Justin Timberlake 

No longer a boy, not yet a man, fer sure: Justin Timberlake's sullen baby face and Michael Jackson falsetto make him seem less a womanizing pig than a castrated hamster. But listening to his solo CD, Justified (Jive), it dawned on me that his sub-Lionel Richie slinkiness and tippy-tap low end are so wimpy they're ballsy--ballsier, maybe, than a slamming beat with bowel-busting bass. And wriggling around under his silk-sheets melodies are some seriously predatory lyrics: "Don't fear me baby, it's just destiny," he murmurs in "Like I Love You." If Timberlake's a wolf in sheep's clothing, Christina Aguilera's a hyena through and through. It seems likely Timberlake asked her to tour with him to piss off Britney, but I suspect he or his people also think that having the aggressively sexual howler billed below him might make him look more like a man. But she's still more butch than he'll ever be, and I mean that in a good way: instead of pussyfooting around onstage she grinds like she means it and roughs up her diva flutters with gravel. She sweats until her too-orange makeup slides off her imperfect skin--though you barely notice she's melting because her transfixing voice can redeem even the most banal melody. Last year's Stripped (RCA), the most unapologetic and multifaceted (not to mention self-indulgent--20 tracks, and does anybody really prefer the slow jams?) of her three albums, was met with wolf whistles and guffaws--despite having lived through Madonna's prime, the mainstream media just can't figure out what to make of a young, talented female pop star who's got cat scratch fever. Of course that might be because she's humping them in the face. Tuesday, July 22, 7:30 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212. Wednesday, July 23, 7:30 PM, United Center, 1901 W. Madison; 312-455-4500 or 312-559-1212. Timberlake's also doing a midnight show on Tuesday, July 22, at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jive-CPI, Miranda Penn Turin.

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