Just about the last time we heard from Justin Timberlake was at the end of 2013 in GQ’s “Man of the Year” issue (as… “#Hashtag of the Year”), where he said that he felt like “a bunch of people just took a s–t on my face.” This was after Runner Runner, his film with Ben Affleck, tanked at the box office and The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2, his second album of the year, was rightly savaged by critics. America had begged Timberlake to come back, but we turned on him. The star, so used to being beloved, was spurned. Then he more or less disappeared.
Timberlake has been on tour since November 6 of last year. He took a few weeks off here and there, but otherwise he has been working maniacally. Of the past 192 days in 2014, Timberlake has played a show on 59 of them, and he has dates scheduled in every month through December. Part of this is pure capitalism, of course: every Timberlake show rakes in millions, and even his small show at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City last night was sponsored by no less than three major credit card companies (Citi/AAdvantage & MasterCard Priceless Access). But his 13-month long work schedule insulated him from a public backlash so painful that he took to the pages of GQ to tell us how much we had hurt his feelings. “None of your opinions count,” he said in GQ of the press’ vitriol. “And by the way, none of you can do it.”
Thankfully, inside the four walls of a venue, Timberlake can be everything he wants America to believe he is. For instance, on Thursday he entered the stage to a Frank Sinatra song and a man standing directly next to me turned to his friend and said “he is the Sinatra of our time,” which is a fable you only repeat after hearing it so many times that you think it must be true. But Timberlake can be the Sinatra of our time in front of his screeching fan base — I either heard him call his tuxedoed band the “Rat Pack,” or I hallucinated it. But if not, it was certainly implied.