“SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake (ft. Timbaland)

Justin Timberlake intended “SexyBack” to be a sexualized piece. But if it is overtly so, it is ultimately dependent on how one interprets the word “sexy”. For instance, let’s momentarily harp back to the 1991 classic “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. That particular piece is laden with the term. However, as presented yes, it’s more of a self-exalting statement than a sexual one. And in a way that’s what we’re dealing with here. 

Indeed in creating “SexyBack”, Justin was inspired by none other than the late James Brown – perhaps the greatest singer/hypeman the game has ever seen – himself. So when we come across a line like “get your sexy on (go ‘head, be gone with it)” being repeated, that can be translated more along the lines of an encouragement to do your thing on the dance floor as opposed to encouraging women to shake their behinds per se. 

Meaning of “Bringing sexy back”

Also, when Timberlake (buttressed by Timbaland) asserts that he’s “bringing sexy back”, that’s more of a braggadocious statement than a sexual one. Indeed as interpreted by some analysts, what the singer is primarily speaking to is the fact that now he is “back” on the scene after taking a four-year break between studio albums, also being sexy and all.

But that said, as implied earlier, the vocalist intentionally set out to imbue this track with a sexual tone. Or as he directly explained, “Sexy Back” is “meant to provoke sexual dance”. And no, dear reader, it doesn’t seem that Justin has any desire to watch his fellow man do so. Thus the “back” found in the title is also likely a reference to a female’s backside, i.e. her derriere.

We are actually made aware of this from the first verse, albeit in a roundabout sort of way. But what Timberlake seems to be saying in the passage, before encouraging the audience to dance, is that he can make love to a woman with a sexy back better than “them other boys”.

This is also apparently the same “dirty babe” whom he is addressing in the bridge that follows. This is the part of the track where JT is referring to “shackles” and ‘whips’ and all types of things, that reads like it was inspired by S&M. But at the same time, we’re not compelled to believe that he’s being literal. Rather in closing the segment, what he puts forth is that this lady ‘makes him feel as no one else does’. In other words, this is a love song, or perhaps we can more honestly say a lust song.

Maybe it is a dance song

Or maybe, as put forth earlier, it truly is about the dance, even if the dance move being most expressly promoted is “twerking”, i.e. female-behind shaking. And again, we know Justin is not referring to, say watching NFL players twerk, as the person(s) he is encouraging is specifically referred to as “girl”. 

In fact what it actually looks like is that the two of them, he and the addressee, are in a club. And the vocalist, being a don and all, is chillin’ up in the VIP. And then upon noticing this lady with impressive “hips”, he invites her to the VIP section to shake it for him personally – or as he puts it to ‘get her sexy on’.

So when viewed from that perspective, the second verse, which reads similarly to the first, features Timberlake peacocking, if you will. That is to say that the reason he’s asserting that he’s better than “them other f—ers” is for the specific purpose of convincing the addressee to move with him as opposed to other dudes in the venue, who by all means are checking her out also. 

In fact in the third verse, Justin even goes as far as to warn the other guys in the club that their own girlfriends may fall victim to his advances also.

Takeaway

Conclusively, instead of calling this a dance or a sex song, we’ll call it a club tune, since clubbing is more or less a combination of the two anyway. You know, it’s as if every pop artist has to drop their chillin’-in-the-club track(s). And for the vocalist, doing so entails being on the prowl for women he deems sexy. And if he finds one, he also appears supremely confident in his own ‘sexiness’ in terms of being able to lure her into the VIP.

Lyrics to Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack"

“SexyBack” Facts

Primary Artist(s): Justin Timberlake
Featured Artist(s): Timbaland
Album/EP: “FutureSex/LoveSounds” 

Was “SexyBack” a single release?

Yes. It was the first single from Justin’s “FutureSex/LoveSounds” album. Timberlake released it as such on the 18th of July, 2006.

Did Justin Timberlake write “SexyBack”?

Yes. Timberlake wrote it in collaboration with Tim Mosley (Timbaland) and Nate “Danja” Hills.

Production of the song was also done by the above. The full writing and production credits for this song is therefore as follows:

  • Timberlake
  • Timbaland
  • Hills

Genre(s)

  • Electro-R&B
  • Dance-pop
  • Hip hop

Awards and Honors of “SexyBack”

“SexyBack” in 2007 was awarded “Best Dance Recording” at the Annual Grammy Awards. It was nominated alongside:

The song became the singer’s first number one song on the “Billboard Hot 100”. It was certified three-times platinum by both RIAA and the CRIA of Canada. With over seventeen million copies sold worldwide as of July of 2020, “SexyBack” became one of the best-selling singles ever.

SexyBack

Chart Performance

“SexyBack” was a chart-topper in numerous countries, including the US and the UK.

  • US – 1
  • UK – 1
  • Scotland – 1
  • Norway – 1
  • New Zealand – 1
  • Netherlands – 5
  • Italy – 3
  • Ireland – 1
  • Hungary – 3
  • Germany – 1
  • France – 8
  • Finland – 3
  • Denmark – 2
  • Canada – 1
  • Belgium – 2
  • Austria – 5
  • Australia – 1

Notable Usage

“SexyBack” was used in episode 11 of season 4 of the popular American TV series, “9-1-1”.

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