As I was deciding what to write about the new video for Justin Timberlake‘s single “Suit & Tie,” my editor shared her pithy opinion. “This video is basically the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen,” wrote Kat.
The video is very much of a piece with the larger Justin Timberlake comeback campaign, which has indeed been perfection. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t say it’s not perfect. Start with JT himself: old enough that his voice inspires nostalgia (for two entirely different earlier periods in his career, no less), but young enough that only his new hairdo distinguishes him from the Justin who launched a remarkably successful solo career 11 years ago. He appeals to everyone, which is why he’s been tapped for lucrative endorsement deals with Target, Bud Light Platinum, and other brands on the slightly upscale end of mainstream (Slightly. Slightly.)
Director David Fincher got his start in music video, making a splash on MTV in the 80s and 90s before going on to become one of the most adulated directors working in feature films (Fight Club, The Social Network). Fincher’s taste is so impeccable that he even worked with Kristen Stewart in the least artistically dubious period of her career — Fincher’s Panic Room was released when the starlet was 11. Only a director with such credentials could have been counted on to make something as striking yet tasteful as was required for the JT comeback clip, and Fincher did not disappoint.
Timberlake’s riding the neo-soul moment that pulls a tight thread through eight decades of black music history, from Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club through Nat “King” Cole at the fireside through Marvin Gaye in the streets and b-boys in the park to JT in the studio with his iPad. Justin’s not black, of course, but he’s from Memphis and he’s hanging out with Jay-Z, who smokes and sips and, eventually, spits. In the video, do we see JT conducting a horn section? Is the Pope a quitter?
The video is in black and white (because of course it is), telling a loose story that goes something like this: “Justin and Jay put on their suits and ties, and proceed to show us a few things.” Scantily-clad dancers eventually emerge, as if in a nod to Fincher’s Buzz Bin roots, shot against a black-then-white background that somehow manages to strobe elegantly. Finally, Timberlake dances on water in a last classic image. He’ll never fall in, just as long as you keep clapping your hands and saying, “I do believe in Justin. I do, I do, I DO!”
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