Justin Timberlake makes his long-awaited return to music this month with his third solo LP, the Timbaland-produced The 20/20 Experience, and in the build-up to its release he has continued to prove himself the most versatile and entertaining pop star of his generation. Slick and charismatic as ever, he hosted a cameo-intensive and tremendously fun episode of Saturday Night Live last weekend and immediately followed that up with a week’s worth of memorable appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Hosting for the fifth time, Timberlake’s SNL episode was the most consistently enjoyable in a long while, including a wonderful opening monologue where he impressively impersonated Elton John before being inducted into the “Five-timers club” (reuniting SNL legends Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Dan Ackroyd alongside hosting regulars Paul Simon, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks and Candice Bergen), the return of his and Andy Samberg’s hilarious 2:30 A.M. (aka ‘Dick in a Box’) characters (live for the first time), a mash-up of pop and rap standards with vegan lyrics, not to mention musical performances of his hit single ‘Suit & Tie‘ with Jay-Z (with the sly Kanye diss “My hits so sick got rappers acting dramatic”) and an abbreviated version of ‘Mirrors’. Over on Fallon he delivered lively renditions of new tracks ‘Pusher Love Girl’ (while suffering a cold!), ‘Let the Groove In’ and ‘Strawberry Bubblegum’ backed by The Roots, participated in skits with the likes of Michael McDonald and Steve Carrell, and most awesomely led a barbershop quintet version of ‘SexyBack’ and dropped a fourth ‘History of Rap‘ entry with a short-on-breath Fallon, covering everything from the Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Apache (Jump On It)’ to Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ and Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’. Timberlake ended the week with a 10-minute medley of fan-favourite hits including ‘My Love’, ‘Cry Me a River’ and ‘Señorita’, and all but guaranteed stratospheric sales for his new album before jetting off to play SXSW. The 20/20 Experience may inevitably disappoint some following six years of expectations on the back of the trailblazing Futuresex/Lovesounds (The New York Times called it “an album of largely inconsequential beauty” in their recent review), but witnessing the effortlessly talented singer and his ensembles perform these new jams over the past week certainly has me excited for the prospect of a world tour.
The 20/20 Experience is due March 19.
Watch Justin Timberlake’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live below.
Watch Timberlake’s ‘Bring it on Down to Veganville’ sketch on SNL below.
Watch Timberlake perform ‘Suit & Tie’ with Jay-Z on SNL below.
Watch Timberlake and Samberg reprise their 2:30 AM characters in the SNL segment ‘It’s A Date’ below.
Watch JT perform ‘Mirrors’ on SNL below.
Watch Timberlake perform ‘Pusher Love Girl’ on Fallon below.
Watch Timberlake discuss hosting SNL and his new album The 20/20 Experience with Jimmy Fallon below.
Watch Timberlake and the Ragtime Gals perform a barbershop quintet rendition of ‘Sexyback’ on Fallon below.
Watch JT perform ‘Let the Groove In’ with The Roots on Fallon below.
Watch Timberlake perform ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ with Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) and Fallon below.
Watch JT perform ‘Strawberry Bubblegum’ on Fallon below.
Watch Timberlake and Fallon’s Toto-parodying camp sketch below.
Watch Timberlake and Fallon do ‘History of Rap Part 4’ below.
Watch a medley of Timberlake’s hits with The Roots on Fallon below.
Watch a recap of Justin Timberlake week on Fallon below.