Jennifer Arellano
September 12, 2013 AT 05:32 PM EDT

Justin Timberlake — the former NSYNCer-turned-pop culture Renaissance man — isn’t going away anytime soon.

At least that’s the takeaway from his T Magazine profile by Michael Hirschorn in the New York Times. Tracking his days from a child star and standout boy bander to his current pop/comedy dominance, Hirschorn describes Timberlake thusly: “He is his generation’s dapper master of ceremonies, turning up as a reliable good time on everything from Saturday Night Live, to Jimmy Fallon, to the MTV Video Music Awards and, of course, the Super Bowl.”

In the interview, we see a more ruminative side of the 32-year-old Timberlake, musing on his unusually long career.

Here, we’ve collected his best quotes from the interview. And if reading his words isn’t your thing, at least check out T Magazine‘s slick black-and-white photo shoot of Timberlake lookin’ Wuthering Heights-moody wearing a nearly $3,000 shirt.

First up, Mr. Timberlake on maturing: “I’m sure there’s some self-help cheese-ball book about the gray area, but I’ve been having this conversation with my friends who are all about the same age and I’m saying, ‘Y’know, life doesn’t happen in black and white.’ The gray area is where you become an adult … the medium temperature, the gray area, the place between black and white. That’s the place where life happens.”

On philosophy of action (or on why he decided to release his first album since 2006): “If you can answer the question of why you’re doing it, it’s the right thing to do.”

On the vibe of part 2 of The 20/20 Experience: “If you could imagine you’re 16 and she’s everything you thought. She’s Marilyn Monroe and then you meet her older sister; everything that’s dark and wrong about her at that age is why you become infatuated with her.”

On his critique of the last musical decade: “All the soul of it was removed. It was made for whatever the trending medium was. … You had two or three different female artists who were doing literally the same song, just different song titles. They are saying the same thing with the same melody, with the same B.P.M.”

On the relationship between being an actor and being a musician: “I try to talk to people about how much acting goes into music … how much of a character goes into what you put on stage. You ever sit down with Jay [Z]? He’s not the guy he is on stage. I’m not the guy I am on stage. I am a performer. It’s an elevated idea.”

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