JUSTIFIED

JANE STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 5:01 PM ET


JUSTIFIED
Justin Timberlake
(Zomba/Jive)

In the boy-band member-goes-solo department, NSYNC's Timberlake is the latest high-profile entry, following Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys fame two weeks ago.

Timberlake's more sophisticated solo debut finds the 21-year-old further embracing his inner R&B/hip-hop artist while never completely forgetting his pop roots.

On the surface, that doesn't really sound that great. But working with such respected hip-hop producers as The Neptunes and Timbaland, while welcoming guests like Janet Jackson, Timberlake -- who co-wrote all 13 tracks -- at least has good taste.

On the plus side are standouts like the acoustic-guitar-with-strings ballad Take It From Here, the gospel-meets-opera track Cry Me A River, the Michael Jackson-evoking Rock Your Body and Last Night, the Stevie Wonder-esque Nothin' Else, and the more straight-ahead dance track, Let's Take A Ride.

And, no doubt, tongues will wag over the tender ballad Never Again, which sounds like a shout-out to ex-girlfriend Britney Spears, as Timberlake sings: "Would have given up my life for you, guess it's true what they say about love -- it's blind / Girl, you lied straight to my face, looking in my eyes / And I believed you because I loved you more than life / And all you had to do is apologize."

In the minus category is silly lead-off track Senorita, which suffers from being too cute and has an awful call-and-answer ending featuring "the guys and the ladies."

Meanwhile, the first single, Like I Love You, is decent enough despite criticism that Timberlake's imitating Jackson's vocal style -- but it's hardly the best thing here. The same goes for similarly skittering R&B songs (Oh No) What You Got and (And She Said) Take Me Now, which features Janet.

Track Listing
1. Senorita
2. Like I Love You
3. (Oh No) What You Got
4. Take It from Here
5. Cry Me a River
6. Rock Your Body
7. Nothin' Else
8. Last Night
9. Still on My Brain
10. (And She Said) Take Me Now
11. Right for Me
12. Let's Take a Ride
13. Never Again
 


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