RCA Records

Rock Your Body: Justin Timberlake’s Singles Ranked



The initial response to Timberlake’s latest single, “Filthy,” was not unlike that of 2006’s “SexyBack,” which, in my review of FutureSex/LoveSounds, I called “the best worst lead single ever.” Despite those affected (and effected) vocals, a deliberately flat beat, and Timbaland’s corny hype-man routine, the track seduces you with the batshit-cheeky lure of a novelty hit. And novel it was: It’s hard to imagine Timberlake’s (or Timbaland’s) catalogue without it. Cinquemani


“Like I Love You”

The acoustic guitar loops and snap-crackle-pop percussion of “Like I Love You” picked up where NSYNC’s swan song, “Girlfriend,” left off, making it the obvious choice for Timberlake’s first official solo release. Though the single’s follow-up, “Cry Me a River,” would cement both the viability of Justin’s post-boy-band career and his own signature sound, everything about the rollout of “Like I Love You”—to say nothing of that Jacko-esque falsetto—seemed to be positioning JT as the rightful successor to MJ. Cinquemani



Of all of Justified’s singles, this one has the most settled-into gait, a swagger that’s in no rush to justify its affinity for leisure. And though at least one aimed higher—and is accordingly ranked higher here—and others were, in the moment, more immediately embraced, none more accurately pinpointed exactly the sort of pop-R&B messiah Justin would forevermore aspire to be. Prince once sang, “I’m not a woman, I’m not a man.” Here’s an acolyte who’ll be either, whatever you need. Henderson


“My Love”

After getting more or less Louisette Bertholle’d from Missy Elliott’s The Cookbook, producer Timbaland set his sights on little JT’s continuing dog-and-pony show. “SexyBack” was the mutant novelty hit, wherein Tim’s King Kong beats all but crushed Justin’s Faye Wray vocals. But the butter and the meat came together in salaciously un-kosher fashion with the dead-sexy “My Love,” a tip-top, hot-blooded vehicle for Timberlake’s true calling as the 21st century’s skanky Ben Vereen. Listen closely. You can hear everyone’s mouth watering. Henderson


“Cry Me a River”

Years before a giggling piggy helped land Timberlake his second #1 single with “My Love,” a sniveling, snot-nosed ogre made a similar cameo on the singer’s hit “Cry Me a River.” That eccentric vocal embellishment, dreamt up in Timbaland’s lab, was just one element—along with Justin’s beatboxing, countertenor yelps, and “Dirty Diana”-style screams—that helped make the Britney kiss-off a smash and Justin the new Prince of Pop. “Cry Me a River” might be the closest a pop song has gotten to capturing the melodrama and opulence of opera since, well, maybe ever. Cinquemani