HomeUncategorizedJustin Timberlake's Everything I Thought It Was Album Review

Justin Timberlake’s Everything I Thought It Was Album Review

There is a lot to glean from a title like Everything I Thought It Was, especially from an artist like Justin Timberlake, who returns today with his fifth album in a 22-year solo career. He usually waits at least five years to put out an album, making each Timberlake release a big event. But the weight he carries in 2024 is a lot different than each of those prior records, and Everything I Thought It Was — based on title alone — signaled a more introspective, mature return.

Its past tense phrasing suggested that Timberlake was indeed living in the present, looking back on 30 years in show business and coming to terms with his public-facing identity, his relationships, his successes and mistakes, and perhaps, his pain. After all this time away, would this be the course-correcting album from JT that might just rope us back on his side?

From the first song of Everything I Thought It Was, the hometown-referencing “Memphis,” it sounds like that’s the album he sought to make. “Who cares if you get lonely long as you’re famous?,” Timberlake rhetorically asks, later singing, “Who cares if there’s too much on your plate?/ Don’t make no mistakes and hide your pain.” He sounds slightly weakened, his passionate tenor muted for the sake of droll, hip-hop-adjacent narration.

The song overall is a bit flat, but the ideas behind it — that Timberlake was sold an unattainable ideal when he began on this journey — are definitely intriguing. For a former boy band star who has been (appropriately) criticized for his complicity in the early 2000s misogyny that took serious tolls on Britney Spears and Janet Jackson, there’s a lot to unpack. Timberlake got famous very, very young, and it’s undeniable that he was fed toxic, psyche-altering messages from the men in his life, from executives, from dance and vocal coaches, from producers, from his own peers, from the culture at large.

Based on title and the album’s first track, you’d think Timberlake would keep up his end of the bargain and lay bare a little bit more of himself. He does not. The rest of the album is as vanilla as it gets, so much so that it makes the Americana/folk-pop/country/soul rebrand from 2018’s Man of the Woods feel, somehow, more ambitious. The only ambitious thing about Everything I Thought It Was is its tracklist, whose 18 songs clock in at a laborious 77 minutes.

There are some lightly revealing lyrical concepts about loneliness (“Alone”), getting older (“Paradise”), and generally feeling hopeless (“Drown”). But for the most part, every song on Everything I Thought It Was is either about having great sex, throwing down in the club, being in love, or feeling wronged by an ex, in the same vein as two actually good Justin Timberlake songs, “Cry Me a River” and “What Comes Around (Goes Around).”

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