Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Justin Timberlake: #Hashtag of the Year

He was the nonstop trending topic of 2013: The gigs at the Super Bowl (with Jay Z) and the White House (with the president). The albums. The movies. And all those viral videos with Jimmy Fallon, including the one that'll make you never want to tweet again. 

Amy Wallace talks to Justin Timberlake about the many moments that made him a MOTY, from the undeniably glorious ones to a couple that, frankly, he's @!*$%# pissed off about


“So I find it ironic that I'm doing an interview with you about Man of the Year when I feel—literally—like a bunch of people just took a shit on my face.”
Justin Timberlake has had better Mondays. We're sitting in the FedExForum in Memphis, his hometown, five rows back from where his NBA team, the Memphis Grizzlies (he's a minority owner), plays ball. There are 18,119 seats in this arena, and 18,117 of them are empty. Today, this is how he wants it. After sailing through the first nine months of the year like some kind of celebrity superhero—a one-man juggernaut of singing and dancing and hosting and viral-video-ing—Timberlake has taken some punches in the past few days.

“Double whammy,” he says, referring to critics' excoriation of both Runner Runner, a thriller he made with Ben Affleck that has just had a disastrous opening weekend ($8 million, and that's rounding up), and The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2, his second number one album of the year. Specifically, Variety has just run an op-ed titled “Why Justin Timberlake Should Stop Acting.” (Oof.) And Billboard has, in Timberlake's words, “said, ‘Tell him to leave his second half at home.’ Where did all this vitriol come from? It's mean. And I'm not cut out for it.”
Slouched down in jeans and a T-shirt, the guy sitting next to me looks nothing like the suave showman from the “Suit & Tie” video. He's fidgety. He keeps tugging at the stubble on his chin
“This face,” he says, circling it with one finger. “This recognizable face that you work so hard to get—not because you want the recognition but because you know you're made to do it.” This face, he's saying, comes at a cost. “The movie didn't do well at the box office, so I should quit? Hold on a second. If I was somebody else, you wouldn't have said that. I have the number one album this week, and I shouldn't have released it? Come on, man. You sound like a dickhead.... It just shocked me because, like, you're trade magazines. None of your opinions count. And by the way, none of you can do it.”
When we first sat down, Timberlake seemed vulnerable. Confused, even. Now he's just pissed. He starts talking about Memphis, the place that he says defines him: “It's a struggling city with a defeatist attitude. I'm from this town, and I grew up with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, so sometimes I find it funny that I've been able to acquire the patience it takes to be kind to people in our business. Because sometimes I just want to fucking kill everybody.”
But just as the 32-year-old Justin Timberlake seems bent on morphing into the 1999 version of Marshall Mathers, he takes a deep breath, and I swear it's like the stale air around us just got a few degrees cooler. His anger was a splinter under the skin. Now that it's out, he already feels better.
“I don't see myself as someone who's ever going to be defined by one moment,” he says. “It's on to the next.” He's sitting up taller, and his blue eyes have a glint that wasn't there before. Timberlake's skills on the golf course and basketball court are well-known, and now he seems to be summoning the elite athlete's ability to shake off a run of bad play as if it never happened.
Which is right around the time that all the spotlights in the arena click on and start to swirl, moving in curlicues as if searching for their starting point guard. “Is this normal?” Timberlake calls out to a couple of workmen nearby. “Naw,” one of them calls back. “They just know you're here.”

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