Favorite male entertainer of the aughts: Usher or Justin Timberlake? | The Tylt
Favorite male entertainer of the aughts: Usher or Justin Timberlake?
As The Ringer pointed out, Usher and J.T. would eventually meet in the middle and become rivals by converging R&B, hip-hop, and dance into urban mainstream pop music in the early-to-mid aughts.
Usher was R&B music's teen heartthrob in the mid-to-late '90s. R&B had princesses like Aaliyah, Mýa, Brandy and Monica, but Usher was the crowned Prince of R&B with a string of hits from his "My Way" LP. He followed up with a few more crossover #1 smashes on "8701" in 2001, including "U Remind Me" and "U Got It Bad." While no one really remembers Usher's debut album, under the direction of Puff Daddy, "My Way" and "8701" cemented the dancing crooner as a superstar.
J.T. was co-frontman of teen pop boy band *NSYNC, alongside JC Chasez. Although Chasez really brought the vocals, J.T. became a standout with star power and his relationship with Britney Spears only made him even a bigger star. J.T. cited Janet Jackson and brother Michael as huge influences, especially as he kicked off his solo career in 2003. His relationship with Britney ended, *NSYNC disbanded in 2002 and J.T.'s debut album "Justified" debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, gaining top 10 hits with "Cry Me a River" and "Rock Your Body." Janet brought out J.T. during her Super Bowl performance in 2004, and unfortunately, following Nipplegate, the Empress of Pop was blacklisted. Despite Janet's backlash, J.T.'s career took off, especially with his sophomore effort "FutureSex/LoveSounds."
The comparisons between Usher and J.T. started around 2003, especially as both entertainers were about to reach career peaks.
While J.T. was just then making his solo debut in 2003, Usher dropped his most commercially successful and critical acclaimed album "Confessions" in 2004. The introspective album reportedly details he and Chilli's (TLC) tumultuous relationship. The diamond-selling album is revered as one of the best-selling LPs ever, especially among R&B audiences. Usher scored four more #1 pop hits with "Yeah," "Burn," "Confessions," and "My Boo."
Usher would go on to score three more #1 albums, two more #1 Hot 100 hits with "Love in This Club" and "OMG," and a string of dance-pop hits going into the '10s. I think it's safe to say the second biggest artist of the aughts (behind Eminem) has successfully carried on the King of Pop's legacy.
J.T. cemented his solo pop superstardom with "Justified," but it was "FutureSex/LoveSounds" that is arguably his best work to date. J.T. is polarizing these days, especially as his critics continue to call out his lack of response and accountability to Nipplegate. But there are many bops on his sophomore effort, including #1 hits "SexyBack," "My Love" and "What Goes Around... Comes Around."
Many credit his astronomical level of pop success to white privilege, especially in comparison to his very talented peers and artists who, some argue, he ripped off (Janet, Michael Jackson, etc). But it's very hard to deny Justin Timberlake is a talented entertainer, a good musician and one of the biggest pop music icons of this generation.
While he became a movie star in the late aughts, many felt the wait was worth it. J.T. saw a resurgence in musical popularity with "The 20/20 Experience" and "The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2" in 2013. He proved he still has that 'it factor' well into the 2010s. His new album "Man of the Woods" and his recent Super Bowl performance will only continue to cement his status as one of the few truly worthy of the King of Pop's mantle.