Justin Timberlake is once again surprising everyone after announcing a special free gig at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis on Jan.19
On Sunday, Jan. 7, Team Justin wiped the slate clean on his official Instagram account, and then replaced his profile photo with an extreme close-up of Timberlake's piercing stare in a rearview mirror. This kind of radical social media move usually signals that an artist is about to drop new music, and has become standard operating procedure of late for everyone including Taylor Swift, Paramore and Dua Lipa.
It now certainly seems like Timberlake is moving in a new direction. Or at least in the direction of Memphis. He's coming back home (he grew up in the northern suburb of Millington) to the 2,300-seat Orpheum Theater for what is being advertised as a free show.
The Instagram post is also a major tease, backwards and forwards. Constructed as a slideshow, the first image is a billboard on Beale Street announcing the gig. The second slide shows Timberlake in his pre-teen years, in a video declaring "This is where I come from… this is the Mississippi River and that is Memphis, Tennessee." Slide three shows a redacted itinerary for January 2024 showing Jan. 19 for the Orpheum and the final slide is an audio clip, with a Casio-style mid-tempo beat that cuts off just as Timberlake starts.
Timberlake has been pretty mum on what form all this content represents. He hasn't released a full-length album since 2018's Man of the Woods. However, he has been visible musically, albeit sporadically, dropping songs with SZA ("The Other Side") and a duet with Anderson .Paak, "Don't Slack."
He had further pairings, with Ant Clemons on the anthemic "Better Days," and as a foursome for 2022's "Stay With Me" which featured Calvin Harris, Halsey and Pharrell Williams. His most recent vocal contributed to "Keep Going Up" with Natalie Furtado and Timbaland.
Despite the not-so-secret award presentation from *NSYNC to Taylor Swift for Best Pop Award at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, the micro-snippet in Timberlake's post is all we have for now. But lest we forget what might transpire on Jan. 19, Timbaland himself remarked back in April 2023 in an interview with Variety that the singer was done with his album, describing it's sound akin to Timberlake's 2006 4x Platinum FutureSex/LoveSounds. The album's Grammy-winning single "SexyBack" stayed for seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100, in addition to becoming his first solo No. 1 on the UK's Official Charts.