Good MusicNote 6.19 mirrors JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

A reflection of earlier successful singles.

single: “Mirrors”

artist: Justin Timberlake

As this rather ancient chart-dweller (the single, not JT) enjoys a resurgence in position, likely due to the buzz surrounding part two of The 20/20 Experience, I relish the opportunity to catch a quick review on the way down the charts.

“Mirrors” is yet another installment in JT’s Dead-Serious-Mid-Tempo-Well-Written-Reflective-Heartache series. His first record had “Cry Me a River;” the second had “What Goes Around Comes Around.” And now there’s “Mirrors.” Apparently, JT and Timberland keep a track template handy to recreate the magic every five years.

Although I like the gotcha! element of uncovering this trend, I have no complaints. “Mirrors” is every bit a goose-bump song as the first two. Justin handles melancholy in an inimitably commercial fashion, managing to draw emotion from the listener without making him depressed. Timberland’s familiar underbrush of polyrhythms mimics the complex series of thoughts and feelings JT describes.

(Disclaimer: I realize that “Mirrors” is ultimately a happy song, but the rumination involved in getting there is bittersweet at best; ergo, it’s still a heartache record in my eyes.)

The overall effect is a gem of a record. Insanely catchy without being gratuitous. Well-written without being self-conscious.

And entirely fresh in spite of being hopelessly derivative of his past work.

Gotcha, JT.


Or is it the other way around…

single: “Holy Grail“

artist: Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake

The introspective sibling of “New York State of MInd,” “Holy Grail” is a sprawling tag-team effort that reads initially like two different songs: in the first, JT sings plaintively to a neglectful partner; one wonders if he got together with this girl after Bruno Mars wrote “Grenade” about her. In the second, Jay Z ruminates Michael Jackson-style about fame (i.e., plays the victim).

By the time Jay hands the microphone back to JT the second time, it’s clear they’re on the same page, singing the same complaining song–Justin is simply being a little more oblique.

It’s a great way to package an opening shot to the record-buying public. It’s also fun to see Jay Z (of all rappers) coasting along on the power of his featured singer. Justin gets way more time and leaves the more memorable mark on the song. Jay Z gets a plum breakdown spotlight in the middle of the record, but other than that, this appears to be business as usual for Mr. Carter.

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