Justin Timberlake Rocks NPR’s ‘Tiny Desk’ With Funky Throwback Set of Classics

Justin Timberlake has been rocking a series of small club and theater stages in the run-up to Friday’s (March 15) release of his sixth solo studio album, Everything I Thought It Was. But on release day, Timberlake and his Tennessee Kids backing band really went micro for a (pre-taped) visit to NPR’s “Tiny Desk” studios for a 25-minute, 7-song set that was heavy on fan favorites while also sneaking in one recent new single.


And though NPR said JT’s expansive live band was not the biggest collection of musicians to squeeze into the Tiny Desk cubicle performance space, the Kids’ 15 members were definitely cheek-to-jowl as they blasted off with the swinging “Señorita,” the first of two songs from the singer’s 2002 debut solo album, Justified.

With Justin posted up at a keyboard playing conductor, he led the Kids through the song’s Latin-pop groove, complete with soulful backing vocals, a four-part horn section and an equal compliment of back-up singers. They crew seamlessly rolled into the roller boogie jam “Rock Your Body,” briefly turning the public radio office into a daytime disco.

The set list then pivoted to the slinky “Pusher Love Girl” from 2013’s The 20/20 Experience, before bringing things down to a low R&B rumble for the wah-wah-fied “Until the End of Time” from the singer’s second studio album, 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds. With hardly any time to chat the NPR staffer audience up due to the packed nature of the set, JT kept things moving along after a sip of tea, a big “whoo! it’s early” exhale and a thank you to the assembled crowd.

“We’ve been out on the road a little bit,” Timberlake said while strapping on a guitar. “I forget how many of us there are… y’all really lived up to the name ‘Tiny Desk,’” likening the logistics of cramming in the crew to a game of Tetris, while suggesting NPR might want to upgrade to larger, or more, desks.

The band broke into a hushed, acoustic version of the only track they played from EITIW, the previously released single “Selfish” and keeping things on the mellow tip for a meditative, flute-forward version of Timberlake’s 2006 single “What Goes Around… Comes Around.” The set ended with another FutureSex smash, the body movin’ “SexyBack,” which immediately bumped up the energy in the room 10 notches as Justin busted out a mini-bullhorn that gave his typically smooth vocals a staticky edge.

The Tiny Desk drop came just days after JT thrilled an L.A. audience with a surprise *NSYNC reunion that found the beloved boy band running through a few of their most beloved hits.

Watch Timberlake’s Tiny Desk show below.

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