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Justin Timberlake at iTunes Festival

Long live the king


We got asked an interesting question the other day. Do we think Justin Timberlake is considered the new King of Pop by music lovers our age (mid-20s, if you’re asking), because of the nostalgic novelty of his 90s boyband days? While we scoff at the ridiculousness that is Justin Bieber, will he be held in Timberlake-like regard by current teenybopper fans when they reach the dizzying heights of “almost pushing 30”?

The answer, in short, is no. Despite the atrocious combat trousers and questionable highlights of his *NSYNC days, Timberlake has broken out of his hair gelled cocoon and emerged a genuine, bona fide pop goliath. Don’t believe us? Just go back and watch Timberlake’s triumphant performance at Camden’s Roundhouse on Sunday night, the penultimate fixture of this year’s iTunes Festival.

For our money, Timberlake has the best live male vocal in the business. He’s definitely got the strongest falsetto out there, best heard on classics (yes, classics) like Cry Me A River and Like I Love You. The fact these were thrown out so early into his solo career, and mashed together into a medley alongside My Love at his iTunes set, is a testament to how much Timberlake has developed as an actual artiste. This is a man who doesn’t want to spend too much time in his glory days, but build upon them.

It’s why Mirrors and a cut-down version of Suit and Tie get the loudest cheers of the night. It would be easy to dine out on SexyBack for the rest of his career, but you get the feeling with Timberlake, in both his live performances and his records, that if it’s not an improvement on everything that’s come before, then what’s the point?

He’s quite the showman, too. Timberlake aired a fair bit of new material from his second volume of The 20/20 Experience, from opener Only When I Walk Away through to new single TKO, but despite them being relatively new to most of the 2,000 pairs of ears he had to satisfy on this night, it’s the slick dance moves across the stage and his interaction with the audience which keeps people engaged throughout. This level of charisma hasn’t really been seen since Frank Sinatra. And yes, you read that right. We’re sticking by it.

You might have noticed earlier we used that phrase “King of Pop”. The thing is, since the passing of Jackson, no one has quite stepped up to take that mantle. Well, until now that is. At the Roundhouse, Timberlake came and he conquered. The king is dead, long live the king.

Don't believe us? Remember, you can stream all the iTunes Festival shows for free via the official app, or on your computer with iTunes. Visit www.itunesfestival.com for more.

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