Justin's first solo project followed on from *NSYNC's 'Girlfriend' collaboration with Nelly & The Neptunes... He co-wrote a lot of the R'N'B/ hip-hop influenced album which produced this massive No. 2 single 'Like I Love You' in Autumn 2002.I don't want to boast or anything but I was one of the first few million people to hear this record. At least, I remember hearing the airplay premiere of it on the Radio 1 breakfast show,and it was explained that due to time difference,the track wouldn't be played on US radio until five hours later in order to get the breakfast audience over there. I don't think they'd do it that way any more.
It's tempting to go on and say "little did we know how big a star he was going to become", or conversely to boast about how I immediately knew this would be massive. Actually the truth is somewhere in between: allowing for the rather patchy success of Nsync in the UK, the people at Radio 1 and whatever other British radio stations took part in the premiere had obviously heard the track in advance and anticipated it would be more than a typical spin-off single by an ex-boyband singer. I don't recall the same level of fuss around the solo work of JC Chasez.
I can't really remember what I actually thought of 'Like I Love You' that first time, though it would have been filtered through my own predjudices about its origins (which I still stand by because *NSYNC weren't any good) and my lack of enthusiasm for the work of Robbie Williams and Ronan Keating, the top ex-boyband stars of the time. It didn't take me long to reach roughly the view I still take, which is that it's a decent piece of songwriting and I have to appreciate anyone in the 21st century advising somebody to "be limber". However, what really makes it is the Neptunes production with those massed ranks of acoustic guitars which some critics at the time pointed out was largely recycled from their work on 'Pass The Courvoisier Part 2' for Busta Rhymes. Still it finds its best expression here and for at least half its running time this is a truly impressive record. Things start to go a bit wrong with the tacky rap verse performed by vaguely-famous-at-the-time duo Clipse [though they don't seem to have written it] and when Timberlake come back off that by singing "I just wanna love you baby" in a showy falsetto it starts to teeter on the precipice of its own confidence, finally tumbling over with the breathy spoken section at the end which becomes risible in its earnestness. I think that section my even have been cut from the initial radio edit but it's present here and on every other commercial release of the song I've found. Luckily that firt half of the song is good enough for me to forgive it most of the time. I can even forgive him calling the album Justified.
Also appearing on: Now 55, 56, 57, 65, 66, 67, 85
Available on: 30 Stars: 2000s [Clean]