Justin Timberlake…through the lens of MUSC30

by katrinam22

In class, we’ve studied musical forms such as binary form (popular during the Baroque period), sonata form (popular in mid-18th century), etc. We explored how these various forms were used for specific types of performances such as minuets, trios in symphonies and sonatas. We heard examples of binary form in works by Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. What does this have to do with JT? Keep reading.

Justin Timberlake, undoubtedly, is one of the most popular and successful artists of our time. His second solo album Futuresex/Lovesounds was the first where the Memphis native arguably established his sound as an artist. We hear him venturing into new sonic territory that still has all the markings of JT, but is structurally different from his past work. For example, the video below is for his hit single “Lovestoned/I Think She Knows”. The first half of the song is uptempo and beatbox driven while the latter half is slower, atmospheric and features echoed vocals. The transition between the two halves is seamless. Would you consider these two distinct songs or some sort of binary form?

This duality within songs is far more developed on Timberlake’s most recent LP, The 20/20 Experience (moreso on part 1 than 2). The first part was released earlier this year while the second was released a few weeks ago. If any of you are familiar with both albums, how would you compare Timberlake’s selection of songs across both albums to the idea we visited in class of Bach as an encyclopedic composer? Based on what we know about Bach, do you think he would approve of the way JT organized both albums? Based on melodic structure, do you think any song(s) on either album fit better on the opposite album?

Consider the song below. Compare the structure of “Pusher Love Girl” to “Lovestoned/I Think She Knows”. Is one a better example of “Timberlake binary form” than the other? Are you not convinced at all by this binary proposition in either or both cases? Is it more of a 2-for-1 special than any kind of musical form? I’d love to hear what you all think!

-Katrina Murray

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