Justin Timberlake is having a big week. Not only did he release his second studio album of the year (The 20/20 Experience part 2) but he has a new thriller with Ben Affleck debuting on Friday. Runner, Runner represents his return to theaters following his role in the overlooked Trouble With The Curve. The fact that he has two diverse projects coming out only reinforces that fact that Timberlake has had quite a varied career (and personal life). With that, here’s your JT guide covering everything from ’A to Z.’
A: Academy Awards
No, Timberlake has never been nominated for an Oscar. Though, the days are coming when that might be the case (see: I). In 1999, N SYNC recorded “Music Of My Heart” with Gloria Estefan for the film of the same name. The song, penned by Diane Warren, was later nominated for Best Original Song putting the boy band on the Oscar stage for just one night. And probably making them the only boy band ever allowed near such a ceremony.
B: Biel, Jessica
While there have been numerous women (Britney Spears, see: C) in JT’s life, only one has locked him down. Though, the relationship has come with its share of rumors (she’s the doormat) and turmoils (he’s cheating on her). After dating for four years, the two broke up in 2011. But later that year JT got down on one knee. Their 2012 wedding came with its own drama: N SYNC (see: K) wasn’t invited to the ceremony, the People cover left wondering who was the real star of the relationship.
C: “Cry Me A River”
After a very public three year relationship, JT and Britney Spears parted ways in 2002. The reason why is still subject of speculation. Was it because Spears cheated on Timberlake with dance choreographer Wade Robson? No one knows for sure. What we do know is that after an argument with his ex, Timberlake channeled his anger into recording “Cry Me A River.” “Told me you loved me, why did you leave me all alone / Now you tell me you need me when you call me on the phone,” Justin sings on the record. Burn.
D: “Dick In A Box”
Listed at number nine on Vulture’s Millennial 100 list, “Dick In A Box” helped not only define a generation but JT’s life outside of music. Saturday Night Live’s digital short brilliantly parodied ’90s R&B while poking fun at the singer himself. It also launched Timberlake, the omnipresent entertainer. Fans could find him in movies, hosting Saturday Night Live (five times), at concerts or hanging out on late night talk shows (see: Q). It’s also worth mentioning that his SNL career has been as nearly successful as his singing. He’s been nominated for three Emmy Awards and taken home one as host of the show.
Long before The Social Network, JT was making the transition from singer to singer/actor. His first major role was the Morgan Freeman straight-to-DVD flick, Edison, about corrupt cops. He quickly followed up the flop with Alpha Dog, Southland Tales and Black Snake Moan. While the last two were seen as slight missteps, neither would derail his acting career, which finally saw him in the Oscar-winning David Fincher movie as Sean Parker.
If “Cry Me A River” represented JT’s break from his past, then “SexyBack” represented his
step leap forward. On FutureSex/LoveSounds, JT presented himself as a man. He was no longer a boy bander or a virginal pop star, he was a man with sex appeal. There was a new swagger in his step as represented in his first single and later cemented in the video for his second single, “My Love.” The critically acclaimed and commercially successful album earned him a nomination for Grammys’ Album Of The Year and landed him two awards for Best Dance Recording and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
In the summer of 2001, N SYNC’s released its third album, Celebrity. By then, it was the beginning of the end. The group was aging past its appeal, members were exploring solo projects (acting, albums, guest-hooking). But nothing laid the groundwork for JT’s solo career more than “Gone.” The second single was focused on the singer’s artistry. He co-wrote the song with Robson (see: C) and the recording was relied entirely on JT’s lead vocals. The rest of the group served as background singers on their own record.
Throughout the course of his career, JT has had every hairstyle imaginable for one guy. He sported the beach blond, the curly ’fro, the buzz cut and the sexy coif. If there’s one thing to say about his hair, it’s that thank goodness the cornrows didn’t last long.
I: Inside Llewyn Davis
In an effort to make good on his rave reviews in The Social Network, JT signed up for the Coen Brothers flick, Inside Llewyn Davis, which tells the story of a singer-songwriter navigating New York’s ’60s music scene. In another smart career move, the actor has surrounded himself with stellar actors (Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan) in another Oscar-bait film that’s sure to get him the recognition he deserves.
J: Joint Effort
As Timberlake became a more prolific artist, the desire to work with him increased. Following the success of FS/LS (see: F), JT was in high demand. Since then he’s collaborated with Ciara, Reba McEntire, Rihanna, T.I., Will.i.am, Jay Z (see: Z) and many, many others. All these ’joint efforts’ have been a comment on his lasting power and ability to work with others (essential for a long career in the entertainment industry).
K: Kirkpatrick, Chris
After failing to make the cut for the Backstreet Boys (way back in 1995), Chris Kirkpatrick set out to form his own boy band. The singer turned to Lou Pearlman, manager of BSB, LFO and O-Town, to create N SYNC. And so the story goes: Kirkpatrick called Joey Fatone, both of them found JT, who recruited JC Chasez, then they rounded out the group with Jason Galasso, who dropped out and was replaced by Lance Bass. From there it’s boy band history.
L: “Like I Love You”
After N SYNC (see: K) went on hiatus in 2002, JT quickly began working on his solo debut, Justified. The album, largely produced by the Neptunes, marked the singer’s transition from pop to R&B. The lead single, “Like I Love You,” was the first track written and recorded for the album and eventually peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. Any doubts about going solo were quickly squashed. JT’s N SYNC days were behind him.
Less than a year after The Social Network debuted in theaters, Timberlake bought Facebook’s competitor, MySpace. The move was largely a surprise to fans who thought of the site as a dying networking platform. Since then, JT has helped launch the “new MySpace” with a larger focus on music and developing a new audience. It’s still remains to be seen what the singer will gain out of his deal with the platform or if he can bring it back to the forefront of social networking. But what’s clear is that a billion dollar company is way cooler.
N: New Mickey Mouse Club, The
It would be easy to ignore the Disney era of Timberlake’s career if it weren’t for how pivotal TNMMC became to late-90s pop culture. The ’90s revival of the show included a roster of ’before they were famous’ cast members including, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, Britney Spears. It was on the show that JT became brothers with the human meme after JT’s mother became Gosling’s legal guardian for six months during film. “His mother had to keep her job in Canada the second year that we were on the television show,” Timberlake told Ellen DeGeneres. “We were probably a little closer that the rest of the kids that were on the show just because we had to share a bathroom.”
O: Other Projects
It’s the paragraph in every entertainer’s Wikipedia page that showcases that person’s talents that go beyond their initial fame. It says to the reader, “Hey, I’m a businessman.” And JT sure hasn’t slacked in his efforts to diversify his portfolio (see: M). He has his own record label (Tennman Records), William Rast a clothing line launched with his best friend Tace, multiple restaurants (Destino and Southern Hospitality) and his own tequila. Anyone up for shots of 901?
In 2003, Ashton Kutcher set out to make the world his bitch with one celebrity prank at a time. The first to fall prey to his hidden camera reality show was none other than Timberlake. The had convinced him that government agents were seizing his home and personal items because of unpaid income taxes. The result was a blubbering JT distraught over the loss of his property and a ratings hit. JT later admitted that he was high on marijuana when he was pranked. But he got his revenge by turning the cameras on Kelly Osbourne in a later episode.
Thanks to Questlove and the Roots, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has been able to do more with its guests than any other evening talk show. From the dressing room covers of “Call Me, Maybe” to the “Slow Jam The News,” the music group has let guest dive into a world of music that has made a splash both on the show and online. But nothing has been bigger or more viral than Fallon and JT’s ongoing series, “The History Of Rap.” The 2010 skit quickly turned into a recurring gig whenever the entertainer appeared on the show. Now with three editions, there’s no stopping these two from making sweet, sweet music together.
R: Runner, Runner
We’ll just ignore this blip for JT and Ben Affleck’s sake.
S: Star Search
Long before (well not too much longer) The New Mickey Mouse Club, Justin Timberlake went by Justin Randall. Like many other ’90s pop stars, Randall auditioned for Star Search. At 11-years-old, Randall’s country performance earned him 3.25 stars. Though, it wasn’t enough to beat out returning champion Anna Nardona. But at the end of the day, we know who the real winner is.
Of all the producers Timberlake has worked with, none have been more influential than Timbaland. The two first started working together on JT’s solo debut, Justified (see: L), and produced his breakout single, “Cry Me A River” (see: C). From there, they moved onto FutureSex/LoveSounds and this year’s double release, The 20/20 Experience parts 1 & 2. His production work on FS/LS kick started a chart-topping career for Timbaland. In 2006, the producer worked with everyone from Nelly Furtado to the Pussycat Dolls and Elton John to Fall Out Boy.
U: U.S. Marine Corps Birthday Ball
United States Marine Kelsey De Santis uploaded a video to YouTube asking the singer to be her date at the Marine Corps birthday ball. Of course, the video went viral and JT himself responded in the affirmative. On November 13, 2011, Timberlake attended the ball with Santis and Mila Kunis, who was also invited via YouTube by Sgt. Scott Moore. It was a star-studded affair. If only for a night.
V: Video Music Awards
Without MTV, Timberlake would hardly have the career or legacy that he has today. In the era of the music videos, N SYNC and JT himself produced some of the generation’s most iconic videos. As a result, he became a regular feature at the VMAs, first appearing in 1999 on stage with Britney Spears. In 2002, he performed for the first time solo. And then in 2013, his most celebrated and hyped performance featured the 110-second reunion of N SYNC. It was the highlight of the summer that, sadly, ended as quickly as it began.
W: Wardrobe Malfunction
In February of 2004, JT made his way through his second Super Bowl halftime performance (the first being with N SYNC in 2001). All was going according to plan, until the infamous wardrobe malfunction exposed Janet Jackson’s breast causing a media frenzy, a then-record number of FCC complaints, lawsuits, fines and backlash. It was as if the world had never seen a (covered) nipple before. Has there ever been a more defining moment in two singers’ careers? No, unless you consider Kanye West and Taylor Swift. But that’s another list for another day.
There was a time when Christina Aguilera rebranded herself as Xtina, the girl who was dirrty. That phase just happened to coincide with Timberlake’s transition as a solo artist. And who is he to turn down the chance to co-headline a tour with the pop singer? For one brief summer (as if a kiss off to Spears), Xtina and Timberlake had a fling on stage – sharing the spotlight and entertaining fans around the country.
In the late-00s, getting discovered meant taping yourself singing covers of pop songs and uploading it to YouTube. That’s what Esmée Denters did. The Dutch singer was discovered after her covers went viral on the web. By 2008, Timberlake was knocking on her door and signed her to Tennman Records (see: O). Denters became his first artist and protégée and even sang on the single, “Follow My Lead.”
Z: Z, Jay
2013 will likely go down as the year known as the time JT and Jay Z took over music. Not only did the two release three new albums, they collaborated on four original songs (including “Suit & Tie” and “Holy Grail”) and went on tour together. These two have staked their claims as the kings of R&B and hip hop, respectively, and there’s no one looking to take the crown anytime soon.