Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Justin Timberlake ft. Chris Stapleton – Say Something

Oh, we do…


Micha Cavaseno: Last we covered Timberlake, I remarked that his greatest downfall was a purposeless pop virtuosity that, while functional, was undermined by a failure to recognize the changing climate around him and the underlying arrogance of his artistry. In picking Chris Stapleton as a duet partner, there’s something more insidious to Timberlake’s nature of crass manipulation throughout his career. Plenty have discussed how his career highlights did damage to those of female artists like Janet Jackson and Britney Spears; less harmful but equally crass has been using people such as The Neptunes, Timbaland and Jay-Z to provide urban cred qualifiers the awkward nerd has never actually possessed. Hell, his debut album was built out of the ashes of rejected Michael Jackson demos. Even his greatest moments are essentially opportunism afforded his malleability. The bitter irony is that his talents are what always keep him so in-authentic and thereby always able to shock the unsuspecting with grand revelations. So many folks forget the former Mickey Mouse Club alumnus has been trained to appeal to everyone and anyone, and it’s that subtle face-dancery that makes “Say Something” plausible, albeit not genuinely great. I’m sure Stapleton, Patron Saint of Washed Generation X Dads who “just wanna hear real music maaaan,” was as impressed as his audience will be that Timberlake could make a “real song with a guitar and some heart.” Even if the reality is that this is a very dated mix of Lumineers, Stapleton and subtle EDM touches for the sake of seamless incorporation into a dancepop record. Yet again, part of Timberlake’s ability to thrive is his deceptive meekness, betraying both the arrogance of the audience he constantly charms and his own arrogance in knowing that he can succeed where other artists get laughed out of the building, in spite of not doing anywhere close to enough.

Thomas Inskeep: I expected this to be kind of oil-and-water, but it really isn’t; even Timbaland’s generous production meshes well with Stapleton’s country rock and JT’s I’ll-do-whatever-it-takes-to-have-a-hit-ness. 

Alfred Soto: As I’ve written many times, the better job he does keeping his spittle and stubble from hitting the mike the better Chris Stapleton sounds; the same goes for his erstwhile companion, partly responsible for his breakthrough three years ago. This nuthin’ is yet more sweet. 

Juana Giaimo: “Say Something” has more YouTube views than “Filthy” or “Supplies,” even though it was the last single to be released from Man of the Woods. Maybe because it’s the most conventional kind of song. But it is still puzzling, because it sounds disjointed, as if Justin Timberlake was trying to make a song out of a two repetitive patterns, like an outro from the first part of The 20/20 Experience — except that unlike those outros, there isn’t any development throughout the four minutes.

Will Adams: The Man of the Woods marketing strategy thus far has been one of confusion. The pickup truck-commercial of an album trailer suggested ruggedness, whereas the resultant videos suggested future sex and Mad Max dystopia. On “Say Something,” the confusion continues: the future, turns out, was ten years ago, as this is basically “What Goes Around… Comes Around” in its smoothie blend of R&B and folk elements. Meanwhile, Chris Stapleton shows up to lend authenticity but does nothing of note besides providing the song’s nadir: a drawn-out “melody/harmony/you and me” rhyme that manages to be the most head-scratching moment of this album cycle yet.

Ryo Miyauchi: On one hand, it could be about the creative process. And who else to team up to bring an earnest, real-time document of working through writer’s block and outside noise than back-to-the-roots country man Chris Stapleton? But in this political climate, “sometimes the greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all” isn’t the easiest piece of wisdom to swallow.

John Seroff: The stylishly Sisyphean nature of the “Say Something” video — a tightly choreographed Timberlake and Stapleton take a vintage elevator down a fashionably rugged building, then simply walk back up the stairs — nicely encapsulates what’s good and bad about JT4.0: the presentation is pleasant and pretty enough, but what’s the point of so much polish and work to go nowhere? “The greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all” feels less of a koan and more treading water.

Jibril Yassin: Only JT could write a song about the experience of getting dragged online and make it feel just as embarrassing to listen to. Enrolling Chris Stapleton and going “rootsy” exposes the song’s huge problem: there’s absolutely nothing being said here. While it’s marginally better than “Filthy”‘s “married man who still believes he has game” dirge, hearing JT attempt to evoke ethos just to complain about how awful Twitter is to him is underwhelming.

Katherine St Asaph: I’ll give him this: it’s definitely the best Adult Hits-bait duet with a former Mouseketeer called “Say Something” in existence. I’m still giving up on him.

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7 Responses to “Justin Timberlake ft. Chris Stapleton – Say Something”

  1. I was hoping someone would make the “I’m giving up on [you]” joke so thanks for not disappointing, Katherine

  2. “less harmful but equally crass has been using people such as The Neptunes, Timbaland and Jay-Z to provide urban cred qualifiers the awkward nerd has never actually possessed”

    I feel uncomfortable with this line of criticism, in that it erases the agency of The Neptunes/Timbaland/Jay-Z to make their own decisions on who they want to collaborate with. None of these people are obligated to let themselves be “used” by JT, nor do they evidently mind being used if they even consider it that. And are they thus obligated NOT to let white nerds propogate cultural appropriation in this way?

  3. The conscious ingestion of a tapeworm doesn’t make the tapeworm not a tapeworm.

    There isn’t an overruling to any agency of The Neptunes, Timbaland or Jay-Z in the fact that, let’s be honest, is there an equal perception among both their respective fanbases of the value of the other?

  4. But the way this is phrased, that it’s crass (and some measure of harmful) for a white dude to take on urban cred qualifiers by working with certain artists (see also Macklemore), both characterizes this is as a moral failing, but also as solely the moral failing of the white dude. But it takes two to tango. Does JT stay “pure” if he refused to work with any “authentic” black artists? Do said black artists not share any responsibility in enabling this “insidious” situation?

    And, presumably, the solution to “white dudes taking on urban cred qualifiers by working with black artists is bad” is for him not to do that…like JT did here by working with a not-black-artist. So what was the point of bringing that up anyways?

  5. it’d be OK if he merely used The Neptunes and Timbaland to produce epic bangers of massive amazingness tho

  6. “nor do they evidently mind” is a dicey argument to make in a world of non-disparagement contracts and semi-professional niceties (there’s a video about Justin Timberlake talking about what was very clearly an infuriating situation and yet he’s so measured about it)


  7. That’s the opposite situation, though, that they didn’t have issues working together but chose not to for other reasons. Unless you’re implying that people like Timbaland and Jay-Z are/were so strapped for leverage that they could be forced to work with JT even if they thought it was crass/harmful?