I wasn’t planning to blog about the Justin Timberlake concert special that HBO aired on Labor Day. FutureSex/LoveSounds is still a sweet album, Justin’s still a suave dude — old news, right? Or so I thought. Then the New York Times posted a bizarrely patronizing essay today — ostensibly a think-piece about pop choreography — and I just couldn’t resist chiming in. “It has been apparent for quite some time now that Justin Timberlake made a deal with the Devil,” the writer begins; he used to be a “boy-band Romeo,” see, and obviously former boy-banders don’t deserve solo careers. Or if they do, then they “most certainly do not go to HBO to star in Labor Day concertspectaculars in which they commit to ‘bringing sexy back’ and find thatdubious claim favorably received.” But rest easy: Justin’s success, the article suggests, is attributable solely to his slick “collaborators” and “handlers,” because, after all, “Mr. Timberlake… is not that cool.”
Um, seriously? Are we really still looking down our noses at twentysomething pop stars because they used to be — gasp! — teen pop stars? I guess there was a time when I, too, saw ‘N Sync albums as cheap, throwaway product. But that was 10 years ago, when I was an immature kid myself with half-formed ideas about musical authenticity, and in retrospect it’s hard to deny that ‘N Sync had some pretty great pop tunes in their catalog. And even if we’re still not ready to accept ‘N Sync into the critical canon, Justin’s more than proved himself as a songwriter and performer in his own right by now. I fully plan on blasting “My Love” at my wedding some day (“this ring here represents my heeeeart…”), and ol’ JT deserves as much credit for that as his supposed svengalis. So go ahead and snipe at his résumé if it helps you feel like a Serious Cultural Arbiter — but wouldn’t it be more fun to just admit you love him already? C’mon, PopWatchers, are you with me?