Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 fantastic first solo albums recorded by artists who departed—or simply took a temporary hiatus from—their respective groups, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE | Justified
Selected by Grant Walters
The launch of Justin Timberlake’s solo career seemed inevitable by the time NSYNC released its third and, to date, final studio album Celebrity in 2001. While public interest in the band never waned, Timberlake’s accumulative cachet as a pop culture commodity all but guaranteed he would eventually outgrow the confines of the collective. But his musical credibility was also on the rise, and co-writing two of the album’s major singles, “Gone” and “Girlfriend,” were proof in the pudding that Timberlake was capable of crafting legitimate R&B grooves that stood up commercially.
When NSYNC entered into what was then claimed to be temporary hiatus at the conclusion of their 2002 U.S. tour, he took advantage of the break to dive deeper into his burgeoning relationships with industry heavyweights like Timbaland and The Neptunes to start writing and recording the album that would effectively end NSYNC and send Timberlake into the stratosphere.
The result was Justified, a project that fell somewhere in between the radio-ready hit machine from which Timberlake had gained many of his instincts and the soul, dance, and funk influences he’d admired as a fan of pioneering artists like Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind & Fire. It was an unqualified success, selling over four million copies in the U.S. alone, and its four hit singles—especially the infectiously playful “Señorita” and the melodically memorable “Rock Your Body” —are rather good prototypes for the more accomplished, mature sound that would evolve on FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006) and The 20/20 Experience (2013).