, bye, bye. That meant Timberlake could flex his solo superstardom on his 2006 follow-up, FutureSex/LoveSounds. And flex he did, strong-arming into submission any suggestion of a possible sophomore slump with the unswervable swagger of a young heartthrob seemingly destined to become a pop dynamo. And while Justified found Timberlake channeling fellow boy-band alum Michael Jackson on such hits as “Like I Love You” and “Rock Your Body,” FutureSex/LoveSounds was the album in which the singer got naughty (if never nasty). “Sexy Ladies,” with its thumping bass and squealing synths, updated Prince’s 1979 banger “Sexy Dancer” for a next-gen player, while the dizzying high of “LoveStoned” is like a sped-up riff on The Purple One’s 1999 jam “Lady Cab Driver.” Then there’s the futuristic funk of FutureSex/LoveSounds’ title track, as well as its first single “SexyBack,” which saw into an alternate universe where Timberlake was the love child of Prince and George Clinton. And while Justified was produced by both Timbaland and The Neptunes’ Pharrell and Chad Hugo, FutureSex/LoveSounds was largely a Timberlake-and-Timbaland joint (with additional behind-the-boards work from longtime Timbaland collaborator Nate “Danja” Hills). And just as much as the album is a Timberlake triumph, it is a full-length showcase of peak Timbaland talents—especially on the two-part, shape-shifting stunts “Let Me Talk to You/My Love,” “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows,” and “What Goes Around…/…Comes Around.” Both the T.I.-assisted “My Love” and the “Cry Me a River” sequel “What Goes Around…” followed “SexyBack” to No. 1, proving that Timberlake’s chart-topping future was here and now. But while FutureSex/LoveSounds was a step (or three) into pop’s beyond, there is some old-school romance and R&B on the album too, from the smooth Stylistics moves of “Until the End of Time” to the James Brown throwdown of “Damn Girl.” Then, on the Rick Rubin-produced closer “(Another Song) All Over Again,” Timberlake even conjures up Donny Hathaway, proving just how much FutureSex/LoveSounds—one of the defining pop albums of the early 21st century—brought the past into the present on a time-traveling spaceship.

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