December 16, 2015 by NowhereButPop
“Give It to Me” by Timbaland, featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake is one of my favorite pop songs of all time; it’s easily in the top five, and it’s my favorite diss track ever. It’s insanely catchy and drips supreme confidence in a way that not very many songs can. More strikingly though, it features three artists at the peaks of their careers. For three artists to join forces on one track and absolutely nail it is one thing, for them to do so while at their creative zenith is an entirely other feat.
Just the fact that Timbaland, Furtado, and Timberlake, who’s careers all followed different trajectories, somehow managed to navigate their careers to intersecting crossroads is astonishing. All three of them had a hand in helping each other get to the top, and once there, “Give It to Me” became the culmination of their work together, and the climax of their time on top. In fact, beyond being a mere diss track, “Give It to Me” is more of a surveillance of the musical landscape from the top. Furtado comments on her own shift in musical direction and the attention it garnered; Timbaland compares his own skills as a producer against rival Scott Storch, and Justin Timberlake throws some serious shade at a critic of his who didn’t believe the former NSYNC singer brought sexy back (either Prince or Britney Spears according to some sources). For all three of these musicians, whose career peaks coalesced at the same time, the fact remains that “Give It to Me” serves as both their annunciation onto the scene, and their coronation as the best in the game.
Although “Give It to Me” characterizes each of the three artists’ view from the top, their journeys to the top couldn’t have been any more different. Before Nelly Furtado decided to sell out, she was an indie-folk singer whose career took a sharp downturn after the lukewarm release of her sophomore album, the pretentiously titled Folklore. In order to revitalize her career, she needed to explore different genres, a new sound is exactly what her collaboration with producer Timbaland yielded. The resulting album, Loose, featured a much poppier sound as the album was infused with dance and electronica music. It was through her collaboration with Timbaland that catapulted Furtado to superstardom and brought her to the top both critically and commercially.
Despite having produced four tracks from Justin Timberlake’s Justified, including the infamous, “Cry Me a River”, Timbaland’s partnership with Timberlake really picked up with the production of FutureSex/LoveSounds, an album that saw Timbaland produce 10 of its 12 tracks. Prior to his transformation into dance floor sex god that coincided with the release of FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake was still that gheri-curled asshole from NSYNC whining about Britney Spears and trying harder than Iggy Azalea to put on a blaccent. But after working with Timbaland on his sophomore album, JT was able to mature into a suave and debonair romantic; a shift that resulted in a #1 hit album, three #1 hit singles, and more sales than the preceding Justified. Timbaland helped JT find himself, and become more self-confident in his own skin. And in that respect, Justin Timberlake owes more than he could ever repay.
Unlike Furtado and Timberlake, producer Timbaland, made his mark in the mid-90s after producing Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly, and Aaliyah’s One in a Million. Once he formed his own record label, he quickly signed Nelly Furtado and went on to produce Furtado’s magnum opus, Loose, where he was in charge of track listing as well as organizing the beats. Calling upon his previous work with Timbaland, JT reached out to the producer to not only produce, but oversee the general direction and flow of the eventual album. After working with everyone from Jay-Z to Bjork, Timbaland, then decided to put out his first solo album in almost 10 years with 2006’s Shock Value, a collaborative album featuring not only Furtado and Timberlake, but also including the likes of Elton John, Keri Hilson, and Fall Out Boy. Despite all the duets on Shock Value, the triumvirate of Nelly Furtado, Timbaland, and Justin Timberlake, remains the most closely associated because of how tethered they once were to each other.
After producing Loose and FutureSex/LoveSounds, Timbaland was in high demand, producing tracks for Rihanna, Madonna, and 50 Cent. Since 2007, Timbaland release Shock Value II to lukewarm reviews and hasn’t produced an album on par with Loose or FutureSex/LoveSounds since. Nelly Furtado, released two albums since Loose, one of which was an entirely Spanish album. Neither album gained any acclaim and both failed to come close to matching the success of Loose. Justin Timberlake by comparison, put his music on hiatus for about seven years to pursue an acting career. Despite releasing the highly anticipated The 20/20 Experience (Part 1 and 2), neither album had the impact that FutureSex/LoveSounds had. Beyond that, part two of The 20/20 Experience received mixed reviews and was accused of being comprised solely of filler material. Not only did this trio rise up together, reaching new heights in the process, but ironically enough, their peaks all ended at around the same time as well. In some ways, it seemed like they were destined to rise and fall together, especially since they all were so influential in each other’s unprecedented success. A success that culminated at the exact same time for each musician.
Despite not being on the album, JT still appeared in the video for Furtado’s “Promiscuous”, and the two even performed a few shows together. On both Loose and FutureSex/LoveSounds, Timbaland even sings with Furtado and Timberlake, leaving more than just his mark as a producer. Then Furtado and JT joined forces on Timbaland’s “Give It to Me” not only to pay their gratitude to Timbaland, but to also proclaim that they were not only on top of their respective game, but on top of the world as well. And for that brief time from 2006-2007, and because of one another, the three of them really were on top of the world. Three artist, so closely tied together and at the peak of their careers working together on one song is unheard. But to do so on a masterpiece of a pop song, one that sings praise about their talents at the height of their careers is even more inspiring. It didn’t last long however, and like Furtado asked on “All Good Things”, “Flames to dust, lovers to friends, why do all good things come to an end?”. Why do they end indeed?