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‘Selfish’ Review: More Throwback, Less Comeback

2.5 Stars

"Selfish" by Justin Timberlake is the 15th track from his upcoming album "Everything I Thought It Was."
"Selfish" by Justin Timberlake is the 15th track from his upcoming album "Everything I Thought It Was." By Courtesy of Charlotte Rutherford/RCA Records
By Audrey H. Limb, Crimson Staff Writer

JT is back in pop! Cool! Who’s JT?

One listen to “Selfish” is all it takes to remember. Justin Timberlake’s newest release hits listeners with a wave of nostalgia for the early 2000s. Catchy and radio-friendly, it is as safe a comeback the artist could have made. After five years of waiting, “Selfish” is an uninventive and forgettable track.

“Selfish” is the lead single for Timberlake’s upcoming studio album, “Everything I Thought It Was,” which will be released on March 15. The project marks his first solo album since “Man of the Woods,” which topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart back in 2018. Aside from a few intermittent collaborations with other pop singers, Timberlake has largely remained out of the spotlight until recently.

After such a long hiatus, Timberlake’s return to releasing solo music is exciting. “Selfish,” however, is less so. The song suffers from a predictable structure and bland lyrics. The verse–pre-chorus–chorus–post-chorus cycle is recycled straight from the textbook of pop radio tunes. Though the bridge marks a brief change in instrumentation, it relies on the same chords as every other section of the song, making the overall track feel stale.

The lyrics of “Selfish” are just as simple, and not in an endearing sense. In the refrain, “I want every bit of you, I guess I’m selfish,” the singer admits that his attraction to his lover does not bring out the best in him. No apology or introspection follows this line, preventing the chorus from exploring emotions in relationships with any level of nuance.

Likewise, the post-chorus features the lyrics, “Put you in a frame, ooh” and “Glad your mama made you,” which fail to provide any substantive explanation for the singer’s feelings toward his love interest. These shallow lyrics detract from the otherwise catchy rhythm of the post-chorus.

Despite the empty lyrics of “Selfish,” the track’s instrumentals prove to be more interesting. Syncopated rhythms in the drums provide a clean, slick beat that listeners will likely nod their heads along to. In the bridge of the song, Timberlake’s signature falsetto shines through well-layered background vocals.

As pop songs become increasingly short in length, “Selfish” is at least refreshing in that it spans nearly four minutes. The track takes its time to build up in texture, which allows each section of music to breathe. That said, this leisurely pace is exactly what prevents the song from integrating into today’s hits. “Selfish” clings to a past era of boy bands and feel-good love songs, making it sound out of place now.

“Selfish” does not attempt to push any boundaries, sonically or conceptually. Though easy on the ears, the song seems stuck in the past and is a weak, puzzling choice for Timberlake’s lead single comeback. As the artist returns to the current pop world, hopefully his future music itself will follow suit.

—Staff writer Audrey H. Limb can be reached at audrey.limb@thecrimson.com.

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