Justin Timberlake – “Selfish”

Justin Timberlake has never been that great, especially on a personal level, and his new song, “Selfish,” is just another disappointment in his long, not-so-impressive career. It’s not just typical, commercial, blue-eyed R&B; it’s overly sentimental and cheesy.

The lyrics are full of overused phrases, and he doesn’t bring any hint of romance or passion, though you might catch a whiff of insincerity. When he sings lines like “Your lips were made for mine,” and claims his heart is “beatin’ for you all the time,” it feels more nauseating than romantic. And if you think he’s keeping up with modern technology, the line “Every time the phone rings, I hope that it’s you” sounds like it’s from a time before vibrate settings and Caller ID — back when Timberlake was still relevant. “Selfish” isn’t even bad enough to be interesting; it’s like he aimed for average and still missed the mark.

But honestly, this isn’t surprising. “Man of the Woods” was disappointing in 2018, and as much as we wanted to like “Suit & Tie,” both parts of 2013’s “The 20/20 Experience” were underwhelming. Timberlake’s relevance seems to hinge on two solo albums that seem less likely with each passing year.

Looking back, he caught Pharrell and Timbaland at the right time. Both superproducers were at their peak when they guided Timberlake through “Justified” and “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” respectively. Among megastars, it’s not uncommon to see pop artists who had one or two good albums and then struggled to find the right collaborators. Timberlake can’t manage projects, and he doesn’t have Beyoncé’s knack for beats or Taylor Swift’s lyrical skills.

He does have some soft skills, though. For instance, he capitalized on his relationship with Britney Spears to sell “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” even if it’s not a credit to him personally or artistically. Still, for someone like him — good-looking, white, an excellent dancer, and willing to play dirty — his solo career has been surprisingly dull. Time and again over the last ten years, he worked with the world’s top hitmakers, only to produce songs as lively as a dead house plant.

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