JT

(Listen to Strawberry Bubblegum, one of my favorite tracks off of this album)

So I write this because I’m unabashedly excited about Justin Timberlake’s new album The 20/20 Experience.  I’ve now listened to the entire thing any chance I can get and I am anxiously awaiting my car ride to Toronto where I can listen to the entire thing from beginning to end once more.  It’s THAT good.

My relationship with the music of Justin Timberlake has been quite interesting.  When he was part of *NSYNC, I wanted nothing to do with any of those songs (though I will deny singing along to “Tearing Up My Heart” and “Girlfriend”). When he released his first solo album Justified as what I thought initially was a self-indulgent side project for this boy bander, I kinda started to pay attention because the album was produced by The Neptunes and Timbaland.  “Like I Love You” came on the airwaves and I liked it.  It sounded fresh and different.  But I didn’t buy it.

Then, “Cry Me A River” entered the picture and I froze in my tracks.

Then I saw the video and I was sold.  I saw the emergence of someone trying to actually do something different, and perhaps shake the boy band mold.  I caved, and I bought the CD.  And I was pleased to find that the entire album was a new sounding and fun R&B album.  I got it.  There was more to this guy. He’s a songwriter and producer too – mad respect with that.

I love when artists take a long time between records.  Because that shows that it’s not just about making a profit, but they want to create something that they can stand by.  Don’t get me wrong – I get frustrated and antsy when an artist I love takes a long time too, but I respect it at the same time.  It’s a lovely dichotomy.

So, 4 years later, Justin releases Futuresex/Love Sounds and everyone goes mental – but I didn’t. I liked the album, but its freaky sexual personality felt more forced to me more than anything.  There’s some songs I do like on it, but as a whole I wasn’t a fan.  I sort attribute that album for him as the “fuck structure and what people want – I’m releasing a freaky album that distances myself from any boy band fandom memory you may have!”  Which is fine – I think every artist who is trying to break out of a mold that the public puts him or her in, ends up making an album that sorta tries to rebel against that (see Alanis Morissette’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie for reference – an album I admire but not for all, but clearly part of her evolution as well).

Mara and I (and Chantal and Carl!) ended up seeing Justin in concert the summer of 2007 for the tour he did around Futuresex.  That really cinched the deal for me – this guy was the real thing.  Piano playing, guitar playing, really interacting with the audience…it was a great show.  (I will never forget at the end of his show, The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” came on as he was bowing, and he got the entire crowd to wave their arms in the air to the timing of the song. Sounds lame but it was a great moment.)

So, here we are 7 years later, and he releases his third album.  There has been so much anticipation for this one, it’s been ridiculously thick.   I immediately liked “Suit and Tie” when it was released, but I grew tired of it quickly.  That being said, the vibe from the song indicated to me that perhaps he was going for a more traditional sounding R&B album, which made me happy.

My nephew sent me the tracks (Thanks, Ryan!) on Sunday and I was amazed at what I had heard.  These songs represent a whole new person, as clearly he’s gone through a lot of growth in 7 years (which is completely normal).  These songs were strong, sonically really interesting and different, live sounding (meaning not programmed) and not a one-dimensional thing when it came to the topic of love and sex.  It’s clear that this man is in love and adores his wife.  I love hearing that in each song.  This album will play amazing live.

You can hear MJ in certain songs, and Prince and Stevie Wonder and even Radiohead in others. (Read an interview where Justin  professed his love for Thom Yorke, and had been listening to a lot of OK Computer and Kid A during the making of this album – AMAZING! Check out Blue Ocean Floor – beautiful song)  It’s evident that their music influenced the making of this one – and he is still able to put his own sound and spin on it.

So, here’s a contender for the best album of 2013 (along with The Shadowboxers’s “Red Room” album – check that one out too!).  Run out and get Justin’s album.  So worth it.

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Party

20 years is a long time. I’m in the midst of co-organizing my 20 year high school reunion.  My wife keeps saying that she’s never seen someone who is this much looking forward to a high school reunion.

I think it’s a few things:

1) 20 years is a long time – and it is long enough to come to terms with your high school life, and be at some kind of peace with the entire experience.

2) I think moving back to Montreal after leaving this fair city for a really long time has something to do with it too.  I am finding a real need and desire to reconnect with the Montreal parts of me that have been dormant for a long time.  I love being back home more and more each day.

When my friend Lynn and I decided to do this reunion, we created a Facebook page to get things started and get the ball rolling.  The ball is on fire now, as alumni from our graduating here are sharing memories and thoughts – and most of all, pictures. There are memories of high school that I love and treasure, and there are memories that I clearly have banished to some crevice in my mind that can’t be retrieved.

Naively, I think I had this belief that everyone in my graduating class had the same collective, general experience that I had.  I don’t know why I thought that.  I guess I had forgotten.

Looking at the pictures my classmates were posting, it dawned on me that this wasn’t the case.  I had forgotten about the divide that exists in high school between the “nerds” and the “cool kids”. Of course as you get older, that divide vanishes completely but looking at these pictures from others made me realize – their experiences, as fun and gorgeous as it looked, was definitely not mine.  At least, not in the beginning years of high school that is.  It made me remember the sheltered upbringing I did have while in high school – no trips for me, no real “going out” for parties (again mostly at the beginning of high school years) just a lot of inner angst and staying at home (this is excluding the times of having parties when my mother had left town for business.).  I think it evened out a little as I began to cross the finish line of graduating year, but it definitely took a fair amount of time.

I had forgotten all of this.

High school was an up and down series of awkward and even more awkward.  Here I was, this “shrimpy” brown kid trying to fit in, when sometimes it really didn’t happen.  Mushroom cut, big glasses and being two sizes smaller than my age requirement made for some really intimidating and dumb moments.  By the time high school ended, I was ready to tackle what the world was going to throw at me.

High school lasted five years.  We’ve all had experiences that collectively last much longer than that specific scholastic experience.

So why is it we want to revisit?

I think that those five years are the most seminal in a person’s life.  It sets the stage for the other seminal moments in your life.  You make your most treasured friends during that experience.  Though you may lose touch as time wears on, I am heartened by the thought that those people are still thought of fondly, that there is a bit of an unspoken language between you and them that is understood.

And maybe we all want to show each other that everything ended up being okay – that for all of the anxiety that you go through from 12-16, by the time you reach your late 30’s, you want to be able to show your classmates that you stopped crawling out of your skin and you’re more than ready to go on that dance floor and party the night away.