The first three years of the six-year period between the release of 'FutureSex/LoveSounds' and Thursday's announcement was marked by a number of musical collaborations for Timberlake -- some strictly as a vocalist, others as a co-writer, co-producer and music video director, and most of them highly successful. "4 Minutes," Madonna's lead single to her 2008 album 'Hard Candy,' peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100; Timberlake co-wrote and co-produced five of the 12 songs on Madge's album, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Later that year, JT reunited with his "My Love" co-star T.I. for his "Paper Trail" single "Dead and Gone," which peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100. Combined, those two tracks alone have sold 6.2 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Other Timberlake-featuring hits in the interim included 50 Cent's "Ayo Technology," the lead single off the rapper's 2007 album 'Curtis'; Ciara's "Love Sex Magic," which peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100 in 2009; "Carry Out," off frequent collaborator Timbaland's 'Shock Value II' album in 2009, which has moved 2.1 million download according to SoundScan; and Jamie Foxx's "Winner," which debuted and peaked at No. 28 on the Hot 100 in April 2010 and marks Timberlake's last charting single. His most recent Hot 100 hit as a "lead" act came way back in 2007 -- with 'FutureSex/LoveSound's' slick dance cut, "LoveStoned."
Timberlake has also appeared on multiple cuts by the Lonely Island with his "Saturday Night Live" pal Andy Samberg, including "Motherlover," from their 2011 disc 'Turtleneck & Chain.' And in 2011, JT appeared in and co-directed the music video for rap-rock group FreeSol's "Role Model," lending an assist to a group on his Tennman Records imprint.
TEARIN' UP THE TUBE
Speaking of "SNL," Timberlake has used the long-running variety show as a vehicle to showcase his comedic chops over the past decade -- most memorably through the explicit jam "Dick in a Box," and most recently playing a sleepy Bon Iver in an episode last winter. His five appearances on the show since 2000 have allowed him to join an elite club that includes Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, and since his last album, Timberlake has scored four Emmy awards, all for his "SNL" work as a musician and host.
Meanwhile, Timberlake has been a frequent guest on another NBC variety show, "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," and has helped engineer a successful "History of Rap" recurring bit. The third installment of the genre breakdown went down in October 2011.
LOVE FILM MAGIC
In the six-plus years since the release of his last album, Timberlake has acted in seven films, most notably portraying Sean Parker in 'The Social Network' and starring with Mila Kunis in 'Friends With Benefits.' He has also voiced characters in the animated features 'Shrek the Third' and 'Yogi the Bear' and TV's "The Cleveland Show."
Timberlake has wrapped two other films, the most anticipated being the Coen brothers' tale of the New York folk music scene of the early 1960s, 'Inside Llewyn Davis.' With no distributor yet, the film is expected to play the festival circuit this winter and spring. Concord has the rights to the soundtrack.
He will also be seen in the fall in 20th Century Fox's 'Runner, Runner,' appearing opposite Ben Affleck. Like most of the roles he has taken on, Timberlake is a supporting actor. In 2011's 'Bad Teacher,' which grossed $100.2 million theatrically, according to boxofficemojo.com, he appeared opposite Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel; 'The Social Network,' where he was part of an ensemble cast, pulled in $97 million in 2010.
'Friends With Benefits,' released in 2011 and his largest role to date, grossed $55.8 million. Timberlake's first significant role was in 2006's 'Black Snake Moan,' director Craig Brewer's follow-up to 'Hustle & Flow.'
Timberlake's return to music comes on the heels of the relaunch of Myspace, where he is creative director and a minority investor. In private beta since November, the revamped site will go into open beta next week and showcase a new music-centric design and editorial focus aimed at connecting and empowering fans with their favorite artists in deeper ways. Although early users have praised the site's new music player, seamless search function and potential for breaking new artists, Myspace's real killer app would be to premiere exclusive new music material from Timberlake - something the singer hinted he might be able to do through the platform.
"For me, I know that something I would hope for would be ways I can connect myself closer when I have something I wanna say," Timberlake said at a Myspace press event unveiling the new design in November. "How can I get a direct feed straight to who cares about it? That happens to be the artist or it happens to be the fan. You talk about bridging the gap, but I think blurring the gap is more exciting in a way. It's about but finding a way for that connectivity to become exclusive for everyone - not just exclusive to artists, but exclusive from the fan to the artist, depending on how connected they wanna be. Which I would imagine is the most they could possibly be."
The Myspace venture is the most high-profile business deal for Timberlake since the "FutureSex" release, but the singer has also overseen the launch of 901 Silver Tequila, headed Tennman Records, and scored endorsement deals with brands like Sony and Audi. Timberlake previously launched the William Rast clothing line and opened restaurants in New York and Hollywood.
And of course, the downtime in Timberlake's solo career produced some wedded bliss: the singer married actress Jessica Biel last October, following a 10-month engagement and five-year relationship. The pair was married in Italy in a top-secret event that included Samberg and Timbaland as guests. In a statement to People, the couple said, "It's great to be married, the ceremony was beautiful and it was so special to be surrounded by our family and friends."