When I think of today's music and pop culture icons, a certain list comes to mind. I posted my list of upcoming icons once before here. I probably would adjust it a bit at this point but I think most of them are shaping up to be true. In an industry that is now dominated by women (see Alicia, Beyoncé, Taylor, Gaga, Norah, Amy Winehouse) there are few males that can contend with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Elvis, and other iconic figures in music. Stevie Wonder holds the most Grammy Awards for a male. He has twenty two. Stevie is no Pop idol but no pop man in music today is even close to his record.
With the career of Usher hanging in the balance and contemporaries like Chris Brown scrambling to save face, it seems like the crown would belong to Justin Timberlake. However, Justin seems to be elusive and anti-fame at this point, a stark contrast to his glory days in the megawatt boy band N'Sync. What has Justin been doing lately? If you guessed nothing, you guessed wrong.
The career of Justin Timberlake is hard to sum up. He is as present in the media as one of his female counterparts who many feel is overexposed. Yet, he does so without seeming forced. Justin just doesn't seem to take himself seriously. Even since his boy band fame, Justin has nabbed six Grammy awards, two Emmy Awards, and released two chart topping solo albums. Both Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds were nominated for the coveted album of the year Grammy and each sold in excess of 9 million copies. The latter album holds the record for pre-orders on iTunes and bested Coldplay with digital sales in one week. The album's lead single Sexy Back caused a global craze and helped to usher in the explosion of Euro-synth pop.
Timberlake has also had roles in film with Black Snake Moan, Alpha Dog, and other films. Musically, he never seems to go away. Collaborating with everyone from Timbaland, Nelly Furtado, and Madonna to 50 Cent, Ciara, T.I., and Duran Duran, Timberlake always has a presence on the radio. Also, his Emmy winning work on Saturday Night Live has received more acclaim than the work of some of the regular cast members. He also has a successful clothing line (William Rast), restaurants, a record label, and starred in Givenchy ad campaigns as well as the Shrek franchise.
How on earth is Timberlake the omnipresent King of Pop without seeming forced or overexposed? It seems as if the quality of work is what keeps him afloat rather than the quantity. While other artists hop on every endorsement possible, churn out records every year, and choose cliché Oscar bait roles, Justin seems to only do what works best for him and what he can master. His albums are always spaced apart and were seamlessly crafted, his movie roles have been in indie flicks rather than blockbusters and star vehicles, and his clothing line is really his vision with the help of a childhood friend as a partner. Timberlake doesn't force feed. He gives the public a taste and people happen to bite. Then he steps back for a moment. His projects never cross paths. He doesn't play singers in films or line the soundtracks with his music, nor does he model much for his clothing line. Public opinion may vary when it comes to him, but one thing is for sure. Justin has figured out the business and he's riding the wave while keeping his sanity.