Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 14--The Boy Band Boy

Hawkins, Stan. “[Un]Justified: Gestures of Straight-Talk in Justin Timberlake’s Songs.” In Oh Boy! Masculinities and Popular Music, edited by Freya Jarman-Ivens, 197-212. New York: Routledge, 2007.


  • Justin Timberlake: "Rock Your Body," "Cry Me A River," "Right for Me," "Never Again" (tracks available in Blackboard)
  • (optional) Timberlake & Beyonce: "Single Ladies" 


Harold said...

Question: Michael Jackson (MJ) and Justin Timberlake (JT) have always shared a similarity in my book. From their dancing to style and ranging of singing, is apparent JT looked up to MJ. However, how can we be so harsh on the masculinity of MJ over JT? Hawkins elegantly suggested that JT is queering with heterosexuality. Couldn’t it have been the same case for MJ? Essentially, do the artists biographies or musical lives play a greater importance in identifying their sexuality?

Artifact discussion:
I feel that the SNL skit presented shows two different aspects of JT’s professional life. Not only is JT a dancer and singer, but he is also an actor. After appearing in movies like The Social Network, the public has seen that he can also act. With a show like SNL acting is important part of the skits to make the audience laugh. I feel what JT did is not necessarily another example of his queering heterosexuality, but rather an attempt to garner laughs from the audience. The interactions with Beyoncé, such as the grinding, show still a sense of sexual prowess and heterosexuality that would be expected from someone who is, for all intents and purpose, acting.

Moreover, the videos posted also show this “boy talk” Hawkins is referring to. In “Cry Me a River” we see an emotional JT that makes the audience feel bad for him that his girlfriend cheated. At the same time, we also see “Rock Your Body” talk about JT’s sexual desires in the euphemism “rock you body.” In contrast, we see a marked difference between the early solo career of JT both in emotion, style, and content as evidenced by the differences in “Cry Me a River” and “Rock Your Body.” We see a very emotional JT presumably singing about his break-up with Britney Spears. The vulnerable JT is somewhat blurring the lines between pop and hip-hop and definitely showing more emotion than we would normally expect from singers. In contrast, “Rock Your Body” seems very sexual in JT’s pelvic motions, thrusting of his female dancers, and the general grunts and whispers in the background. In my opinion, JT is a mainstream artist that is giving the public what they want to hear and not be complacent in his style. As it is harder to keep new generations attentions with so much technology and constant advertising, the ability to reinvent one’s self or present new parts of one’s self is crucial to successful career as a recording artist.

Samantha said...

Why is it okay for some artists like Michael Jackson to appropriate the styles of artists before them, yet Stan Hawkins accuses Justin Timberlake of "pretending to be someone he is not" in his appropriation of Michael Jackson's falsetto?

In the last class, our guest speaker discussed some of the artists who influenced the style of the late Michael Jackson. Jackson often referred to James Brown as the main Motown artists from whom he drew inspiration. Justin Timberlake often claims that he draws much of his vocal and dance ideas from those of Michael Jackson. However, Hawkins accuses Justin Timberlake of "pretending to be someone he is not." How does Hawkins know who Justin really is? Justin Timberlake is hardly the first example of a white artist has appropriated the techniques and styles of a black artist. For example, Elvis infiltrated dance moves deemed "black" into his concerts, making hip thrusts his signature trademark. Was Elvis pretending to be someone he wasn't? Perhaps this explains why his later career collapsed into failure.

If Justin is merely performing the role of the artist he claims to be, then maybe he will share Elvis' fate. For my part, I think that Justin truly aspires to embody certain elements of Michael Jackson while remaining true to his personal style. Michael Jackson is simply his artistic role model. Now Justin Timberlake helps keep Jackson's legacy alive.

Spence said...

Do people really question Justin Timberlake’s sexuality?

Artifact Discussion:
This article makes a few claims I would not agree with. The first statement is that it is only “in recent years” that “numerous pop representations have deviated from the rigidity of heterosexual norms.” This statement is completely false considering that we have studied a myriad of performers in the pop, rock and R&B worlds that have played with heterosexuality. Secondly, the article claims that this “hairless” man has been fashionable since the ages of ancient Greece. This is also a completely blind statement. Various forms of male masculinity (sometimes incredibly corpulent men) have been found attractive to women. Also, this author’s facts are incorrect by pegging the beginning of masculine personal consumption to the eighties. The consumption of male cologne and other male accessories is more accurately linked with the release of Playboy magazine in the sixties. Furthering this train of thought, I believe what makes Justin Timberlake so fantastic is the same thing that makes Luther Vandross amazing (according to Mark Anthony Neal). It is that after an age of Michael Jackson, Americans want a performer they do not need to be “worried” about. JT and Usher represent many of the traits that MJ did, but they have both demonstrated their heterosexuality in a less scary fashion. JT dated an American icon (Britney Spears). He does not have a crazy Neverland ranch or a wild wife like Lisa Marie Presley. JT is just entering a world of musical “camp” and thin dancing men that Michael created. That is evident by the similarities in their falsetto and their performance.

Angela said...

Question: Did male nudity becoming ubiquitous feminize the male body? Does the fact that MTV is intended for the queer as much as the hetero gaze feminize the male body?

Artifact for Discussion:

First of all, I would like to make a statement regarding the article itself. I agree with Spencer in his refutation of the article’s claim that many pop representations have deviated from the rigidity of heterosexual norms ONLY in recent years. I found that statement very shocking. All throughout this semester, we have studied many examples of artists breaking the heterosexual norm. This has been an ongoing occurrence since the early 1900s, in my opinion. Even the nuances from men dancing can be considered effeminate, as can a gruff voice used by a woman, or a male artist’s obsession with make-up, clothes, or hair. Thus, it is certainly not true that this pattern has only occurred in recent years.

Justin Timberlake is one star that has risen in recent years. Some would claim that his moves may break down typical heterosexual boundaries, as his dance moves and somewhat girlish face would attract both heterosexual and homosexual audiences. However, Michael Jackson was the source of inspiration for many of Justin Timberlake’s dance moves and choice of vocal performances. I can definitely see the influence of Michael Jackson in Justin Timberlake’s music video to “Rock your Body.” In regards to my previous argument, Michael Jackson came earlier in history and possessed many of the same characteristics; thus Jackson himself broke down much of the rigidity of the norms as well. Timberlake did, however, help to CONTINUE changing the boundaries/norms. For instance, in “Cry Me a River,” Timberlake shows a very emotional side, where he is the one who was cheated on. This is backwards of the common perception of masculinity, which pictures men as the cheaters on the women.

Evan said...


Hawkins says that Justin Timberlake is pretending to be Michael Jackson because he appropriates Jackson’s sound and dance. However artists like Robin Thicke who have done the same with artists before them in other genres are hailed for their work. When is appropriation copying or stealing and when is it simply innovation?

Artifact Discussion:

I was interested to compare different styles in Justin Timberlake’s music. In Timberlake we can find the pop sound that we came to expect from his time in NSYNC with songs like “Rock Your Body”, but we can also find a more RnB sound from him in songs like “Cry Me A River”. It is easy to compare the Prince of Pop with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Timberlake has certainly incorporated a lot of the soul and pop sound that Michael Jackson used and defined in his music.

Clearly Justin has tried to market himself as a solo act much like a new and “straighter” version of Michael Jackson’s ambiguous sexuality. It seems Justin has tapped into the falsetto sound that women thought was so sexual in voices of soul and the dance performance that women loved in Michael Jackson. The difference in Timberlake’s performance is his distinct masculinity. Justin dresses in baggy clothes and has facial hair in “Rock Your Body” so that even though he sings in a high voice and is surrounded by flashing colored lights, his presentation of his masculinity is clear. Again in “Cry Me a River” Justin may dance and sound slightly feminine, but unlike Michael Jackson, who shows no sexual feeling toward Naomi Campbell, Justin’s interaction with the woman in the video feels very sexual and increases our sense of his masculinity.