So, Justin Timberlake and Destiny’s Child dropped two singles over the weekend, and people who mostly grew up in the last decade rejoiced. Everybody else was like, “What the hell is this all about?”
Both these major pop entities haven’t dropped new music in a long while. Timberlake, who hasn’t released an album since that monster hit FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006 and has been spending his time trying to be a movie matinee idol, had people worrying he might end up being the white-boy version of D’Angelo. Meanwhile, Destiny’s Child hasn’t released any music as a group since their 2004 album Destiny Fulfilled. I’m sure we all assumed the show on those three were over since Beyonce Knowles went on to become THE BIGGEST POP DIVA OF ALL TIME. So, why the hell would she need to get the band back together again?
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Nevertheless, they each dropped a new single that had some who listened (mainly bitchy Twitter trolls and pissy YouTube commenters) feeling a bit underwhelmed. Interestingly enough, both songs exhibit a dreamy, retro vibe, exuding a nostalgic sense that makes both songs sound charming. They may not have the intense bounce of some of their previous hits, but in an age where most dance music basically consists of eardrum-rattling, core-shaking dubstep womps, these tunes are nice little reminder of simpler times.
Let’s start with Timberlake’s new single, “Suit & Tie,” which he dropped after several days of coyly hinting online he might have some new stuff up his sleeve. The supposed first single from his upcoming new album, The 20/20 Experience, “Suit” sees him reuniting with Virginia super-producer and chief FutureSex collaborator Timbaland. After spending the first 45 seconds uncharacteristically going into screwed-and-chopped territory (which I’m sure all my syrup-drinking homies back in my hometown of Houston will appreciate), the song goes into a loungey, dance groove, with Timberlake solidifying his rep as pop’s dapper don by using his falsetto to sing about wowing a female with his formal, dance-floor moves. This is basically Timberlake’s “Step in the Name of Love.”
As for Destiny’s Child, Bey, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams hooked up with Pharrell Williams, that other superstar producer from Virginia, for “Nuclear,” a new song that’ll appear on their soon-to-be-released compilation album Love Songs. Just like Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” it’s got an old-school dance feel, with Williams’s trademark, sinewy synthesizers and drum machines wrapping itself the ladies’ ethereal, honey-soaked harmony. And that’s another thing I’m finding quite appealing about these two tracks: not only is it long-overdue new material from two of the biggest pop stars of the last decade, it also has its two producers basically going back to the signature sound that made them in-demand producers in the first place.
Both Timbaland and Williams (who used to produce hit music with Chad Hugo under the name The Neptunes) have basically become the old fogies of the pop producing scene, often getting overshadowed by all these younger cats and their throttling beats. Over the years, both seemed to let go of their respective, r&b-infused styles in favor of creating more aggressively orchestrated dance-pop. (Especially Timbaland, whose string of assailing club bangers made us refer to him once as “the Jerry Bruckheimer of pop.”) But it seems these tunes have them returning to their smooth synth stylings, which we’re quite OK with.
So, while we should welcome back Timberlake and Destiny’s Child to the pop-musical fold, we should also give Timbaland and Williams some love for thankfully getting back to their roots — and making us longtime fans thankful that they did it.