Justin Timberlake's 'Justified' Turns 20: How The Solo Debut Launched The Singer To Superstardom
Justin Timberlake performs in New York City's Times Square in 2002.

Photo: Theo Wargo/WireImage


Justin Timberlake's 'Justified' Turns 20: How The Solo Debut Launched The Singer To Superstardom

As *NSYNC began a hiatus in 2002, Justin Timberlake set out to create the music he's always wanted to make with 'Justified' — and it spawned one of the biggest stars of his generation.

GRAMMYs/Nov 4, 2022 - 03:26 pm

By 2002, it was pretty clear that Justin Timberlake was an icon in the making. He was positioned as the unofficial frontman of *NSYNC, who were still riding high as one of the biggest boy bands of all time. But Timberlake was eager to ditch the ramen-noodle hair and family-friendly persona for a project that better reflected his artistry — little did he know, it'd solidify him as a superstar.

Justified, Timberlake's debut solo album, arrived on Nov. 5. The 13-track LP delved into the singer's R&B and old-school influences, artistically re-introducing himself while laying the groundwork for the global solo stardom to come.

The album came just six months after <em>NSYNC wrapped what would become their final tour and began an indefinite hiatus. At the time, he insisted the band was "in no danger" amid his solo venture. "There's no reason my solo career and </em>NSYNC can't coexist in the same universe," he told the New York Post.

That quickly proved difficult — Justified was a commercial success, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and spawning two top-five singles. Within the next year, the album sold 3 million copies. Timberlake headlined arenas around the world, became the face of a McDonald's campaign, and landed his first double-duty hosting and performing gig on Saturday Night Live. A 2003 Rolling Stone cover story may have epitomized that one reason he could no longer coexist with his *NSYNC bandmates: "Justin Timberlake: The New King of Pop."

The Michael Jackson homage was fitting, as half of Justified was intended for the late icon. As Pharrell Williams confirmed in 2020, he and Chad Hugo (together, known as the Neptunes, who co-wrote and co-produced Justified) initially pitched their album contributions to Jackson. After Jackson declined, the Neptunes brought them to Timberlake, and the R&B-leaning sounds were exactly what he was looking for.

"I was trying to make a multi-dimensional record; a record that captured the vibe of my favorite time in music, the '60s," Timberlake told Billboard in 2002. "For the six weeks that we worked on these songs, I got to live in my own musical dream world and play a little hip-hop, a little old-school R&B, a little classic rock. It was so much fun — and I learned a lot about making music in a totally different way than I was used to."

Those old-school influences come through on cuts like "Let's Take a Ride" and "Last Night," but the prominent takeaway from Justified is that Timberlake was no longer a fresh-faced pop heartthrob. Racier lyrics ("I could think of a couple positions for you" in "Right For Me") and elevated, hip-hop-leaning production (helmed by The Neptunes, Timbaland and Scott Storch) presented a more mature sound that helped him graduate from teen stardom to full-fledged artistry.

Justified also set a new standard for solo stars emerging from a pop group, as his peers who tried before him couldn't quite make the same impact. The Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter released his first solo effort, Now or Never — coincidentally, just one week prior to Justified's arrival — to rather disappointing results, and each of the five Spice Girls' solo albums failed to make major waves. And really, until Harry Styles, no other former boy bander has managed to achieve such success since.

Between its commercial performance and sophisticated sound, Justified was arguably the first time an artist from a contemporary pop group was taken seriously as a solo act. Lead single "Like I Love You" helped set the tone ahead of the album's release, its fiery guitar and drum lines ushering in the more mature sound. The track also scored Timberlake his first solo GRAMMY nomination in 2003.

His subsequent singles — the searing "Cry Me a River" and the dance floor-ready "Rock Your Body" — were what sealed his fate as a solo star, both landing in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. "Cry Me A River" is still one of Timberlake's biggest songs to date, and earned him a GRAMMY for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2004.

The 2004 GRAMMYs marked another pivotal moment for Timberlake. Just one week after being part of the infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction with Janet Jackson, the singer took to the GRAMMY stage to perform another Justified single, "Señorita," as well as his GRAMMY-nominated collaboration with the Black Eyed Peas, "Where Is The Love." Timberlake was nominated for a total of five awards that night — among them, the coveted Album Of The Year for Justified — and took home two golden gramophones, including the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Twenty years later, Timberlake now has 10 GRAMMYs and 39 nominations, five No. 1 hits, four No. 1 albums, a Super Bowl halftime headlining gig, and even an acclaimed acting career. When it comes to his evolution from boy-bander to solo superstar, Timberlake may have put it best himself in the 2002 Billboard interview: "There's a lot more to me than people have previously believed." 

Timberlake certainly proved that — and justified his place as the new king of pop. 

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy


Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images


Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards