Justin Timberlake Talks Chemistry, & It's Not What You Think

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1Photo: REX USA/Rex
For anyone who's keeping track, Justin Timberlake is on his second number one album of the year. His music career had been on hold while he filmed several movie projects, including his current flick, Runner, Runner, and the upcoming Coen Brothers' film Inside Llewyn Davis. But now JT is back with a vengeance. His album, The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2, sold 350,000 copies in its first week. That came right on the heels of the two-parter's first multi-million sale feat, something that can really only be done by, well, Justin Timberlake. Fatigue is simply not in his vocabulary. We probed him on his secrets to success, and discovered hard work and super-talented friends really make the man. It also helps to have a healthy sense of humor, and Timberlake definitely has that.

You made some controversial statements about pop music earlier this year.
"I just feel like a lot of it starts to sound the same. My statement was that I felt like I went through a period of time where I was hearing different singers sing what sounded like the same song probably produced by the same person. I don’t know if that’s progressive to me. I don’t think I’m any ambassador, if that’s what you mean. It doesn’t seem controversial of me to say this, I just think it all did start to sound the same."

What music did you like from this year?
"I think that this year has been an amazing year for music. I love Daft Punk’s record, I love a lot of the stuff Pharrell’s been doing. I love the Queens of the Stone Age record. I think there’s a lot of music that’s come out this year that to me feels very progressive in different genres as well. I guess for the first time in my career, I don’t really consider myself a pop artist. You just make music. You just try to make music you don’t hear on the radio. I think that’s the only way to move the needle, so to speak."

You said you don’t consider yourself a pop star?
"What is a pop star? It really boils down to how you look at things. I don’t look at things like that. I make music. Some of it’s a little more popular than the rest of it."

Why do you think that a lot of musicians aren’t willing to earn it?
"I always bring up Malcolm Gladwell's Ten Thousand Hours theory, I believe in that. I think the important thing for people to understand is that I’m not doing any of this in vain. I do this because I take it seriously and always have. I do think it’s shifted. Regardless, take music out of it, you can pop onto the scene with a great performance in a movie if you’re an unseen star, but after that, they have a career, it’s a marathon. You have to put together a series of great movies if you’re a director, or if you're an actor, great performances. I don’t think any of it’s about one single moment in that respect. I think that maybe it has changed some."

What’s the key to a long-lasting career?
"Collaboration. Sometimes a producer and an artist get together and they make magic, like Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, and sometimes a director and an actor like Marty Scorsese and Robert De Niro get together and they make magic. I do think a lot of it is about chemistry. I do think movies are a director’s medium and music is a producer’s medium. You could liken my chemistry with Timbaland to Scorsese and De Niro. I don’t want to sound conceited but I do believe that the chemistry is there. Every time we get together we make something I’ve never heard. I think it’s always interesting. I’m going to have to pay for that comment. I know somebody’s going to have to throw it in my face. Everything we’re talking about is collaboration. One person doesn’t make a movie great, but a bunch of people can make a movie sh--ty."

What about your collaboration with Ben on Runner, Runner?
"He’s one of the biggest movie stars in the world and now one of the top directors in Hollywood. Working with him was a lot fun and extremely informative. I learned a lot. He’s very disarming in that sense. I feel like we’re kind of the same way in that sense. He’s experienced being the biggest movies stars in the world at one time and now to be considered a great filmmaker, it’s a whole new career for him."

What do you do between projects?
"I like to be around people that have a fresh take on things. When I was 21 and my first album came out, my first solo record, all I wanted to do was make music that 21-year-olds would like. And, then when my second album came out, I was 25 and all I wanted to do was make music that 25-year-olds would like. I just feel like I’ve been really lucky in the sense that a lot of the people that do have an interest in my music have grown up with it. There’s a different type of bond between the artist and someone who likes your music. At the end of the day, you do make it for yourself. You make something from a pure place. And, that’s the best way to work."

Do you still feel like you have something to prove as an actor?
"I don’t think I have anything to prove other than to myself. And that’s why you want to pick and choose projects in their own time, and make sure that they do scare you a little bit, that they are a little bit of a gamble, a little bit of a risk, something that you haven’t quite done yet. And, it takes patience to do that. I probably didn’t have as much patience when I was 21 or 22. Hopefully I have more now."