Justin Timberlake is looking back at his time working with Timbaland and how it filled a “prophecy” he had as a 14-year-old boy.
Speaking with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, the “Sexy Back” singer shared his Essentials playlist of his 20 favourite songs.
Recalling the No. 1 hit, Timberlake said that they received pushback on the song included that “It’s too fast” to “It doesn’t sound like you” to “It doesn’t have your signature falsetto.”
“I was listening to ‘Rebel Rebel,’ which essentially is about a cross-dresser. And so I was picturing guys, girls, all iterations of that in a club, singing this to each other,” he said of the David Bowie song. “And I said, ‘This has to be so simple and a vibe and just like an attitude.’ And I was like, ‘What’s the most audacious thing you could possibly say?’ And that was the first line of the song.”
Good thing Timberlake kept pushing, because the song went on to win the Grammy award in 2007.
“I’ll never forget this moment. So [Timbaland’s] like, ‘All right man, I think we got to bring dance music back.’ So he’s [beatboxing]… He’s like, ‘Whatchu you gonna say?’ I just go like this, [singing] ‘I’m bringing sexy back!’ And he goes, ‘Yeah!’ He just said ‘Yeah!’ But Timbaland doesn’t do anything off-beat. You should know that,” he recalled.
Adding, “So then we just started trading lines back and forth and it was just, it honestly, it was like a pop-dance cipher. You know, where we were, everything was off the top of the head, and we were just going. And then we finished it, we knew it was different. We would invite people to the studio. And every time that record came on, the reaction you got from any female was, I was like, ‘This is it.'”
Timberlake also remembered in the early days of *NSYNC, how Miss Elliott’s debut album Supa Dupa Fly was being released (which was produced by Timbaland) and how he told his mom that he will work with him if “it’s the last thing I do.”
“That was like a prophecy for me. You have to understand, like when I was 14 and we were just actually forming the group [*NSYNC], Supa Dupa Fly was the thing for me. And I said to my mother, ‘I will work with that man one day. I will work with him one day if it’s the last thing I do,'” Timberlake said. “And of course, I was 14, and just like… I probably could have said anything at that point and believed it…. We had met a little bit. He really liked ‘It’s Gonna Be Me,’ actually. And we met him outside a studio one time and I was kind of realizing that maybe it wasn’t going to be possible.”