Sunday, October 15, 2006

Love, Lust and Icons: "My Love"

Video: Justin Timberlake's "My Love" (Better Quality Video)

The irony of “My Love” is in the frankness of the words, and the hyper-surrealism of the “symphony” of sounds. This is a love song that isn’t actually about love; it’s about the feeling of excitement and lust that anticipates love. Justin Timberlake isn’t writing a love note or a symphony, he’s writing a pop dance song.

But while the song brings up the subject, the video crystallizes the mood and sensual energy of the beat and verses. The “Let Me Talk to You” prelude foreshadows the double meanings of “My Love” with Timbaland’s playful exchange with JT across a mostly black backdrop with streaks of white light. The color choices here are paramount, and by keeping the video in black and white we are more aware than ever of a two-sided game. Much like Gnarls Barkley’s video for “Crazy,” the director is intent on showing us that there is more to “love” than meets the eye.

When the actual song begins we are immersed in a vast white space as JT comes spinning into focus. It’s a slow epic beginning to a song of equal measure, and the slew of cello’s that come flying out of Justin’s vest are a fitting tribute to the theme. This is an upbeat dance number that has a deceivingly slow beat, and the slow-motion effect of objects flying out of the singers captures that dialectic.

The “other side” of love in this case is sex. There is a manic energy to the inter-splicing of the shots (an editing masterpiece), but the way in which highly sexualized images seem to just flash on the screen and then disappear is a perfect way to make a kinky music video. Rather than lingering on any one move, JT and crew do things quickly and smoothly – like the dance moves themselves. Here we have a girl shaking her butt, then we have mysterious gloved hands grabbing Justin’s chest and finally we have the genius use of rubber bands in the scenes with T.I. (“rubberband man”). JT may be trying a bit too hard to sell his newfound sexual freedom, but then again, it’s working.

Above all the video is a clean-cut visual stunner that makes everyone involved look very cool. From the opening shots of the two white suited gentlemen, to the dance scenes that play like the greatest Gap video ever, and finally to that debonair aura of T.I. – this song is about the surface appeal of love. But that’s not to say it isn’t actually “love.” Justin throws a ring at the screen like he means it, and when he sits across from that girl on the couch; I think he does mean it. And even if T.I. plays up the whole misogynistic I don’t care about you role, it doesn’t retract from the one JT is playing. We just have to remember that they are both, just roles.

And perhaps the climactic final shot of JT dancing in tune with a gorgeous girl, and then moving off on his own (all the while the camera spins around him gloriously uncut) is a testament to our love of surface roles. It’s the most cinematic and visually stunning shot of the entire video, and it’s about nothing more than JT. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not JT is really in love, because what we really “love” is him – Justin Timberlake, the new king of pop.

1 comment:

Yusuf said...

Wow, nice essay. I hadn't seen the video, either, the last scene is by far the coolest thing I've seen in a while

Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie