Tuesday, February 17, 2004

As seen on Can't Stop Won't Stop
Jeff is right. Joe Torre is a lameduck. Add that to the Potential Problem tally. Also include Sins Against Don Zimmer. Steinbrenner drove the Zim out of town this summer. Surely the baseball gods will not look kindly upon this and smite him. Smite him good.

Get well soon Mr. Chang (by the way, I saw numbers today that indicate the Yankees do indeed make money - lots of it). Normally, I'd send flowers, but today - special one time only offer - I have a column on Justin Timberlake to offer. Other, non-sick, people are free to read as well, of course. Note: May make you dislike Justin Timberlake even more than you did previously. Or, if you previously enjoyed the J.Tim, it may make you second guess yourself. At least that's the hope. Enjoy.

What a good boy: Justin Timberlake can do no wrong. Just ask him. Or his mom
Monday, February 16, 2004
Aaron Wherry National Post

Like all the great male pop idols before him -- Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Davy Jones -- Justin Timberlake has learned to balance the illicit and the innocent. The bad boy and the angel. Able to titillate your daughters one moment and charm their mothers the next. All the while maintaining the respect, if not the begrudged admiration, of the older, cooler brother. Dad doesn't quite fit into this scenario, but, for the sake of argument, we'll say he's in the living room listening to old Johnny Cash records.

What differentiates Timberlake from his predecessors -- or maybe what has been attempted before, but only he has mastered -- is the way he goes about accomplishing this duplicity and the unwitting accomplices he makes of the women in his life. Timberlake, surely more than any other pop star in recent memory, is defined by the women around him; his interactions with them establishing his paradoxical sides. "Interactions" being one word for it. "Manipulations" being another. Janet Jackson discovered this approximately 48 hours too late.

"That was fun," Timberlake told the first interviewer to reach him backstage at the Super Bowl after that infamous little matter of the nipple. "We love giving you something to talk about." This was the bad boy. The edgy, provocative, unapologetic risktaker.

Two days later, Timberlake had found another TV camera and a perfect opportunity to claim innocence where previously there had been only cool nonchalance.

"When what happened, happened, I was completely shocked and appalled," he proclaimed. "I was completely embarrassed. I don't feel like I need publicity like that and I wouldn't want to be involved in a stunt, especially not a stunt of this magnitude.

"I do understand how unfortunate this is and I think that it's the most frustrating thing for me," he added, noting that his family was embarrassed by the incident.

In short order, Jackson had been abandoned to shoulder the blame alone; Timberlake the hapless victim of a "wardrobe malfunction" and a manipulative older woman.

Britney Spears (not to mention Kylie Minogue, whose posterior he grabbed last year to much fanfare but little backlash in, er, cheekier Britain) must have been suffering flashbacks. When she and Timberlake were together, he was with the squeaky clean 'N Sync. It was important -- for both of them, mind you -- to present a wholesome image. They were madly in love. Forever smiling. And entirely virginal -- this last part made more of an issue for avowed abstinent Spears.

Around the time they broke up, Timberlake was preparing to launch a solo career; a new image in order. So, quite innocently of course, he found himself on a radio show admitting to performing oral sex on Spears (he would later apologize for this, forever mindful of the need to balance the illicit and innocent). In addition to facial hair and some cool new hip-hop friends, Timberlake gained edgier, often older, girlfriends including Alyssa Milano and, ironically enough, Jackson.

But the masterstroke was hit single Cry Me A River and the song's accompanying video. In song, Timberlake told of an unfaithful lover -- a particularly compelling tale given the all-too-conveniently leaked rumours that Spears' infidelity had ended their relationship.

The sympathy that resulted allowed Timberlake to get away with one of the darkest music videos in recent memory. Heartbroken, but defiant and seeking vengeance, Timberlake breaks into the home of his former lover (a petite, blond Spears look-alike) stalks her as she showers, and videotapes himself in bed with another woman. Creepy stuff, but all forgiven of course because the real villain -- the unfaithful Spears -- had already been identified.

And even if you were a little wierded out -- no worries, Justin explained. The look-alike, the remarkable similarities to "real" life; all happenstance, pure unadulterated coincidence.

And, well, if you believe that, you're P.T. Barnum's kind of customer. But as Barnum himself might note, it doesn't so much matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something enough to buy Timberlake's next album. And, make no mistake, the focus is forever Timberlake -- Britney's post-breakup career paling by comparison, Kylie still little more than a curiosity on this side of the Atlantic, Janet the latest addition to America's ever-expanding Axis of Evil. Justin alone reaps the rewards.

And when all else fails, there will always be Mom -- the trump card Timberlake plays whenever his image needs polishing. When it came time to sit down with Barbara Walters, there she was telling us what a sweet, young man she had birthed. Feature story needed to accompany that shirtless Rolling Stone cover (how very illicit) -- better make sure Mom has ample time to chat up the interviewer. If every other woman in his life (Hey Cameron, feeling nervous yet?) is a temporary tool of convenience, his mother is an eternal source of damage control.

And there she was last Sunday at the Grammy Awards, all boobs -- er, smiles -- in support of her beleaguered son. Busting, er, beaming with pride was she as lil' Justin strode to the stage to express again his dismay with Jackson's nipple and accept a Grammy statuette for, you guessed it, Cry Me a River.

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