A few days ago I went to see Justin Timberlake play at the O2 in London. I didn’t realise until I got there that I’d be attending my very first commercial pop concert. In recent years I’ve come to associate Timberlake with really good pop tracks, the stuff he did with Timbaland, Sexy Back and more recently Just Dancing, are a constant reference in songwriting circles, and they are, in my opinion and that of many other serious writers, some of the best written pop tracks in modern history.


A year ago I plunged into commercial pop songwriting, and I am still learning and interested in experiencing this side of music, so I was very excited by the prospect of seeing him live. Coming from an offbeat, underground, psychedelic rock n roll circle, my friends were very surprised I was seeing Timberlake. This is the thing about extraordinarily commercial ‘hits’. You only value them when you a) don’t know anything about music, or b) work within the music industry and have been challenged with producing one. Only then do you appreciate the magnitude, the the magic, the difficulty of what creating a good pop track entails, and the admiration it deserves.


Anyway. I stepped foot in the arena and it became obvious that I very much didn’t belong there. I was out of my comfort zone. This was a very different audience to the one I am used to. One that did not sing in tune or look like instagram models. One that was not clad in cool leather jackets. I discovered however, that far from what I am used to judging as ‘good’, this was in fact a very nice, welcoming audience. There was no pretense; it was charged with positivity, and the most defining aspect of all: There was no anger.

This was not a show full of wannabe rockstars and misfits. People were not taking « the music » seriously. They did not consider themselves music critics, and they also did not view the performers as competition. They were not trying to outshine one another in encyclopaedia knowledge of obscure music history. The girls were not gossiping about what band members they had fucked, or lining in the VIP area. Music was not their cause, and this artist (Justin) was not their prerogative. It was just a big party. And you know what? It was nice. There is something to be said about watching music for the sole purpose of being entertained. I don’t get to enjoy that- ever, really.


I was on the third row, and there was no « mosh pit ». The floor wasn’t sticky, even though there was a hell of a lot of beer going around. It was mostly a playback. The songs sounded exactly like in the record. Justin was almost automatic, an entertainer, didn’t seem to particularly care for making a political stance. I’d be lying if I said I understood this concert, I didn’t see where it started and ended, it was weird, like a long advert. I think they played a long advert at some point? I did not know most of the songs, but the ones I knew were done phenomenally, and they went on and on like a dj mix, which worked great. I liked the 2005 feel. I don’t think most people there were judging the songs by the brilliancy of their arrangements. The show ended, and there was order. This was an audience that was satisfied, living in the present. It was alright.