Like I Love You

I want to hate Justin Timberlake. With every cell in my body, I want to hate him.

And, believe me, I’ve tried to do it. There’s the shred of pre-teen girl left inside, still caught up in that Backstreet Boys v. N*Sync feud, screaming that she can’t possibly like anything a former N*Sync-er does, because she was so in love with BSB (AJ, who went to rehab! Brian, who I just saw play in the MLB All-Star game! Nick, whose family is pretty fucked up! Kevin, who we really haven’t ever heard from again! Howie, who we all secretly thought was gay!).

Then there’s just the fact that I have some bit of self-respect and swear up and down that, because I like the music I do, and because I will not succumb to cheesy pop sensibilities, I cannot like the music of a man who, at one point, had bleach-blonde curly hair, wore silver costume get-ups, sang into a headset microphone in harmony with four other men, and dated (*gag me*) Britney Spears. And, you know, he can still sing higher than I can.

“No, no, no,” I say, kicking and screaming. “I cannot like this man, or his music, or him. I just cannot!” I protest to everyone that it’s impossible to respect him because he was part of N*Sync, that I hate his music, that he can’t possibly be talented.

But I’m coming clean — Justin Timberlake, as he is now, is IMPOSSIBLE to hate. To be jealous of him is quite possible, and quite easy, but, honestly, if even I cannot find a way to hate him, I’m just not sure it’s doable.

He can sing, he can dance, he can play instruments, and, let’s face it, he’s funny as hell. I can imagine it’s hard to host Saturday Night Live and be funny — the recurring cast of the show isn’t all that funny half the time — so, oh my God, if not a single one of JT’s skits has made you laugh, you have no soul. Have you seen “Immigrant Tale”? I was howling to myself alone in my dorm room. And then there’s the “Homelessville,” “Plasticville,” etc. skits. And don’t even get me started on “Dick in a Box;” JT and Andy Samberg are classic together. Again I say — if you can’t laugh at a guy who can stand there and make fun of himself (“Secretly…he hit it.”), you have no soul. There’s a reason he’s hosted that show so frequently lately. I’m waiting for the day they just make him a regular cast member.

And, all right, his music actually isn’t that bad. Poppy and instant radio hit, yes, but a lot better than most of what’s out there. His voice is quite good (Can YOU hit those notes?!), and ever since the 2007 Grammys, when I realized he could actually play the piano, I’ve been even more impressed by his music. The album Justified was pretty club/pop, but FutureSex/Love…whatever it’s called (it’s a long album title, forgive me) has a funky, almost blues-y vibe to it. Plus, OK, the collaboration with T.I. that’s out right now isn’t half bad. Let me put it this way — if a JT song comes on the radio, I probably won’t change the station. I might even sing. (Stop judging me; I see you.)

I make no promises on liking the former, boy-band Justin Timberlake. (“Like a sweatshop?” “Well, sort of.”) That version — really, quite easy to dislike. If you’re having trouble, refer to the curly hair, silver costume, microphone headset image I KNOW you can pull out of your brain (I also know you probably still know the words to “Tearin’ Up My Heart” — don’t lie to me). I’m pretty sure the teen girl population, circa 1999, was totally insane to like that — something about all those hormones and being too young to drive probably did us in.

But, JT now? Really and truly talented? Good voice? Decent musician and dancer? Funny?

Well, what’s not to love?

(Writer’s note — I’ve been thinking of writing this for quite some time, but I never got around to it. I was looking at Rolling Stone stories about JT today, and I decided I really should write this. These feelings have been around since, approximately, the 2007 Grammys. I won’t deny it any longer.)

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