On his solo debut, 'N Sync member Justin Timberlake strikes a major '70s R&B pose steeped in vibe and groove.

On his solo debut, 'N Sync member Justin Timberlake strikes a major '70s R&B pose steeped in vibe and groove. Obvious nods to artists like Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway, and Stevie Wonder aside, Timberlake has crafted an album very much in the here and now, receiving production assistance from most notably the Neptunes and Timbaland. Lead single "Like I Love You," "Take It From Here," and "Rock Your Body" rank as some of the Neptunes' best work. Ditto for "Cry Me a River," steered by Timbaland, whose diagonal push-and-pull beats make for a lovely tug-of-war, with both producer and artist coming out the victor. The feisty "(And She Said) Take Me Now" features an all-too-brief appearance by Janet Jackson. Love it or hate it, Timberlake has certainly raised the pop music bar with Justified. The dawning of a new day? The fingers are crossed.—MP

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