It's hard to imagine a world without Justin Timberlake. No lovably awkward Mickey Mouse Club duets, no bleached-blond curls or coordinating denim outfits, zero hours spent in front of the mirror trying to learn the choreography from the "Bye Bye Bye" video, definitely no "Cry Me a River" (the greatest break-up anthem of all time). Hell, who knows if "sexy" would have ever come back were it not for our boy JT.
After he transformed a humiliating split with pop princess Britney Spears into a debut solo album of Billboard bangers, it didn't take long for the world to understand: Our favorite turn-of-the-millennium boy-bander was turning out to be a crazy-talented, bona fide badass.
Fast-forward to now, and it's no surprise the soul-dancing, falsetto-singing actor-producer-entrepreneur-whatever has collaborated with some of the best in the biz. In honor of his upcoming concerts at the BB&T Center and American Airlines Arena, let's take a look at some of JT's most genius collaborations.
1. "Dick in a Box" with the Lonely Island. Clearly, Andy Samberg was inspired when the producers of Saturday Night Live asked him to write a song showcasing Timberlake's voice for JT's 2006 appearance on the show. "Dick in a Box" was recorded in one night and was both filmed and premiered the next day. After the video went viral on the web and won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (yes, really), the collaboration continued with 2009's ode to MILFs, "Motherlover," and 2011's "3-Way (The Golden Rule)," a defining classic of our generation. Justin, you can sing. You can dance. You can act. But it wasn't until you were funny that you really won our hearts.
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2. Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show with Janet Jackson. This year marks the tenth anniversary of Nipplegate, the fateful evening Timberlake ripped off a piece of Janet Jackson's bustier during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, exposing the diva's right breast to the world and giving birth to a phenomenon now known as the "wardrobe malfunction." We, like you, may have skimmed one or two articles outlining "what really happened" that night. Did Jackson know her career was about to self-destruct? Did Timberlake know his would skyrocket? Was the aftermath ridiculous and unfair? We may never know. One thing is certain: Nipplegate will live on in our memories and in our hearts as a strange, confusing, and slightly arousing conflation of everything we truly love in America.
3. "Suit & Tie" with Jay Z. Whether you love or lament Timberlake's chemically straightened locks, his pompadour period has borne many fruits, among them the lead track off his 2013 comeback album, The 20/20 Experience. Not only did his return from acting to music prove a triumph in this luxuriant, chart-topping single, but the collaboration with hip-hop legend Jay Z also helped secure JT's place as a respected and influential R&B artist.
4. "My Love" with T.I. It's hard to believe this track came out way back in 2006 on Timberlake's debut followup, FutureSex/LoveSounds, because as far as we're concerned, it still bangs pretty hard. Often compared to 2002's "Cry Me a River," "My Love" was awarded Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2007 Grammy Awards and helped earn Timberlake the Male Artist of the Year and Best Choreography in a Video nods at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. Even indie touter Pitchfork couldn't deny Timberlake's dirty, dirty pop, declaring "My Love" its number one song of 2006.
5. "Ayo Technology" with 50 Cent. Though 50 Cent's third studio album, 2007's Curtis, failed to stack up against Kanye West's competing release, Graduation, Timberlake's sultry vocals helped the album's fourth single peak at number five on the Billboard Hot 100. Speaking to the sexual frustrations of a generation raised in front of digital screens, Fitty and JT, along with producer Timbaland, tapped into all of our hyperreal, eight-bit strip club fantasies by posing a simple yet provocative question: "Why don't you sit down on top of me?"