FutureSex/LoveSounds is one of the greatest albums of all time.

I know what you're thinking already.

"Justin Timberlake making one of the best albums of all time?" you say. "Impossible. It's pop music, soulless trash written solely to make a profit and not any artistic statement. No pop album can ever be worthy of such lofty praise! Go listen to an actual album."

That's how you sound. And my point still stands that FutureSex/LoveSounds is an important landmark in the world of pop music and music in general. It is less than ten years old, but I still believe that many musicians should take cues from it and learn how to craft a truly great album. Let me explain.

I've been a collector of CDs for most of my life. I don't mean buying them on iTunes, Amazon, or illegally downloading them from the torrents. No, I buy and own the physical discs themselves, and have amassed quite a collection. And while I still buy new CDs and love music in general, I feel like "albums" these days are in general, not as good as they used to be.

I'm not saying that the general quality of music has gotten lower, which is VERY debatable (and in my opinion, not true). I mean the way ALBUMS are created has changed dramatically in my lifetime.

These days, most albums may as well be mixtapes. They are simply collections of songs loosely linked together with some insultingly vague theme. They follow a similar format: brief intro track, 2-3 radio singles, some throwaway songs, more radio singles, ending track. Maybe some skits thrown in if they are feeling particularly fancy.

The albums that almost NO ONE seems to make anymore are like FutureSex/LoveSounds. This album bucks the trend of these lazy pop albums by being incredibly well crafted instead of a glorified mixtape. It's far from a concept album, but the songs on this album share a theme and most importantly, seamlessly blend into each other. This is something pop music has lost these days. I'll explain better by going over most of the tracks on the album.

I'll skip over track 1 (FutureSex/LoveSound) and track 2 (SexyBack). They're fine songs, but they don't really illustrate the brilliance of the album. They're the "throwaway" tracks.

Where the album truly begins is track 3, "Sexy Ladies". This song effectively ends at 4 minutes and transitions into "Let Me Talk To You (Prelude)".

Instead of making a skit, "Let Me Talk To You" is attached onto the end of "Sexy Ladies" to make sure the listener doesn't skip over it. And they SHOULDN'T because this song isn't just a skit, it's the introduction to the next track, "My Love". It's lyrically related, obviously. But it's also musically related, as the chorus is basically a faster version of the chorus of the next song. The interlude is a perfect warm-up for "My Love", and by the time that track starts, there's no way you aren't already totally into it because of the warm-up!

The transition into the next song, "Lovestoned" is subtler, but this is entirely on purpose because this song is essentially two songs on its own and needs to stand alone from "My Love" to work.

Throughout "LoveStoned", violins swell up at several points in the song. An instrument typically reserved for more emotionally heavy songs doesn't really fit in a silly love song, does it? But maybe this isn't just a silly love song? On one listen, the song could be about the song's narrator lusting after a woman. On another, the song is about the narrator being not only infatuated, but obsessed with this woman. The song breaks down into a sparser production, and the violins move from upbeat to almost sorrowful.

Then, at 4:50 the song transforms. It's no longer upbeat, there's no more beatboxing, and the violins get straight up depressing. The lyrics are the same, but the delivery is sadder now. It's all about context here: the narrator knows that the this woman is the only one for him, but they both know it can never be.

Also, this song is long as hell. 7:24 is far too long for a typical radio single, but Timberlake didn't care. He didn't compromise his artistic vision for radio play, but the song still became a massive hit on the radio and was only slightly edited down for the radio: 5:26 is still VERY long for a radio song.

There's no transition between this song and the next one, but the tone stays. "What Goes Around...Comes Around" has the violins and guitars stick around. The song is lyrically and musically as downbeat as the "I Think She Knows" interlude, and I find it really weird just listening to this song alone. It works so well as a follow-up to "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows" that I feel like I'm missing something when I don't listen to the two songs in succession.

This song is ALSO long as hell because it's another two-parter. The first half is a warning to not be TOO in love with someone, as that will only make it hurt worse if they betray you. Like in "I Think She Knows" when the narrator admits he is obsessed with his lover; they've gone from the highest to the lowest points of love in the two songs.

At about 5:23 in this song, the production in the song gets harder: the drums hit harder and the lyrics become much more direct and talk SPECIFICALLY about the betrayal the narrator felt, and his joy that his lover suffered the same thing. It's a meaner song, and the instrumental changes to reflect this.

Not much to say about this interlude, but do take note of the piano riff and dudes shouting "Ey!" at 6:38. It links into the next song...

"Chop Me Up". Not much to say about this one besides the harder drums, piano and dudes shouting "Ey!" carrying over from the previous interlude. The narrator is still in a somewhat aggressive mood after the previous interlude, but is changing the energy from anger at his previous lover to finding someone new.

The next song "Damn Girl" doesn't have a seamless link to the previous, but it has some interesting musical and thematic connections. The drums on this song sound live and organic as opposed to the processed rap drums of Chop Me Up. The thudding piano is replaced with a 1960s-esque funky synthesizer/organ (I'm bad at instruments, I apologize). And the horns make the whole song feel like something the previous wasn't: live, organic, and natural. Timberlake has returned to singing in his natural falsetto as opposed to the sorta-forced half-rapping. I think this song is meant to represent finding love again, but doing it the right way as opposed to being an aggressive jerk about it.

Not much to say about the next track Summer Love. It's a continuation of the theme of the last song: finding new love, being excited about it, all that jazz, etc. The interlude "Set The Mood" starting at 4:13 is the interesting part. It slows down the pace set from the previous two songs, and sets up the next song, which is much slower. Just need to note the harp here, and how it continues into Until The End of Time.

Now the album is winding down, and the narrator has settled down with someone new in this song. And this is also where my track-by-track commentary will end. The final two tracks are very good (especially the storytelling in Losing My Way), but unfortunately they don't share much besides being slower and less energetic than the beginning and middle of the album.

The key point I want to make here is that FutureSex/LoveSounds is an album that is incredibly well crafted. Not just in terms of the production of the songs, but how it is a totally cohesive album. The interludes at the beginning and end of some songs link together in masterful ways, without being broken up as obtrusive skits that you'd just skip anyway.

Pop albums aren't made like this anymore. Most albums in general aren't made like this anymore, and it makes me sad. I love buying CDs and I still do, but it's been a long time since I've heard an album that flows together as well as this one does and demands to be listened to in its entirety, in one sitting. Too many albums these days are just mixtapes full of singles and skits. FutureSex/LoveSounds is an album that you are truly listening to WRONG if you've got it on random or are just skipping to the singles. That's why it's one of the best.

9 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by PerfidiousSinn

I know what you're thinking already.

"Justin Timberlake making one of the best albums of all time?" you say. "Impossible. It's pop music, soulless trash written solely to make a profit and not any artistic statement. No pop album can ever be worthy of such lofty praise! Go listen to an actual album."

That's how you sound. And my point still stands that FutureSex/LoveSounds is an important landmark in the world of pop music and music in general. It is less than ten years old, but I still believe that many musicians should take cues from it and learn how to craft a truly great album. Let me explain.

I've been a collector of CDs for most of my life. I don't mean buying them on iTunes, Amazon, or illegally downloading them from the torrents. No, I buy and own the physical discs themselves, and have amassed quite a collection. And while I still buy new CDs and love music in general, I feel like "albums" these days are in general, not as good as they used to be.

I'm not saying that the general quality of music has gotten lower, which is VERY debatable (and in my opinion, not true). I mean the way ALBUMS are created has changed dramatically in my lifetime.

These days, most albums may as well be mixtapes. They are simply collections of songs loosely linked together with some insultingly vague theme. They follow a similar format: brief intro track, 2-3 radio singles, some throwaway songs, more radio singles, ending track. Maybe some skits thrown in if they are feeling particularly fancy.

The albums that almost NO ONE seems to make anymore are like FutureSex/LoveSounds. This album bucks the trend of these lazy pop albums by being incredibly well crafted instead of a glorified mixtape. It's far from a concept album, but the songs on this album share a theme and most importantly, seamlessly blend into each other. This is something pop music has lost these days. I'll explain better by going over most of the tracks on the album.

I'll skip over track 1 (FutureSex/LoveSound) and track 2 (SexyBack). They're fine songs, but they don't really illustrate the brilliance of the album. They're the "throwaway" tracks.

Where the album truly begins is track 3, "Sexy Ladies". This song effectively ends at 4 minutes and transitions into "Let Me Talk To You (Prelude)".

Instead of making a skit, "Let Me Talk To You" is attached onto the end of "Sexy Ladies" to make sure the listener doesn't skip over it. And they SHOULDN'T because this song isn't just a skit, it's the introduction to the next track, "My Love". It's lyrically related, obviously. But it's also musically related, as the chorus is basically a faster version of the chorus of the next song. The interlude is a perfect warm-up for "My Love", and by the time that track starts, there's no way you aren't already totally into it because of the warm-up!

The transition into the next song, "Lovestoned" is subtler, but this is entirely on purpose because this song is essentially two songs on its own and needs to stand alone from "My Love" to work.

Throughout "LoveStoned", violins swell up at several points in the song. An instrument typically reserved for more emotionally heavy songs doesn't really fit in a silly love song, does it? But maybe this isn't just a silly love song? On one listen, the song could be about the song's narrator lusting after a woman. On another, the song is about the narrator being not only infatuated, but obsessed with this woman. The song breaks down into a sparser production, and the violins move from upbeat to almost sorrowful.

Then, at 4:50 the song transforms. It's no longer upbeat, there's no more beatboxing, and the violins get straight up depressing. The lyrics are the same, but the delivery is sadder now. It's all about context here: the narrator knows that the this woman is the only one for him, but they both know it can never be.

Also, this song is long as hell. 7:24 is far too long for a typical radio single, but Timberlake didn't care. He didn't compromise his artistic vision for radio play, but the song still became a massive hit on the radio and was only slightly edited down for the radio: 5:26 is still VERY long for a radio song.

There's no transition between this song and the next one, but the tone stays. "What Goes Around...Comes Around" has the violins and guitars stick around. The song is lyrically and musically as downbeat as the "I Think She Knows" interlude, and I find it really weird just listening to this song alone. It works so well as a follow-up to "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows" that I feel like I'm missing something when I don't listen to the two songs in succession.

This song is ALSO long as hell because it's another two-parter. The first half is a warning to not be TOO in love with someone, as that will only make it hurt worse if they betray you. Like in "I Think She Knows" when the narrator admits he is obsessed with his lover; they've gone from the highest to the lowest points of love in the two songs.

At about 5:23 in this song, the production in the song gets harder: the drums hit harder and the lyrics become much more direct and talk SPECIFICALLY about the betrayal the narrator felt, and his joy that his lover suffered the same thing. It's a meaner song, and the instrumental changes to reflect this.

Not much to say about this interlude, but do take note of the piano riff and dudes shouting "Ey!" at 6:38. It links into the next song...

"Chop Me Up". Not much to say about this one besides the harder drums, piano and dudes shouting "Ey!" carrying over from the previous interlude. The narrator is still in a somewhat aggressive mood after the previous interlude, but is changing the energy from anger at his previous lover to finding someone new.

The next song "Damn Girl" doesn't have a seamless link to the previous, but it has some interesting musical and thematic connections. The drums on this song sound live and organic as opposed to the processed rap drums of Chop Me Up. The thudding piano is replaced with a 1960s-esque funky synthesizer/organ (I'm bad at instruments, I apologize). And the horns make the whole song feel like something the previous wasn't: live, organic, and natural. Timberlake has returned to singing in his natural falsetto as opposed to the sorta-forced half-rapping. I think this song is meant to represent finding love again, but doing it the right way as opposed to being an aggressive jerk about it.

Not much to say about the next track Summer Love. It's a continuation of the theme of the last song: finding new love, being excited about it, all that jazz, etc. The interlude "Set The Mood" starting at 4:13 is the interesting part. It slows down the pace set from the previous two songs, and sets up the next song, which is much slower. Just need to note the harp here, and how it continues into Until The End of Time.

Now the album is winding down, and the narrator has settled down with someone new in this song. And this is also where my track-by-track commentary will end. The final two tracks are very good (especially the storytelling in Losing My Way), but unfortunately they don't share much besides being slower and less energetic than the beginning and middle of the album.

The key point I want to make here is that FutureSex/LoveSounds is an album that is incredibly well crafted. Not just in terms of the production of the songs, but how it is a totally cohesive album. The interludes at the beginning and end of some songs link together in masterful ways, without being broken up as obtrusive skits that you'd just skip anyway.

Pop albums aren't made like this anymore. Most albums in general aren't made like this anymore, and it makes me sad. I love buying CDs and I still do, but it's been a long time since I've heard an album that flows together as well as this one does and demands to be listened to in its entirety, in one sitting. Too many albums these days are just mixtapes full of singles and skits. FutureSex/LoveSounds is an album that you are truly listening to WRONG if you've got it on random or are just skipping to the singles. That's why it's one of the best.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I was hoping this album would literally be recordings of Justin Timberlake making sweet love to his lady. I am sorely disappointed.

Posted by Philantrophy

I don't need to add anything more, just that I agree with your sentiments.

Posted by believer258

Alesana's "The Emptiness" is a (somewhat) recent album that covers one whole story from different perspectives, though it's hardly a pop album; the sort of thing you want isn't gone from music, it just doesn't pop up in anything mainstream these days. You've gotta look for it and you can find it.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn

@believer258 said:

Alesana's "The Emptiness" is a (somewhat) recent album that covers one whole story from different perspectives, though it's hardly a pop album; the sort of thing you want isn't gone from music, it just doesn't pop up in anything mainstream these days. You've gotta look for it and you can find it.

I'll probably check it out then. I don't only listen to pop music, I just picked this out as an example because it's the last time I felt like I listened to an album with these characteristics (songs linking together seamlessly, a running theme throughout the album)

Posted by TheSouthernDandy

I like JT. Maybe not so much for his music (although Rock Your Body is GREAT) but the dudes hilarious. The stuff he does with Lonely Island is pretty great. I'd give this album a listen cause of that.

Edited by TeflonBilly

I think FutureSex/LoveSounds is an amazing pop album, however it really does lose some of it's cohesiveness as an album on the last third.

Losing My Way, Damn Girl and Pose just go clumsily together (Not to mention being the weakest songs on the album) that they feel like they're just stuck in there at the tail end of the album to pad it out so they can finish strong with (Another Song) All Over Again.

I really wish Justin would hop back from being in front of the cameras and back in the booth cause he's an extremely good pop artist. Hell, he's the closest to the second coming of MJ we've come to yet and it saddens me that Justin Bieber and Chris Brown who are not half the performers or artists that he is a re seemingly being groomed for that role.

Edited by TeflonBilly

As for album's with a clear theme (Or concept) if you will, I have always been fond of Nine Inch Nail's The Downward Spiral.

The whole album can be interpeted as the story/inner dialogue/monologu of a man and his vices as they embrace all the self destructive impulses he has and how it affects himself and anybody close to his tainted touch. Trent wrote it while he himself was in a "Downward Spiral" and you can sense how real a lot of the pain and self loathing the main character of the album is revelling.

It also includes some of Trent's most beautiful calm pieces in the oasis of aural pleasure that is "A Warm Place" that follows the noisy "Big Man With A Big Gun" and the song "Hurt" which most people I assume have heard Johnny Cash make his complete own song (Even Trent says that it's not his song anymore, it's Cash's)

The album is extremely versatile, starting with the bombastic and staticky "Mr. Self Destruct" where the lyrics break down all drugs and heinous activties taht are killing the main character in screaming distortion only to segue right into the slow and jazzy "Piggy" which is like a calm hangover from a very heavy night of debauchery. The sexy bass just carries the whole song as it gets more out of sorts and the drums get more snare on them.

After that it flips into "Heresy" which is an extremely poppy industrial piece attacking religion and the main characters denouncement of it. "March Of The Pigs" goes from the poppy synth in the former song into a full on drumming blast and overdriven guitars with an ode to violence and seemingly casting away order and rules. Ending with a calm singing voice and a lone pretty piano ditty it goes into maybe the best known track on the album "Closer". An ode to filthy, beastial animal lust. (Word of warning, this music video has some disturbing magery in it so it is definitely NSFW. However it's also recognized as maybe one of the music videos that elevated the genre to an art form in the 90's, Mark Romanek's imagery in it is mesmerizing.)

The thumping beat and the not exactly subtle choris of "I wanna fuck you like an animal! I wanna fell you from the inside" wasily conveys the message of the song. "Ruiner" which follows keeps to the same theme and sounds more like an aural orgy between the instruments whil Trent croons seductively over. The creaky repetition in the background and the different tones of voices, moans and screams just strengthen the mood.

After the release that "Ruiner" seemed to be, "The Becoming" becomes more like a guiltridden refractory period. This is about the time in the album where the main character is really beginning to feel the effects of having given in to the drigs, the violence and the sex. The beat is foreboding and oppressive. People are wailing in the background. And he is beginning to have second thoughts of this debauchery is the way to go. After pondering on this we go to "I Do Not Want This" which almost feels like the main character bargaining with himself if this is the right thing to do, you have the rational side talking over the sparse beat and the piano then the distorted loud guitars and yelling being the side just lashing out. "Big Man With A Big Gun" is a violent power fantasy, there are clear sexual, if not rape allusions, throughout the song and wether this is the main character acting out or being victimized by his darker side is up for debate. "A Warm Place" follows which is a hauntingly beautiful instrumental piece. It's the part of himself that the main character has managed to keep pure and untainted.

However it ends on a rather foreboding note and slips into "Eraser" a song which just build and builds with malice ending in what seems like a cacophony of chainsaws that are getting through the walls protecting the pure place mentioned earlier. As it ends we hear the mechanical rhythms of "Reptile" which touches upon the people hurt by the main characters acting out. After that we hit rock bottom with the title track "The Downward Spiral" the main character is now a broken man, having hurt himself and everybody else in his pursuit if nothing but selfish pleasures and denoument of everything from religion to society. Much like "A Warm Place" it begins with a sort of undewater feel, but there is no hope or beauty here, everything is mechanical and filthy with a lone guitar being the only thing to lament properly that everything has gone wrong. The wails of the damned and the detached voiceover would almost suggest that the main character is at the entrance of Hell itself.

And finally the denoument, "Hurt" has Trent at some of his most vulnerable confessing his sins to any one who will listen. It's set over a sparse melody and even though it's Johnny Cash's song now, the beauty of Trent's admission of guilt at the end of the album is still a powerful song. Many suggest that the loud bang at the very end of the song is the main character shooting himself.

"The Downward Spiral" is exactly that, a nihilistic fall from grace of somebody wallowing in debauchery and sin. It's also an absolutely gorgeous album, lyrically and sonically, and one of the best concept albums out there.

Posted by loopy_101

FutureSex/LoveSounds was a damn great album and Timberlake's a decent pop artist, his acting on the otherhand... Eek