Each week, Sunday School takes a second look at a classic album worth revisiting years after its release. EMMIE staff handpick releases that shaped a genre, defined a generation or deserve recognition despite being left in the distance. Keep up with Sunday School for your weekly dose of dusted-off classics and throwbacks that merit a second spin.
Release Date: November 5, 2002
Good For: Naked Twister, rollin’ through your neighborhood with freshly-tinted rims, scoring an ultra-sexy remake of Vanilla Sky
Standout Tracks: “Like I Love You (feat. Clipse),” “Cry Me a River,” “Rock Your Body”
Yes, it was my 6th birthday on which I first truly understood “artistry:” creative skill or ability that budges and emotes, regardless of surface or platform. Yes, I found that meaning in Justin Timberlake’s debut album, Justified.
The 2002 R&B ballad is more than just a call for love; it’s an unquenched, lustful leap from headlining-boy band-status to conscious, free-flowing individual. Justified is JT’s declaration of arrival, a stage-setting phenomenon that led to FutureSex/LoveSounds and The 20/20 Experience.
2003’s Best Pop Vocal Album was nearly entirely produced by Virginia Beach duo The Neptunes (which consists of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo for all you lame-o’s out there) and Hip-Hop guru Timbaland. There is a noticeable strife between sharp, drum-driven tracks like “Like I Love You,” doughy songs oozing ‘70s Disco appeal like “Rock Your Body” and experimental beats like that on “Cry Me a River.”
JT’s most undeniable physical quality is his voice. The cherubic breath that snatched hearts during the reign of NSYNC displayed full-fledged catharsis across Justified, making it one of the most recognizable singing voices in the world in a short amount of time. “Still On My Brain” is one of the many tracks on Justified in which Justin unleashes incredible range. With falsettos flanking the background, Justin sings “Now I could say that I don’t love you no more / And I could say that I’ve closed the door for our love.”
Vocally, Justified is mainly a one-man show, aside from the casual cameos from then-superstar Janet Jackson and grounded coke rap group Clipse (arguably the most underrated rap group of all-time… Side note: I am a huge Clipse fan, so I am sorry for that shameful plug). However, this certainly plays into JT’s favor: Justified not only accentuated his already-profound singing voice, but it proved that parting from NSYNC was the right choice in the end. While there is certainly a case built against this, Justified is, arguably, Justin Timberlake’s hallmark release.