Justin Timberlake: “I Hate Myself”

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September 10, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

As often as their music is devoid of any real value or intellectual currency, pop stars are still routinely marginalized as being reckless idiots who don’t think for themselves.  This stigma can be applied to the like of Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and every one hit wonder rapper from 2002-2009.  The reason why we accuse these people of being manufactured automatons is because they come off as incredibly insincere and played out.  They’re pop stars with a routine sound, and a routine image.  Not only that, but they are comfortable occupying whatever niche has been crafted for them, instead of trying to explore or diversify.  This is why Britney Spears will never be on the same artistic level as Madonna, and this is why no one born before 1993 will ever take Justin Bieber seriously…at all.

There’s a fine line between someone like Lil Wayne and Tupac.  Weezy is an image, while Tupac is an idea.  Both earn this distinction through their music.  Weezy has done nothing new or different, while Tupac showed a versatility, and a dynamic self awareness unmatched by most rappers.  The reason for this is because there was always a sense of change and growth in Tupac as a musician.  The same could be said for Madonna, Prince, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and U2 just to name a select few.  That’s why these people are considered to be in the pantheon of music history.  What all of these people have in common is that they were constantly changing not only their  music, but themselves as well.  Musicians like Lil Wayne, Christina Aguilera, 50 Cent, and most heavy metal bands formed post 1992 haven’t done so.  As a result they don’t transcend music the way in which those who did change have come to affect music.

One such artist who I once mislabeled as being a one trick pony was Justin Timberlake.  After watching interviews with him, and judging by his reaction to receiving the MTV video vanguard award, it seems as though my initial judgment of Timberlake was wrong.  He is an artist who at the very least experienced change as a person, which even though it might not have affected his music all that much, it has altered his demeanor considereably.  Whatever that change was (possibly maturity?), it’s come to make him a more likeable and sincere artist.  It also bestowed upon him a secret that most transcendent artists have discerned from themselves: the key to a long and successful career is too constantly and actively hate all past versions of yourself.  Self-hatred stops you from being stagnant; it forces you to put the extra effort in to succeed because it comes from an internal drive and desire to be better.

For legal purposes, I have to clarify that Justin Timberlake never said “I hate myself”, and in all honesty I don’t think he has any real reason to; he’s married to Jessica Biel, he’s had a successful acting career, and he’s one of the most influential artists of the past 15 years.  But that’s not to say he holds his past self in any particular high esteem.  Watching interviews of him now, it’s clear to see that he’s embarrassed by his prior antics and has now tried to move away from it by acting more mature and self-assured.  When Jimmy Kimmel jokingly asked him whatever happened to the black member of N’Sync, Timberlake lightheartedly made fun of himself saying that those were the days when he was trying to act black and tougher than he really was for some reason.[1]

During this year’s VMA instead of hamming it up and taking the arrogant and self-centered approach to receiving the video vanguard award, Timberlake was standing in the background looking very modest, almost to the point of being uncomfortable listening to someone shower him with praise and adulation.  He’s not like a Kanye West who is always looking to hear someone talk about how great he is.  At one point Timberlake was like that, after all he named his first solo album Justified.  But now there’s a more relaxed and modest Justin Timberlake who conveys a sense of sincerity that has endeared him to many more people.  Granted, I’m not a fan of his music, but I don’t dislike him as a person anymore.

JT is someone who I think is trying to put as much distant between himself and his past because he’s embarrassed at how stupid and self-absorbed he was/was perceived to be.  That’s part of the reason why his albums have done so well; his music has grown up with him, and reflects this newfound maturity.  At the very least, he’s not the same person he was when he was with N’Sync, which is much more than the other four members can say.  When he was with N’Sync, he didn’t want people to bring up his days as a Mousketeer, and when he first went solo he didn’t want people to bring up his N’Sync days or his blonde gheri curls; now he doesn’t like it when people bring up how much of a self-absorbed asshole he was in 2004.[2]  Even if he doesn’t practice self-loathing to the degree that Woody Allen does, it’s safe to say that he’s embarrassed by the actions of his younger self.  For those keeping score, that’s one of the biggest signs of maturity.

People like Woody Allen, Madonna, David Bowie, Allen Moore, and Prince are always pushing forward and trying to top themselves.  For some like Allen it’s because they hate who they were five minutes ago and try to not be that person now, for others like Bowie, it’s reinvention that prevents stagnation and failure.  You can’t reinvent yourself if you’re still in love with your past; that’s why it easiest to move forward if you don’t hold the past, or even the present, in high regard.  The biggest trap comes from being too in love with your past self, or too blinded by your present self that it prevents you from growing as a person.  Timberlake realized (or quite possible has always known) this and has acted accordingly.  From this he’s seemed to become more sincere, mature, more likeable, and ultimately more successful that he ever was before.  For someone who was too into themselves, he did a 180 and distanced himself from that person because it would have stunted not only his career, but himself as a person.  That’s why we’re talking about Justin Timberlake here, and not Lil Wayne.


[1] When was the last time you heard him beat box?

[2] Remember, he did tear off Janet Jackson’s shirt.

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