He’s been a Mouseketeer, a boy band member, a controversial half-time performer and now he’s bringing sexy back. These are just a few of the significant moments that catapulted Justin Timberlake into superstardom. Many pop stars would kill for a similar career; it’s a tale of dedication, perseverance and keen business sense: the very reasons why Justin Timberlake still is a step ahead of everyone else. Mambaonline looks back on his life and explores the milestones and decisions he’s made since his days as a Mouseketeer right up to the present.
JT’s career started back in 1993 when he joined the ranks of the Mickey Mouse Club . A television show featuring song and dance routines, the show was a hit amongst kids and became a pivotal starting point for Justin Timberlake and others we know as celebrities today. In fact, Justin’s rise to fame can be directly traced back to the Mickey Mouse Club. The show not only brought the talents of the eleven year old to the fore and exposed him to an audience, but also led to friendships and acquaintances that would have a huge impact on his adult life: The Mickey Mouse Club is where he first met Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera; two people whose roles in his life only became important much later. However, of everyone he met as a Mouseketeer, JC Chasez was the one that would have the biggest impact on his immediate career.
When the Mickey Mouse Club came to an end in 1995, Justin – at the age of 14 – recruited JC for a new, all-male group he was forming with friend Chris Kirkpatrick. Also joining the group were Joey Fatone and Lance Bass, bringing the group to five and spawning a boy band that would become a phenomenon in the world of pop music: N*Sync. Initial success was only to be had in Germany (in 1996), with success on American soil following in 1998. A slow rise to fame did not however stop the boys from being mentioned in the same breath as current favourites, the Backstreet Boys, and it wasn’t long before N*Sync was a household name in the USA. It was an exciting time for pop music and teen idols, with Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time and Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle hitting the airwaves at the same time.
Much to America’s delight, JT started dating Britney and the couple became even bigger teen idols – the epitome of clean-cut romance (which Americans love) and a power couple of note. While JT’s relationship with Britney had some role in his rise to fame, later on it becomes clear that the end of the affair had an even bigger impact.
N*Sync released their second (excluding a Christmas CD) album, No Strings Attached, in 2000; becoming the fastest selling album of all time and further cemented the group as global superstars. It also created a new kind of pop music that had more pronounced beats and clever harmonising. This new sound – dubbed ‘dirty pop’ – came through more clearly on the 2001 album, Celebrity: even mega-sellers like the Backstreet Boys sounded plain and dull compared to N*Sync’s music. A world tour ultimately led to exhaustion, and by the end of 2001 the five members of N*Sync decided to take a break, a break that would ultimately end the N*Sync phenomenon. It gave JT ample time to start working on a solo album; something that he hoped would shed his squeaky-clean boy band image in favour of a sexier, more mature sound.
It was while working on his debut solo album that the shiny veneer of JT and Britney’s relationship started fading. Rumours abounded about Britney’s infidelity and led to the demise of their relationship in March 2002. The split (which deeply affected him) was a turning point: It provided him with a multitude of emotional experiences to put into his new album. He told Rolling Stone Magazine at the time that, “I may not ever get over her. I really do still love that girl.” After premiering the debut single, Like I Love You, at the MTV VMA’s in 2002, his album Justified hit the streets, debuting at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts (with 439 000 copies sold in its first week of release), garnering critical acclaim along the way and selling more than 7 million copies worldwide – all fueled by the success of the second single, Cry Me A River, and its bitter music video featuring a Britney look-alike.
“Young, hot and filthy rich, he is quite simply a phenomenon.”
JT had achieved his goals (and more) with Justified: not only did the sexy, R&B-influenced songs shake off his boy band image, but he became the hottest male artist at the time. As if Cry Me A River and its accompanying video didn’t rub enough salt into Britney’s wounds, JT went on tour in the summer of 2003 with former Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera, who had just released her mega-hit Dirrrty from her second album, Stripped. The Justified and Stripped tour became the biggest concert of summer 2003, and – interestingly enough – featured the (then still relatively unknown) Black Eyed Peas as an opening act on most of the dates. JT’s (unaccredited) guest vocals on Where Is The Love helped to ensure that – after years of obscurity and cult followings – the Black Eyed Peas became a household name.
Furthermore, JT was asked to perform one of his hits from Justified with Janet Jackson at the Superbowl in February 2004 before a television audience of 140 million. At the end of the performance, JT tore off a part of Janet’s black leather costume in what was meant to be a “costume reveal” to accompany a portion of the song lyrics (“gonna have you naked/ by the end of this song” from Rock Your Body). Janet’s briefly exposed breast is now part of American history, and the event caused a conservative uproar across the USA. In fact it directly resulted in dramatic changes to US television: adding time delays to live broadcasts; ballooning fines for broadcasting inappropriate images; and the growth of a frightening new conservatism.
The ‘malfunction’ led to both JT and Jackson being banned from the 2004 Grammy Awards unless they agreed to apologise. Janet declined, but JT couldn’t afford not to attend and subsequently apologized for the incident, saying that he was “sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl… It was not intentional and is regrettable”.
Few doubted that the ‘malfunction’ was not planned, but the apology redeemed JT and Justified won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album (also nominated for Album Of The Year). The single Cry Me A River won the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (but lost out on Record Of The Year). Justin was also nominated in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category for Like I Love You from Justified, and Where Is The Love with the Black Eyed Peas.
At this stage it would be appropriate to say “end of chapter one”: the post Grammy period saw a significant hiatus from the musical spotlight for JT. However, he was certainly not resting on his laurels. In between dating his new girlfriend, actress Cameron Diaz, Justin opened a number of restaurants, created a clothing line with friend Trace Ayala, did humanitarian work in Tennessee, had nodules removed from his throat, started his own record company, appeared in an Elton John music video (as a young Elton John), did a cameo in a Nelly Furtado music video (for her new single Promiscuous, also produced by Timbaland), collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas (again) as well as with rapper Nelly, and scored another massive hit doing guest vocals on Snoop Dogg’s infectious Signs. In the near future he’ll be appearing in the movies Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan, and