If Justin Timberlake were a Troll doll, he would have been abandoned at the bottom of my toy box with all of his hair cut off long, long ago. His throwing Janet Jackson under the bus, hopping in the driver’s seat, running her over repeatedly, and sampling the sounds of the wheels crushing her body in his music in the wake of Nipplegate was unforgivable as it was. But the guy has made excruciatingly bad movies, released a dull and uninspired album in 2013 (after a seven-year break), followed that up with an abysmal collection of what sounded like outtakes from the same recording sessions, and then he pulled that white-boy corrective shit in response to Jesse Williams’s speech at the BET Awards earlier this year. There was a time, about 10 years ago, when it seemed that as far as navigating pop music and superstardom was concerned, Justin Timberlake could do no wrong. Now I can’t help but wonder if Justin Timberlake can do anything right.
The answer is a resounding fart noise after assessing Timberlake’s latest artistic endeavor, the soundtrack to the upcoming DreamWorks animated film Trolls. In addition to voice-acting in the movie, Timberlake is the soundtrack’s executive producer and has production credits on each of its 13 songs, many of which he sings on. The album is nothing short of 35 minutes of torture.
It’s astounding that it even exists, for many of its songs look terrible on paper and sound worse blaring in your ear canal. This is an album that opens with a song, “Hair Up,” which borrows from “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and Duice’s “Dazzey Duks” alike, as you are commanded to “put your hair in the air.” No, I’m not going to do that. I would never do that because you said so, Justin, and setting your request to the tune of a trap-lite interpolation of a 19th century Norwegian song certainly will not convince me of anything!
Trolls is an album that features a spin on Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet,” in which the lyrics are changed to address hair (“Everybody, shake your hair and feel united!”). On another song, Anna Kendrick does her I-make-Vines-at-a cappella-conventions showboat bleating and then raps, before interpolating the Brady Bunch’s “It’s a Sunshine Day.”
This is an album that features a blander spin on Katy Perry’s bland empowerment anthem “Roar,” in which Kendrick screams and is made to say lines like, “I’m cooler than a pack of peppermints.”
This is an album that features one minute of Zooey Deschanel covering Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” and she seems to be really serious about it in, like, a jazzy way?
This is also an album that features Deschanel rapping on a brief cover of “I’m Coming Out”/“Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”
This is an album that features Timberlake and Kendrick trading counterfeit poignancy over a “True Colors” duet. “You with the sad eyes,” sings a plaintive Timberlake a cappella at the start of the song. My eyes aren’t sad, they’re RED WITH ANGER YOU DIMWIT!!!
This is an album that features a very similar reprise of that cover that’s a minute longer, I guess so it can be played on the radio and haunt our every trip to buy lube at Duane Reade.
This is an album that also features two versions of Timberlake’s inexplicably popular, dead-inside summer smash “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” One interesting thing I learned about this song by listening to it on headphones for the first time is that it sounds like Timberlake is saying, “I feel so high on semen when I’m in my zone,” at one point. Same, bro.
This is an album that features Timberlake’s fluorescent light of a voice desecrating Earth, Wind & Fire’s previously perfect “September.” Earth, Wind & Fire themselves have contributed to this defunkdafied, quantized contemporary watering down of their wedding staple. How dare you Timberlake? How dare you, Earth, Wind & Fire? How dare you everyone?!?!
This is an album that features a Gwen Stefani/Timberlake duet over a DJ Mustard-biting beat (“What U Workin’ With?”), the album’s rare non-abomination that’s just normal, crappy, co-opting pop, as well as what seems to be a non-Troll affiliated song by Ariana Grande (“They Don’t Know”) that’s good if ya like babies!
“But Rich, this is for a soundtrack to a movie for kids!!!” is how you might want to correct me. Fine, let your children suck down this garbage like Pixy Stix and have their brains rot out of their heads so that children are no longer the future and, in fact, there is no future. For letting Trolls happen, we fucking deserve it.