Justin Timberlake is featured on the next episode of “Oprah's Master Class” where, unfortunately, Oprah is not a stern headmistress who forces celebrities to sit at old wooden desks and recite dictation lessons in fear. Nope, it's just about celebrities discussing their success. In new clips released from the upcoming episode, we learn a lot about how Justin feels about his success. It is always earnest. But it is also secretly funny. Here's why.
1. How Justin pronounces Michael Jackson “Mike-o Jackson.”
2. How mad he is that he gave “Gone” to 'N Sync.
“Gone” is a standout song from the 'N Sync oeuvre, and the video — directed by Herb Ritts — is probably the best 'N Sync clip. It wasn't their biggest hit, but it's nonetheless a signature moment in their catalog. That's why it's so funny to hear Timberlake announce that he “was literally punching myself in the face” when he learned that Michael Jackson, well after Justin and 'N Sync had cut the track, wanted to record “Gone” as a duet with only him. At that point he couldn't record the song with Michael, and thus the collaboration never occurred. That strikes me as some deliberate shade towards 'N Sync. Also, if this occurred in 2002, we're in the era of Michael Jackson's “Invincible” album, when Michael was spending millions of dollars just for a lame Marlon Brando music video cameo. I actually suspect the song would've been less of a hit with Michael.
3. The claim that he had to “call up a couple of radio programmers” to verify that “SexyBack” was his song.
I'm not saying Justin is lying here, but what exactly does “calling up a couple of radio programmers” entail? “Hey, it's me, Justin Timberlake. Just wanted to say that 'SexyBack' is my song. Thanks!” First of all, the song sounds exactly like Justin Timberlake, so it's not like anyone required a voiceprint confirmation. Secondly, while I'm willing to accept that his label was unsure of the potential for “SexyBack,” it's still pretty funny hearing Justin say he had confidence in the song because he “saw what it made people do.” I really wonder what it made people do. Fly, I hope.
4. The hilarious stakes he attaches to leaving 'N Sync.
Leaving 'N Sync may have been tough, but I'm not quite buying what he says when he recalls his naysayers during the end of his boy band days. “Why wouldn't you ride this out? This is the biggest group in the world,” he recalls. “Why would you walk away from this?” Uh, because boy bands had clearly peaked? No one could argue that a boy band is a sustainable model for unending financial success. The real question would've been, “Why wouldn't you walk away from this when you're the only one afforded the opportunity to do so?”
5. The fact that he never identifies the members of 'N Sync by name.
It always feels like Justin is referring to 'N Sync as some juvenile organization where he attended a couple of jamborees in the '90s. I understand that he's broken free from that era of his music-making, but when he refers so vaguely to the people in 'N Sync, it's like he's announcing that he's embarrassed about it and doing his best to handle the subject diplomatically. Word to Justin: 'N Sync was excellent! “Dirty Pop” for all time, sir.