Justin Timberlake has had a jampacked couple of months, with the release of his first solo album, Justified, the constant scrutiny about who he is or isn't shtupping, rehearsals for co-hosting the MTV Movie Awards and furious prepping for the U.S. leg of his summer tour with Christina Aguilera. Before that kicks off, though, he has taken a quick spin through Europe. It is the first time he has hit the stage without four guys next to him, which was daunting, he admits, but he appears to be over it. "It's been pretty damn fun," he says during a stop in England. "The outcome has been way more than I could have ever hoped for. And they sing every song." And now, a chat with the man whom Pharrell Williams calls a dope individual.
How's it going in England?
Honestly? It's crazy over here. This is my first [solo] tour. I don't know, maybe I should have done clubs instead of this. It's madness – the schedule, the touring, the demand. The dynamic is completely different than what I'm used to, you know what I mean? You're in a different territory–just being out of America, it gives you kind of this weird, anxious feeling. Before my feet hit the stage, I was like, "Uh, I wonder how this is going to go?" And then, of course, as soon as the lights were up and the crowd was into it, I was OK.
Do you do any 'N Sync songs?
I do some bits, some stuff that I wrote for the group. A lot of the stuff I kept in medley form because I wanted the show to feel continuous. I hate going to a show and feeling like it's a recital. I'd rather it feel continuous, like a club. You go to a club and the DJ doesn't stop, he just spins from one song to the next.
What's been the best rumor you've heard about yourself lately?
Well, the playboy rumors are funny. They call me "trouser snake" here now. At first I was like, "What does that mean?" Trouser snake! Honestly, I don't read the stuff anymore.
But most of it is positive.
Most of it, yeah. I'm not on heroin or cocaine yet in the press, so . . .
Well, you're young.
Yeah. There's room to grow.
What song do you think Christina should cover?
You know, the cool thing about Christina is she can basically do so many things with her voice. You hear "Beautiful" and you hear "Fighter," and you're like, "Wow, these are two different people." You know what would be really cool to hear Christina do? Something by Billie Holiday.
What's the biggest misconception about her?
People think she's a lot more ghetto than she is. Because she's got the diva voice, you automatically think that she's a diva because that's supposed to come with it. For the most part, she's more reserved than most people would think.
What do you get asked the most about Christina?
We've been rumored to have had a romance, which is so far off. We're two people who are just very platonic. You know, I can't say that we're the best of friends, we don't hang out all the time, but that's more or less because of what we do, and the schedule is so crazy.
There hasn't been a ton of dialogue between you two about the tour.
The trickiest part right now is figuring out how to make both of our [stage] sets work, timewise. You have, like, twenty minutes to break them down and put the next one back up. So it's literally going to be a disaster, I think. I know that at least for the first month, I'll just go in my dressing room and do what I'm supposed to do. Honestly, I enjoy being on tour because I enjoy being alone. I crave alone time. I think sometimes you get these people who become obsessed with the four-letter word fame. To me, it doesn't exist. There's nothing that says that any of us entertainers are a pinky nail in length more important than the guy who builds the streets in New York City. I mean, he's doing a lot more than I am for society.
Let's talk summer memories. Have you ever been to camp?
No. I don't think I would be good at summer camp. Because I grew up as an only child, I don't think I would be good with sharing my room.
What's the best album to listen to when you're driving around on a summer night?
Coldplay. In the daytime I prefer Parachutes, and at nighttime I prefer A Rush of Blood to the Head, which has a little more angst. I used to love to listen to hip-hop when I drive, but it makes me speed, and I'd get tickets. I had to bring out the Coldplay because it actually makes me drive the speed limit.
What's the ultimate pop song?
"I Want to Hold Your Hand," by the Beatles – that's a perfect little pop song. There's all different types of pop songs that are perfect in their own little way. "Tiny Dancer," from Elton John, is one of those songs that you don't really know all the words to, and you're singing at the top of your lungs, and you're only catching the last word of every line.
Why do you think your hormones rage in the summer?
You know what's funny about the summer? The art of making out. It's just like, it becomes acceptable. There's already twice as much skin exposed, and people have been training for three months just to get in these bathing suits, and you look around and you're like, "Who can I make out with?" Everybody in the summer turns into that person. I don't even think it's more or less about taking it further than that. It's just the art of the make-out. Summer is the art of the make-out.
How can an audience member get your attention?
For the first fifteen minutes, it's a blur. It's like, you just see heads. Then you see the signs people make. Then sometimes you get flashed. I don't encourage that, because some girls have gotten kicked out of venues before. Wink, wink, nod, nod.
One last question. Did you ever have a crappy summer job when you were young?
Uh, yeah, it was called the Mickey Mouse Club? I don't know if you've heard of it? I'm just kidding. I'm kidding.
This story is from the June 26th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.
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