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Timberlake On 'N Sync, Acting And Bringing Sexy Back.

Justin Timberlake rocketed to stardom as a teen heartthrob in the band 'N Sync. He has gone on to be a successful solo artist — and expanded his career into both comedic and dramatic roles on-screen. He discusses his long career in showbiz, his SNL digital shorts and his transition to film.

59:00

Other segments from the episode on October 6, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 6, 2010: Interview with Justin Timberlake; Review of Sarah Blasko's album "As Day Follows Night"; Commentary on classic television shows.

Transcript

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Timberlake On *NSYNC, Acting & Bringing Sexy Back

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It wasn't until I saw Justin Timberlake host "Saturday Night Live" that I
realized what a great comic performer he is. And his performance in the new
film "The Social Network" shows that he's a gifted dramatic actor.

Many people his age, 29, or a little younger were introduced to him when he was
one of the stars of "The New Mickey Mouse Club," along with Britney Spears,
Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling. Then Timberlake was a member of the boy
band 'N Sync. He released his first solo album, "Justified," in 2002.

After his huge commercial success in music, he entered the world of independent
film, co-starring in "Alpha Dog" and "Black Snake Moan." Timberlake's new
movie, "The Social Network," is about the creation of Facebook and the
rivalries, accusations and lawsuits that followed. It was written by Aaron
Sorkin and directed by David Fincher.

Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, who befriends Facebook's
creator, Mark Zuckerberg, and finds the money to take Facebook from a college
network to a global phenomenon. Parker also introduces Zuckerberg to the
excesses of financial success: the girls and the parties.

Here's a scene from the film. Sean Parker is in bed, introducing himself to the
woman he's just spent the night with.

(Soundbite of film, "The Social Network")

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (As character) So what do you do?

Mr. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE (Actor): (As Sean Parker) I'm an entrepreneur.

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) You're unemployed.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (As Parker) I wouldn't say that.

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) What would you say?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (As Parker) That I'm an entrepreneur.

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) Well, then, what was your latest preneur?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (As Parker) Well, I founded an Internet company that let folks
download and share music for free.

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) Kinda like Napster?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (As Parker) Exactly like Napster.

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) What do you mean?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (As Parker) I founded Napster.

Unidentified Woman #1: (As character) Sean Parker founded Napster.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (As Parker) Nice to meet you.

GROSS: Justin Timberlake, welcome to FRESH AIR. It's such a pleasure to have
you here. So I read that David Fincher, the director, does like 80 takes of
some scenes. How is that for you?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: It’s - he does – you know, the first scene in the film, with
Jesse and Roony Mara, it's sort of the scene that becomes the catalyst driving
the whole film and his obsession with creating something as big as a Facebook,
I know that they shot that scene 99 times. And that might be the most takes he
did for a scene. But yeah, he averages no less than 40 to 50.

You know, when you come from the stage, like I do, when you sort of put it that
way, you rehearse, it's very similar to theater. You rehearse for a long amount
of time, and then you only get one take. And so to have 40, 50, 60, 70 takes
sometimes in each scene, it was exhausting, but it was also very freeing
because you felt like you could get out on the floor, so to speak, and let it
mess up and find nuance.

If David didn't afford us that opportunity, if we wouldn't have been able to
layer these characters as much as we feel like hopefully we did.

GROSS: So the character you play, Sean Parker, was a co-creator of Napster, and
then he kind of came onboard with Facebook and turned it into something huge
because he got the financial backing to make it huge. And he had a huge vision
for it. How much did you know about Sean Parker before playing him?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I didn't really know - you know, all of the actors in the film,
we didn't know much about any of these guys. We came to these people as
characters. You know, our first introduction to these people was the, like I
said, the well-researched and specific characterization of them by Aaron
Sorkin.

And there was a book by Ben Mezrich that was being written sort of at the same
time that Aaron was doing his research for the film and I know that he did
speak to a lot of people that, you know, their only condition was they got to
keep their anonymity.

And I think - so none of us really asked questions about who or what he talked
to or about with anyone, but you know, suffice it to say that he was very
adamant about a lot of the research, even, you know, details about what they
may have been drinking in a certain scene or the brand of clothing that they
were wearing was all accounted for by his research.

GROSS: You have become so good at comedy. And even in "The Social Network,"
there are comedic touches, even though – to your portrayal, even though the
film is hardly a comedy. When did you start heading in that direction, though I
guess even on "The Mickey Mouse Club" there were comedy sketches. But you just
do seem to have a gift for comedy.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I guess for me, I've always thought that there was humor
everywhere. And as a kid, I just, you know, I grew up an only child, and I -
sort of nothing made me happier than to make my parents laugh.

I remember I had costumes and things laying around the house that I was, you
know – anything that I could do to make my parents laugh.

GROSS: What kind of costumes?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Well, like I had a Jackson 5 wig that I would wear around, and
I would do like the dances from the Jackson 5, and, you know, my mother thought
that was hysterical. So of course, that seed got planted very early, the
physicality of comedy. And, you know, different things.

When I was a kid, I would impersonate anything that I would hear. It's
actually, I attribute that more to why I actually was able to become a musician
and a singer. I think I had a knack for music, but I think what I was more sort
of talented at more than anything, because I don't think I'm a great singer, I
think that I grew up imitating different voices that I heard.

And when I was young, my mother, you know, used to listen to a lot of – there's
a Southern rock station in Memphis that she listened to all the time. So I
would imitate all of those voices that I heard when I was young, when I was
singing along with them on the radio.

GROSS: Well, along those lines, you were just on Jimmy Fallon's show, and you
and he did like a history of hip-hop, and it was so great. And you did
different voices in it. And let's hear some of that, and this is my guest
Justin Timberlake, and...

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Ladies and gentlemen, stupidity at its best.

GROSS: No, it's great.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: This is Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon doing a history of hip-hop
with the band The Roots, which is a great hip-hop band and is also the band on
Jimmy Fallon's show. So here we go.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JIMMY FALLON and Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (Rapping): I said hip-hop
(Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of applause)

GROSS: Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon. So how did you both decide to do
that sketch?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: We knew that I was going to be on the show the next week, and
we said, wow, we should come up with a bit to do that would be really funny.
And we were talking about a million different ideas. And I just remember
blurting out, you know, you remember that guy who did the history of dance or
the evolution of dance, I can't remember exactly what it was called. I said: We
should do the history of rap.

Because every time we're together, we sing songs as ridiculously as possible to
try to make each other laugh. And that's where it came from. And, you know, I
think it should be noted, as well, when you watch that back and listen to it
how amazing The Roots are.

You know, it's almost like a DJ is spinning records back and forth, and to do
that as a live band, it's, you know, they're peerless musicians to be able to
pull that off.

And honestly, we came in, I came in before we did the show and we went through
it a couple times back in their rehearsal area, and then we took it to the
stage and did it a couple times. And I think we decided, too, that if we did
mess it up on live television that that would make it funny, as well.

So I think there was that element of that for us that made it exciting for us.
And obviously, Jimmy's great on “SNL” and having – you know, that's kind of the
same thing that you do on “SNL,” the element of anything could happen in the
moment. I think that was exciting for us, too, so...

GROSS: My guest is Justin Timberlake. He's co-starring in the new film "The
Social Network." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Justin Timberlake. He's co-starring in the new film "The
Social Network."

So there's a "Saturday Night Live" song I want to ask you about, and this song
is just so famous now. And I can't really say the full title of the song, but
this is something that you did with Andy Samberg. And it's a parody of those
narcissistic songs and videos in which the male singer thinks that the greatest
gift he could give to a lady is his very special lovemaking.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Yes.

GROSS: So this song and video is about...

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: That was very eloquently put.

GROSS: Thank you, thank you. This song and video is about presenting his
girlfriend - I think it was right before Christmas that you did this. So the
song and video is about presenting his girlfriend with his manhood in a gift-
wrapped box.

And it's the kind of song where the singer is singing about how great he is,
not how much he loves his girlfriend but really how much he loves himself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Right. Right.

GROSS: And this became one of the most-viewed online things. It just went
viral. So before we hear it, just tell us about writing this and performing it.
It's so much fun. Go ahead.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: The weird thing about the couple of things, digital shorts that
I've done with Andy and the Lonely Island guys is that it really - you know,
for instance, we wrote this song in a delirium of no sleep on a Wednesday or
Thursday of the week.

And then we recorded it that night, and we were laughing so hysterically and
like I said, before probably through the delirium of not being able to sleep
and trying to write something funny, this came out of it. And we knew it would
be funny on some level because we were laughing with each other on the Friday
that we filmed the video.

And then Saturday morning, they edited it, and Saturday - or Saturday night, it
was put out on television. So interestingly enough, how you described, that
these guys were so self-absorbed that there could never be a question in their
mind that this wasn't the greatest Christmas gift of all time, and...

GROSS: Aren't there just, like, so many songs, performers who seem to be that?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Well, maybe it's – maybe the song is funny to people because it
speaks so much to the male population and how self-absorbed we all are.

GROSS: And did you have any particular performers or songs in mind?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Oh no, no. Well, the style – no, no, we weren't, we weren't
parodying anyone in particular. I think the style in which we were doing the
song was, you know, we made that pretty clear that it was early-'90s R&B.

But, you know, when we had that as a basis, then we said well, okay, how
ridiculous can we make this? Because then, at that point, it's just about
making it as funny as possible.

GROSS: Well, let's hear it. This is Andy Samberg and my guest, Justin
Timberlake, in the “SNL” video parody, and it's "Blank in a Box."

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: "Blank in a Box," well-titled.

(Soundbite of song,

Mr. TIMBERLAKE and Mr. ANDY SAMBERG: Hey girl, I got somethin' real important
to give you. So just sit down and listen. Girl you know we've been together
such a long, long time. And now I'm ready to lay it on the line. You know it's
Christmas and my heart is open wide, gonna give you something so you know
what's on my mind. A gift real special, so take off the top. Take a look inside
it's my (BEEP) in a box.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE and Mr. ANDY SAMBERG: Not gonna get you a diamond ring. That
sort of gift don't mean anything. Not gonna get you a fancy car. Girl you gotta
know you're my shining star. Not gonna get you a house in the hills. A girl
like you needs something real. I wanna get you something from the heart,
something special, girl. It's my (BEEP) in a box, my (BEEP) in a box, girl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE and Mr. ANDY SAMBERG: It's my (BEEP) in a box, my (BEEP) in a
box girl...

GROSS: That's my guest, Justin Timberlake, along with Andy Samberg in a sketch
from "Saturday Night Live," which is really, really...

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I've got to tell you, I feel like I'm even getting away with
something that that just got played on NPR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I wish we could say the title, but...

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I feel dirty. I feel dirty right now, and I apologize.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: It's such a great sketch. So Justin Timberlake is now one of the stars
of the new movie "The Social Network," which is about the founding of Facebook
and all of the legal percussions and the jealousies and resentments and
lawsuits and so on that followed.

So did – you started performing when you were so young. I mean, if you go on
the Internet, people can see you at age 11 on "Star Search," singing a Country
and Western song. So, like, who's idea was it to start performing on TV that
young? Was it you? Was it your parents?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I – no, I always – as soon as I sort of discovered the stage, I
think that it just brought out a lot of – a lot in me that I didn't know that I
had. And it did it at a very young age, and it was one of the most fun things
that I could ever do.

And so I, you know, I begged my mother for voice lessons and guitar lessons and
anything I could do to sort of – I wanted to be really good at it. I wanted to
learn how to do it the right way. I wanted to – I knew that I had a good ear,
and – but my father, my biological father, has an amazing voice and music kind
of runs in my family.

But I knew that I wanted to learn. I knew that there was a sort of a right way
to sing, and I wanted to learn that.

GROSS: So your grandfather was a Baptist minister, and I think your father now
directs a church choir. Did you - was the church your first stage?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: It was. It was, actually. It was – well, my father doesn't do
that anymore.

GROSS: Oh, okay.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: But he did at the time when I was very young. But yeah, it was
the first time I had sort of stepped onstage to sing, and I don't know if you
know much about sort of a Southern Baptist church. But no one puts in a bad
performance there, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: It's a very nurturing place to step on the stage and sing
because even if you're really bad, people still say amen at the end, and...

GROSS: So what did you sing?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I can't remember what the songs were. I think there was
something from the hymnal that I sang with my father, and I sang the harmony to
something that he was singing. And that was my first sort of...

GROSS: Oh, of course. So you learned to harmonize in the church. That would
make sense.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Right. I learned to harmonize listening to a choir sing, you
know, three and four-part harmonies. And so that's kind of where I got my ear
from.

But yeah, like I said, that's a very nurturing place to step onstage because
you don't, no one's going to get booed at church.

GROSS: So I watched the clip of you at age 11 on "Star Search" with Ed McMahon,
and some really interesting things about that include that you're singing a
country song, and you're dressed in kind of, you know, country clothing with
the country kind of belt and the hat. And the dancers that...

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I appreciate you reminding me of all this.

GROSS: You're welcome, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: But, you know, I love, like, kiddie talent shows because what always
happens on those is that the children are coached by older people to perform
like performers from older generations. And there's always some, like, really
weird disconnect to see, like, a 10-year-old pretending like he's Sammy Davis
or something, you know.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Right, right, right, a 10-year-old pretending like he's Alan
Jackson.

GROSS: Exactly, thank you, yeah. So what was that like for you, I mean, to...

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Well, it was a very surreal experience. I auditioned for that
show in a mall in Memphis, Tennessee, at an open-call audition. And I mean, it
was a line, you know, at that time "Star Search" was our version of "American
Idol." It was the biggest talent show in the world.

And I actually auditioned with Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman," and
then I went back and auditioned again because you were allowed to audition as
many times as you wanted with as many different things as you wanted.

So I auditioned, if I can remember correctly, I think it was a Garth Brooks
song that I auditioned with, too, but, you know, Garth Brooks was, like, you
know, bigger than bubblegum at that time. And coming from Tennessee, it made
sense to try that angle, as well.

And I got booked on the show and it wasn't the song or performance that I
wanted to do, but it was what they thought was crafted better for the
television show.

But I was happy to be there, and I was at Disney World, and I was 10, and, you
know, I mean, it was like, it was a big deal for me. And I – if not for
anything, I had a blast at the theme parks, so...

GROSS: Okay, well, speaking of Disney World, you went on to be on "The New
Mickey Mouse Club," and what was the audition for that like?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Interestingly enough, so this is some irony. The Disney MGM
Studios, where "Star Search" was filmed, was a double soundstage and next door
to the soundstage of "Star Search" was the Disney Channel's “New MMC.”

And so the serendipity of it is I lost the first round on "Star Search," and we
were on our way home, and there was an open-call audition in Hendersonville,
Tennessee, and – it just came on the television in between commercials. And it
said open-call audition at this place for the Disney Channel's “MMC,” and my
mom said, do you want to give it a go before we go home? We're just going home.

So I went in and auditioned for it and then got a callback and went to sort of
a casting camp of - like a week period of casting camp where, you know, all the
kids who were sort of spawned out of that show, we met for the first time:
Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling.

And there were 21 kids who were whittled down by I think 20,000 that they had
done auditions with all over the country. And out of those 21 kids, I think
seven of us were picked to be the new part of the cast.

And when you're a kid and things like that happen, and happen so fast, you
know, you can't help but feel like, you know, something great was happening for
you. But I look back on it and I think it was more of a fluke than anything.

GROSS: Justin Timberlake will be back in the second half of the show. He plays
the founder of Napster in the new film "The Social Network." I'm Terry Gross,
and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross, back with Justin Timberlake. He's
had a hugely successful music career and has been a popular host of "Saturday
Night Live." Now he's co-starring in the new movie "The Social Network" playing
the founder of Napster. He started acting on "The New Mickey Mouse Club" in
1993 when he was 12.

So after a couple of seasons on "The Mickey Mouse Club," you ended up being in
one of the famous boy bands, 'N Sync, that was put together by Lou Pearlman who
also put together The Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block. So did that
feel like a totally synthetic, or did it feel more organic as a group?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Well, it should be noted that Lou Pearlman didn’t put us
together, but did put up the money for us to have...

GROSS: Oh, I didn’t realize that. So you created, the group got together
yourselves?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Well, I got a phone call.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: The show cancelled and then I went home for two years and got
into trouble, and like, you know, pre-teens do in a small town in Tennessee.
And then all of a sudden, one day, I got a call from Chris Kirkpatrick. He
called my mother and said that he was putting together something and that there
was a person in Orlando who would finance the whole thing. And the money was
put up, but, you know, after I took the trip down there to meet him - at the
same time I said – ironically, JC, who was on the show as well, we were in
Nashville cutting demos and starting to write music together. And so when I got
that phone call I said to Chris, you know, I actually know someone who probably
would obviously has an amazing voice and is a very gifted musician and would be
great for the group, and let me ask him if he's interested as well.

So JC and I actually went down to Orlando together and we met Chris, and in the
process of that, we started just forming the group. And everything that we did
was based around a cappella harmonies. That's what we wanted to be in the
beginning. We sort of wanted to be an a cappella group and so that was why we
put five guys in the group. And when we were forming the group, there wasn’t a
boy band phenomenon. You know, Nirvana was - and Pearl Jam were the, were
probably the top two acts in the world at the time. And, you know, we never
knew at what capacity everything was going to work out for us. I don’t think
that we thought it was going to be as big as it became.

GROSS: You’ve talked a little bit about singing and learning to sing when you
were young. What about dancing? Like, did you study dancing? Did you study with
break dancers or with more traditional choreographers?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I wish that I would've taken more - I guess there's still time
- but I wish that I would've taken more technical dance. I never – I've taken a
couple of technical dance classes, but I learned more how to dance just as a
product of watching MTV and being around, like you said, break dancers in
clubs. You know, break dancing was hugely - b-boying, as it's sort of more
accurately called by the culture, it was very popular at the time so I was
really, really into it. I thought it was just phenomenal. And I learned more,
probably, about how to dance in watching in studying them.

GROSS: What's something that you tried to do, but that was just going too far
for you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Yeah, I know, I remember I really started getting into break
dancing very hard and learning the technicality of it. I broke my thumb twice
in a row and I think that's when I said, you know, I think I'm just going to
stay on my feet. I'm going to keep my feet below my head as it's intended.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: So then...

GROSS: Were you trying to spin on your head or something when that happened?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. My head spun me instead of me spinning on my
head. It wasn’t a pretty sight, so. I think right then and there I decided that
I would, that sort of, you know, I find that every time I write music or come
up with an idea for a record, that whatever it is that I come up with I feel
like I have a specific aesthetic that goes with it, very much like creating a
character. I find that I describe that to people and sometimes they respond to
it and sometimes they don’t. But, for instance, my last album,
"FutureSex/LoveSounds," was a character that I created. Much like, you know,
obviously not the same way that David Bowie would create something like Ziggy
Stardust, you know, but, you know, something that aspired to be a character.
And...

GROSS: What was the character that you were seeing?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I don’t know. I just saw it as someone who I saw - I guess for
some reason I saw some mixture between like 007 character.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: But also an ode to like Fred Astaire, in a way.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Or Gene Kelly. I think I saw it as an ode to that, but how
could I take that and make it sound modern? And so when the aesthetic of it
came into play, I wanted to play the part. I wanted to play it. But it was, I
did feel like I was creating sort of a character that could maybe fall into a
Kubrick film or a Helmut Newton photo or, you know, I just saw a lot of images
in my mind after we had looked back and created it.

GROSS: Well, let's take "Sexy Back," as an example. Your voice is processed on
part of that.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Why did you want that?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: You know, I, it was a song - not actually even singing on the
song, you know, so I remember when...

GROSS: What does that mean?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Well, I'm more sort of talking in tone, more than singing in
that song.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I mean it's, all I can tell you is that the day before we did
that song I was listening to David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," and I'm sure that
when people hear me say that it sounds almost sacrilegious because I mean, I
obviously I think the world of his musicianship. But just the feeling that I
got from that song was just there was something so unabashed about that record
and his performance on that record. And there were parts of that song where I
felt like oh, he's not even singing. He's just expressing himself through
rhythm and tone and that's what I wanted to capture with that song and I don’t
know where that line came from. I sometimes regret it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Because I feel like people feel like it's an extension of who I
am, but when I feel like when I get the opportunity to tell them that I felt
like I was playing a character, sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t.
And, you know, for whatever reason, when we started recording it, I wanted the
vocal to sort of almost slap you in the face. I wanted it to sound like it was
distorted. And so I just got the idea that what if we put it through a
simulated guitar amp or an effect like that. So it really has a - it’s a very
sparse sounding record because there's no - in between the parts that I'm
actually performing the record, there's not - there's just the sound of these
weird, quirky, computerized gimmicks.

I felt like if anyone ever took dance music and applied a rock 'n' roll frame
of mind to it, with bravado and sort of rock star-ism, that's what we were
trying to capture and it was just a moment. And originally, the song wasn’t
going to be called that, because I thought that was too on the nose. But I just
found that the more I played it for people around me, that's what they called
it. And, you know, it’s, like I said, I sometimes regret that I wrote it that
way; but also not, because it was a moment and it was fun and I had fun writing
it. And when I see people sing it back to me, you know, when you play for
instance, cut to me standing on stage in Copenhagen for 80,000 people and
they're all singing the song and there's something so unabashed and fun and
unbridled about their feeling with that song. So I felt like it was mission
accomplished,

GROSS: Okay. So after that great description, we have to hear it.

This is my guest, Justin Timberlake singing "Sexy Back."

(Soundbite of song, "Sexy Back")

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: (Singing) I’m bringing sexy back. Yeah. Them other boys don’t
know how to act. Yeah. I think you're special, what's behind your back? Yeah.
So turn around and I'll pick up the slack. Yeah.

Take 'em to the bridge. Come on.

Dirty babe. Uh-huh. You see the shackles baby I’m your slave. Uh-huh. I’ll let
you whip me if I misbehave. Uh-huh. It’s just that no one makes me feel this
way. Uh-huh.

Take 'em to the chorus. Come here girl. Go ahead, be gone with it. Come to the
back. Go ahead, be gone with it. VIP. Go ahead, be gone with it. Drinks on me.
Go ahead, be gone with it. Let me see what you’re working with. Go ahead, be
gone with it. Look at those hips. Go ahead, be gone with it. You make me smile.
Go ahead, be gone with it. Go ahead child. Go ahead, be gone with it. And get
your sexy on. Go ahead, be gone with it. Get your sexy on. Go ahead, be gone
with it. Get your sexy on. Go ahead, be gone with it. Get your sexy on. Go
ahead, be gone with it. Get your sexy on. Go ahead, be gone with it. Get your
sexy on. Go ahead, be gone with it. Get your sexy on. Go ahead, be gone with
it. Get your sexy on.

I’m bringing sexy back. Yeah.

GROSS: That was Justin Timberlake recorded in 2006, one of his big solo hits.
And Justin Timberlake is now one of the stars of the new movie "The Social
Network," about the founding of Facebook and he plays the founder of Napster.

So that's really fun to listen back to.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Okay.

GROSS: What was it like for you going solo as opposed to like being in a group,
you know, being more - having all the responsibility - the main responsibility
- on your shoulders?

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Well, I mean it was comfortable. I think growing up as an only
child probably had more to do with that than anything. But, you know, I've
stated this in the past, that I felt like I had grown up in the group and then
becoming a young man, I had music that I was ready to express and I don’t think
it was an extension of the other guys in the group, and so I think it was a
natural progression. There was timing that was involved with some of the other
guys wanting - aspiring to do other things as well and so there was a little
bit of serendipity to that. But also, I think naturally it still would've taken
its course that I would've ended up doing solo work just because I think that I
had different music inside of me that I wanted to express.

GROSS: So you are so lucky. You were a child star and survived. I mean...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Seriously, like the things that you learned as a child star were
probably like so helpful in learning, you know, like show business and dancing
and singing and acting. But at the same time, it ruins so many people like so
many people who are lucky enough to have that kind of early fame, never
recover. So do you have any sense of what it was that has kept you...

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I think I would just chalk that up to, I would chalk that up to
amazing parents, an amazing mother.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: You know, my parents...

GROSS: I hope she's listening.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I'm almost positive she's listening right now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: She's very proud. But I would chalk that up to an amazing mother. She's,
you know, my biological parents divorced when I was right - I think right
around the time I turned one and my mother remarried my stepdad when I was five
and - right after I turned five. And so, you know, there was a period of time
where I had to get used to sort of a man that wasn’t related to me by blood.
And you know, she always made everything so comfortable for me and she always
spoke to me like I was her peer.

And I remember her saying, you know, I think the thing that she sort of
embedded in my brain is if you have the ability to do something, one or two
things great, it doesn’t mean that you’re a better person than anyone else. And
I think that I've held on to that, and I think that the accolades that I
receive, personally, from what I do, are more of comments you would get from
people that say your music helped them through a rough time, or saying that you
made them laugh, or saying that they thought, you know, something you did was
great, rather than, you know, materialistic awards or things like that. And,
but just I would chalk it up to a great mother who has always taught me that we
all put our pants on one leg at a time, so.

GROSS: Well, Justin Timberlake, it's been great to talk with you. Thank you so
much for being on our show.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: Thank you. I'm such a fan and I...

GROSS: Oh, wow.

Mr. TIMBERLAKE: I was so excited to be on the show, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I'm very excited to here you say that. Justin Timberlake co-stars in the
new film "The Social Network." He plays Sean Parker, the founder of Napster.
You can listen to several Justin Timberlake songs and find links to his digital
"SNL" shorts on our website, freshair.npr.org.

Coming up, Milo Miles reviews the American debut album of Australian singer-
songwriter Sarah Blasko. She says her songs are inspired by early Carol King
and Leonard Cohen.

This is FRESH AIR.

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Sarah Blasko: An Intimate Voice, An Inventive Sound

TERRY GROSS, host:

Sarah Blasko is a singer-songwriter from Sydney, Australia who recently made
her American debut with her third album, "As Day Follows Night." Blasko says
it’s a cycle songs about a love triangle done in the manner of early Carol King
and Leonard Cohen.

Music critic Milo Miles has a review.

(Soundbite of song, "Hold On My Heart")

Ms. SARAH BRASKO (Singer-songwriter): (Singing) All these lost and these
lonesome times. You can't please somebody, can't please somebody else, until
you learn to look after yourself. You can't be somebody, can't be somebody
else. You've learned your lesson, put in on the shelf. Hold on my heart. Hold
on my heart. Find your stronger parts. Hold on my heart.

MILO MILES: I want to start talking about Sarah Blasko's "As Day Follows Night"
by noting how a music critic can introduce you to a record that delights you -
partly in thanks, partly because it doesn't happen to me as much as it used to.
The critic in question is Blasko's fellow Australian, Robert Forster, formerly
one of the songwriting co-leaders of The Go-Betweens. Turns out he's an astute,
articulate judge of other musicians' work, and without the Blasko review in
Forster's book, "The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll," I never would have picked up
on "As Day Follows Night."

When you're in sync with a music writer, you usually have one of two responses
to his observations. Either I hear what you hear, but it doesn't mean the same
thing to me; or I hear what you hear and I'm with you. Forster got me to listen
to Blasko by selling her through the basics - her sound and her words.

The sound springs from Blasko's collaboration with Swedish producer Bjorn
Yttling. I know, I've never heard of him either. A good shorthand way to
explain his approach is to say that he frames voices and songs rather like the
American, Jon Brion, who has a flair for producing singer-songwriters like
Aimee Mann and Rufus Wainwright. On "As Day Follows Night," you feel intimate
with the singer's voice right away, and only later notice inventive music
touches that round out everything. Like the brilliant musical saw on "All I
Want."

(Soundbite of song, "All I Want")

Ms. BLASKO: (Singing) I don't want another lover. So don't keep holding out
your hands. There's no room beside me. I'm not looking for romance. Say I'll be
here, I'll be here, but there's no way you'd understand.

All I want. All I want. All I want. When I don't even know myself.

MILES: There's rare pleasures in the plainness and specifics of Blasko lines
like when all your life you waited for someone to understand, to wake you up
and speak your name. Blasko's theme is as old as romance itself - an intricate,
volatile relationship that alternates between joyful affirmation and collapse.
Relationship albums may seem like obvious undertakings, but they are
challenging. Earlier this year, the gifted Tracey Thorn released a similar-
themed album that was flatter and more predictable than "As Day Follows Night."
Part of the reason Blasko succeeds is old-fashion warmth and soul, but part is
melodies that tug hard on the ear.

Catchiness isn't everything - by itself, it can be mechanical. But if touched
by verve and savvy, catchiness is an asset. And after a couple of listens, you
will recognize every track on Blasko's album with pleasure. Even the anguish of
"I Never Knew."

(Soundbite of song, "I Never Knew")

Ms. BLASKO: (Singing) It's not enough, it's not enough for both of us. This
love I feel won't reach into your heart. Though it hurts inside, to find my
pride so altered. I let you go, to find your way alone.

I never knew it would hurt like this. To let someone go against my wishes. All
I can do is hope and pray. That you'll find your way.

It's not enough...

MILES: You wouldn't expect an introspective album about love's torments to be
headlong rocking, but more important, Blasko avoids the temptation to be too
slow and sluggish, of confusing meditation with moping. You don't expect a
happy ending to the romance, exactly, but Blasko makes you pull for her
happiness with determined numbers like "No Turning Back," which makes letdowns
like "Lost & Defeated" cut with jagged edges.

Then, at the last moment, in the wistful finale "Night and Day," Blasko affirms
that, whatever the outcome of love, the game is worth it. And you accept that's
happiness enough.

GROSS: Milo Miles reviewed "As Day Follows Night" from Sarah Blasko. You can
listen to three tracks from it on our website, freshair.npr.org.

Coming up, TV critic David Bianculli celebrates a couple of golden
anniversaries that have not been celebrated on TV.

This is FRESH AIR.
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If A TV Show Turns 50 And No One Notices...

(Soundbite of music)

TERRY GROSS, host:

Our TV critic, David Bianculli, recently looked ahead at what the networks had
to offer for the fall season. Today, though, he's looking back - way back, half
a century or more. And he's wondering why some TV programmers aren't doing the
same.

(Soundbite of theme song, "My Three Sons")

DAVID BIANCULLI: That music may not conjure up any memories for you, especially
if you’re under 30, but to most older listeners - ones about my age - that's
instantly recognizable as the theme song to TV's "My Three Sons." It's a tune
all but guaranteed to start your toes tapping - and it may even conjure up
long-dormant images of the animated opening credits, where cartoon toes were
tapping.

There's value in these old shows, not just because the best of them were and
are entertaining, but because they provide a snapshot of what we were, what we
accepted and what, in some cases, we aspired to become.

I mention this, not because of a general wave of nostalgia, but because of a
very specific wave: Last Wednesday, "My Three Sons," a gentle ABC sitcom
starring Fred MacMurray as a single father raising three boys, turned 50 years
old. I would say it celebrated its golden anniversary, except I couldn't find
any celebration.

Not on ABC, which wasn't about to waste valuable prime time on a show that
premiered before the oldest person in the network's coveted 18-to-49
demographic was even born. Not on TV Land, which you would think would be a
natural - or even on Nick at Nite. No. Even on cable networks devoted to
vintage TV, vintage, these days means "The George Lopez Show." And I'm not
kidding.

"My Three Sons," by the way, is by no means an isolated case of TV disregarding
for its own past. Last Sunday, CBS's "The Andy Griffith Show" - one of TV's
most durable, popular and iconic weekly programs, turned 50. TV Land, at least,
showed a four-hour block of episodes that day to honor the event - but it made
sure the celebration was over before prime time.

"The Flintstones" turned 50 last week, and only the Boomerang cable network
seemed to care. ABC's "Beulah," the first TV sitcom to star an African-
American, turned 60 last weekend - but not even BET bothered to present an
episode.

And yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the delightful game show hosted by
Groucho Marx, "You Bet Your Life" - and I bet your life you didn't know that.

Next month is the golden anniversary of one of the most important TV
documentaries ever shown - Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame," about migrant
workers, originally shown Thanksgiving weekend on CBS. It's been out on video
for years - but if no one sees it, that's the same as being lost and forgotten.

The same goes for a show that turns 60 next Tuesday, a CBS series that was the
pivotal missing link between vaudeville, radio and what evolved into the TV
sitcom: "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show."

This was when both George Burns was relatively young - TV too. The stage sets
of George and Gracie's house had only three walls, so studio audiences could
see the stars. Mentions of the commercial sponsor, Carnation Evaporated Milk,
were folded right into the show's dialogue; Gracie, effortlessly bringing to
TV, her radio role of a ditzy dame, would wonder how they managed to get milk
from carnations.

But the central DNA of television situation comedy is all here: the neighbor
who bursts in unannounced, the schemes that don't work, the husband who thinks
he knows best but often doesn't. And after 60 years, the comedy is still funny.

For example, the scene where Gracie visits a friend in the hospital and returns
home with a bouquet of flowers - and yes, they're carnations. It always gets a
big laugh from the college students in my TV history class.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show")

Ms. GRACIE ALLEN (Comedic actor): (as self) Uh-huh.

Mr. GEORGE BURNS (Comedic actor): (as self) Why, what beautiful flowers.

Ms. ALLEN: (as self) Aren't they lovely and if it weren't for you I wouldn’t
have them.

Mr. BURNS: (as self) Me?

Ms. ALLEN: (as self) Mm-hmm.

Mr. BURNS: (as self) What did I have to do with this?

Ms. ALLEN: (as self) Well, it was your idea. You said when I went to visit
Clara Bagley to take her flowers, so when she wasn’t looking, I did.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BURNS: (as self) Gracie, I, I, look...

Ms. ALLEN: (as self) Well, isn't it good...

Mr. BURNS: (as self) I said for you to stop...

Ms. ALLEN: (as self) Well, isn't it good they're carnations, dear? I'll put
them in the refrigerator and we'll milk them later.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BURNS: (as self) We'll milk them later. Well, I guess if she made sense,
I'd still be selling ties.

BIANCULLI: So where is this going to be shown on TV next week? So far as I can
tell, nowhere. And that's a shame. For movie fans, Turner Classic Movies is the
perfect cable network. It shows films unedited and uninterrupted, and has a
host on hand to put things in context. It even has a weekend showcase called
"The Essentials," where Robert Osborne and guest host Alec Baldwin present
certain movies, and talk about why they love them.

Where's the TV equivalent, when more programs are celebrating key anniversaries
every year? If we forget our TV history, we're doomed to no repeats.

GROSS: David Bianculli is founder and editor of the website
TVWorthWatching.com, and he teaches TV and film history at Rowan University in
New Jersey.

You can download Podcasts of our show on our website, freshair.npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of "Meet the Flintstones" theme)

GROSS: On the next FRESH AIR, the new world of campaign finance and the new
shadow GOP created in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizen's United
decision. We talk with Peter Stone of the Center for Public Integrity and Ken
Vogel of Politico.

Join us.

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Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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