Justin Timberlake has been busy being a new father and making kids' movies lately, but the singer/actor is ready for a musical return. In an interview with Variety, he gives a hint of what we can expect. “I wouldn’t say [my new material] is the antithesis of ‘20/20,’ but it does sound more singular,” he says.
“If ‘20/20’ sounded like it literally surrounds your entire head, this stuff feels more like it just punches you between the eyes.” The 20/20 Experience, Timberlake's third album (released in 2013), was soulful, brooding and sexy—a complete shift from this year's "Can't Stop the Feeling." But the change naturally came from a new life experience.
“I think I would’ve said yes to the project regardless, but I do think that song came together the way it did because I’d had a son at that point,” he tells Variety about working on the Trolls movie soundtrack. “It’s the sort of thing where you realize, ‘Man, there’s nothing wrong with putting some good vibes in the world.’ Like, ‘Hey, you over there trying hard to act like you don’t care, that sounds exhausting.’”
Pharrell, Timberlake's longtime collaborator, jumps in to explain his friend's musical growth:
“For the biggest pop stars in the world, the place where they have the most trouble is honesty. It’s hard for them to know that the beauty of a record, the sweetest spot in the song, is where they show vulnerability. Because there’s a formulaic sort of vulnerability, like, ‘Baby, I can’t sleep without you …’ and that’s not really it. But if you’re able to really screenshot your own vulnerability, and frame it properly, and color-correct it, then it becomes something that every human can relate to. And I think Justin is in the place where he’s mastering that right now.”
Timberlake doesn't have a set release date for the 20/20 follow-up, but he reunited with Pharrell and Timbaland in the studio, and was spotted working with Little Big Town. Back in May, he revealed the new album may have country themes. “Growing up in Tennessee, very central of the country, Memphis is known as being the birthplace of rock and roll," he told Carson Daly's 97.1 AMP Radio's Morning Show. "But also the home of the blues, but Nashville’s right down the street so there’s a lot of country music.”
While we wait for new tunes from the singer, watch Jake Miller tell Fuse that he wants to be the next Justin Timberlake: