So I don’t know if you’ve noticed but NME have gone pretty MASSIVE on the 10th anniversary of The Libertines’ 'Up The Bracket'. It’s been a revelation working on the stories behind one of the biggest British guitar album... certainly of my lifetime. And mainly because (deep breath, everyone) I’d totally never listened to 'Up The Bracket'. Like EVER. I’d heard some of the tracks but my main Libertines thing was being in a club on my 18th birthday and 'Can’t Stand Me Now' coming on and me asking my friend “WOAH WHO IS THIS?” and he was like “IT’S! THE! HAMAMATINES!”. And me being like “THE WHAT?”. And him going “THE MURMURMATINES!” The next day I hazarded a guess and went on iTunes to search for The Clementines. To no avail.
Thing is, I was 15 when 'Up The Bracket' came out and living more than 400 miles from London and obsessed with The OC and miserable US indie bands with terrible names. I had no tattoos, I went to houseparties where we’d listen to Queen’s Greatest Hits and DOWN shots of Smirnoff Ice (!!!) and my homepage on my computer was a website called www.worldofbritney.org.
But beyond all that, I was completely devoted to MTV and the most exciting thing that happened to me in 2002 was a trip to Asda when I bought two albums: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 'By The Way' (an error in hindsight) and Justin Timberlake’s 'Justified' (GROUNDBREAKING). So basically, my point is – 'Justified' is also TEN years old. Which is totally nuts. And I thought, if we’re celebrating music that’s ten years old then I want to talk about Mr JT. Because as far as informing my musical tastes/choice of headwear and BLOWING MY MIND at a very important stage of my life is concerned, this was the album.
Five reasons why Justified should be celebrated ten years on:
Justin Timberlake made one of the most impressive transitions from boyband member to solo “artist” (I use that word in the pre-X Factor sense) ever. Who’d have thought that the high-pitched guy with hair like a cabbage patch doll would be transformed into THIS. Sorry, got side-tracked there. What I mean is: Following the success of N*Sync’s Girlfriend single with Nelly, Justin Timberlake moved from the world of boyband Swedish cheese pop (albeit incredible Swedish cheese pop – have you even heard their second album 'No Strings Attached'?!) to the realm of credible soulful R&B. He found himself getting airplay on the R&B radio stations he’d grow up listening to in Memphis, Tennessee. He was considered cool in circles that included Pharrell Williams and Timbaland. He started talking about smoking weed FFS (a boyband no-no). He was in the running along with David Beckham for White Dude Most Convinced He Was Black. And he completely pulled it off.
It still sounds fresh, tight and thrilling. Pharrell’s signature Neptunes formula is undeniable on his tracks and has never dated. At the time the album was spoken of as the new 'Off The Wall' (mainly because Justin’s Rock Your Body was the noughties update of MJ’s 'Rock With You' from that very LP). But even more than that, the notion of Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson collaborating on a record that used club (disco) music in a mainstream-friendly pop way was mimicked on 'Justified'. Look no further than JT’s sudden obsession with poppin’-and’lockin’ to see an album turning 90s hip-hop club culture into 21st-century chart domination.
I know we’re only twelve years in but I don’t say this lightly. Not only did the video and lyrics focus on the demise of one of the biggest ever popstar love stories (Britney & JT RIP) and feature Justin defying gravity in a house, the Timbaland-produced track proved that originality in pop need never be an issue. Clavinet, a human beatbox, synths, a Gregorian chant, the heart-combusting truthbomb opening of “You were my sun/You were my earth” (his WHOLE earth, Britney! Jeez!)… and that’s only the first 30 seconds! It’s a pop symphony, nay manifesto for new male solo artists. Has anyone bettered it since? Well, go... tell me WHO.
Debut single 'Like I Love You' genuinely challenged pop consumers. There’s nothing predictable about the jaunty rhythmic guitars, loose raps and vocal licks. It could’ve gone in any direction. As for the lead track – 'Senorita' – how many debut albums feature a breakdown that addresses a club crowd? “It feels like something’s heatin’ up, can I leave wit’ youuuuuu?” Yes, you can Justin. You bloody can.
They were really awesome. They released a hawt single called 'Grindin’' and a rollicking album called 'Lord Willin’' that featured Kelis and WHERE THE HELL ARE THEY NOW? Janet Jackson also appeare on the album but everyone's since wiped their collaboration from memory as a result of that event known as The First Time The World Saw A Boob.
There are so many more reasons for celebrating 'Justified' but we're outta time. What are you celebrating ten years of?