The Fall of Justin Timberlake Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance divided my Twitter timeline on Sunday night. Some people enjoyed his medley of hits while others longed for the days of Bruno Mars and Beyonce. Everyone agreed that Prince on a bedsheet was a terrible idea. My mom, who likes Timberlake and enjoys the majority of his music, found his performance to be boring.

Timberlake’s performance came on the heels of his latest album release Man of the Woods. The album currently has a 53 on Metacritic. I’ve listened to it once and found it to be pretty mediocre, so a 53 rating makes sense.

No piece has ethered Timberlake quite like Denise Balkssoon’s article in The Globe and Mail.

She argues that Timberlake has always been mediocre, but that we accepted it because he was a white male. Now, with the rise of power black males and females, mediocrity can no longer be accepted.

Rooting out mediocrity hires is good for organizations, governments and society, as well as for people who are offered opportunities that they otherwise might have been denied. It will be harder to accept for guys such as Mr. Timberlake, who have grown used to their mere existence being considered an achievement.

It’s unfair to say Timberlake is less popular. Man of the Woods is going to be the best-selling male album since Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. People still care about Timberlake the same way they care about any older act who is still releasing new projects. We know they can be great because they’ve been great before.

And that’s why I have an issue with saying Timberlake has always been mediocre, because it’s not true. He’s delivered a couple of classic albums and some timeless songs. Maybe he’s glorified more than he should be, but he is not, and should never be, compared to Michael Jackson. But let’s not act like he’s never put out anything better than average.

“Cry Me A River” is better than your favorite pop song since 2000.

Timberlake’s biggest problem, and the problem of every great early 2000’s artist who is still releasing nearly 20 years later, is that he’s coasting off that past success. Man of the Woods did nothing to elevate his all-time status. If anything, it probably hurt his standing. But every artist who holds on for too long ends up hurting their standing.

The only reason Timberlake isn’t as good now as he was then is because he’s compared to his past self. Only great artists get compared to their previous efforts and not what’s currently out. Timberlake was a great artist.

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