Justin Timberlake’s ‘Everything I Thought It Was’: All 18 Tracks Ranked

Midway through Everything I Thought It Was, Justin Timberlake makes a callback that he knows his fans are going to love. “Hey fellas! Hey fellas!,” he crows during the dance barnburner “My Favorite Drug,” to which he’s greeted with a chorus of manly “Yeahhhh”s. Timberlake then goes, “I know I did it before, but I’ma do it again!” And after that, of course, he pivots to the ladies: “I know you came here alone, but you gon’ leave with a friend!”

The nod towards the classic call-and-response hook of Justified classic “Señorita” is intentional, and emblematic of what Timberlake has set out to accomplish on his first album since 2018’s Man of the Woods. That album dabbled in country, Americana, traditional R&B and funk through a dance-pop lens; parts of Man of the Woods were captivating, other parts didn’t quite land, and the experiment earned Timberlake some of the harshest critiques of his career.

Six whole years have passed since then, multiple full eras of popular music along with them,  and Timberlake has re-emerged with an album that plucks him out of the woods and better understands his core appeal. Everything I Thought It Was finds Timberlake playing the hits to a degree — shimmering rhythmic pop; crackling, Timbaland-helmed beats; disco grooves that aren’t contained to radio-single lengths; even the return of *NSYNC — but also does not represent a retreat into safe territory. Timberlake may be squarely in his forties at this point, but he still aims to have every moment of a sprawling, 76-minute album be considered thrilling. He’s a consummate entertainer who knows what he’s best at, and still finds occasions to operate in the margins of his aesthetic.

Since his last album release, Timberlake has faced newfound public scrutiny, both in regard to his past relationship with Britney Spears as well as for his role in the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy; Timberlake has revisited these issues himself, while also declaring in concert that he’d like to “apologize to absolutely f–king nobody.” Everything I Thought It Was is bookended by a pair of songs, “Memphis” and “Conditions,” that dissect his relationship to celebrity and the pristine image that he maintained for many years in the spotlight before blemishes began to be highlighted (“I’m less Superman, more Clark Kent/ You want a hero, I don’t know where he went,” he admits on the latter track).

In between those two songs is more than an hour’s worth of finely crafted, wholly satisfying pop, but the beginning and ending stand out, and fascinate, amid renewed scrutiny. Timberlake is known to take roughly a half-decade to craft full-length statements, but let’s hope he comes back sooner next time, and continues to balance sumptuous radio fodder with self-reflection.

While all of Everything I Thought It Was is worth checking out, which tracks are the early standouts? Here is a preliminary ranking of every song on Justin Timberlake’s latest album.

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