What Other Musicians Can Learn From Justin: It Won’t Kill You To Give Yourself And Your Fans A Break

March 28, 2013  |  

Tom Munro

I was was in college the last time Justin Timberlake put out an album, and as I watched him do movie after movie, both comedy, drama and action, I was pissed. “Justin needs to quit playing and come out with a new album!” I said that mess for years and for years he made it clear that getting back in the studio wasn’t his first priority. He had always wanted to try his hand at acting and he was finally getting the opportunity, so music would have to wait.

And fans waited, that is until last Tuesday, when he finally put back on a suit and tie and released The 20/20 Experience. Six years since his last release, the album was met with a great response, as I reported last night, almost pulling in a million copies sold in a week. It was clear that the long wait had done Justin some good. He didn’t come back sloppy, and those who are fans, whether they initially liked “Suit & Tie,” were lauding the new release on social media. Time apart made the fans fonder.

I’ve always felt that a break from some of our favorite artists would do everyone involved some good, but we live in a time where artists in the game want to be overexposed. They are on every form of social media every day, they are on every magazine cover saying the same things in every interview, they are on every person’s single as a feature, and they put out a new album one after the other, each leaving you to say, “Eh, you know, it was alright.” Why? Blame it on the very obvious fear that if they actually take a break, people will forget about them.

They have reason to feel this way, but it should be more of a fear for new artists. You’ve just built your brand, gathered some fans, thrilled people with your music. If you disappear for even a hot minute, chances are, people won’t be as enthusiastic when you come back. See a Chingy or Ashanti for example as people who lost steam around their sophomore efforts after taking a break. Even musicians who used to have droves of fans have come back after a hiatus, tried to return to them with a whole new sound, and wound up flopping. However, it’s just my belief that when you have real talent and true fans, you shouldn’t be afraid to go away, live life and come back when you’re actually ready to make GOOD music. Keyword: good.

There are way too many people who don’t say no to to a new album or new feature and because they don’t give themselves the opportunity to live life and write music based on their experiences, the output is stale and a bunch of the same. They’re singing somebody else’s songs, selling sex, drugs and fashion labels instead of substance. Take Lil Wayne for example. How many times can we hear you get on your own song or someone else’s and talk about your appreciation for the nether regions of a woman? Such a radical difference from his “Best Rapper Alive”days circa 2006-2009. He and those who listen to his music know that he’s not really feeling it anymore.

Breaks give very talented artists the chance to cultivate their skills. Go learn how to play an instrument. Write until your hands get sore. Watch life happen around you instead of fiending so much to be a part of every moment, of every thing and doing the most to make sure people see it. Justin stepped back and finally made the time to try something new, and while the results weren’t the greatest thing ever as far as being an actor, he also got to meet a new love interest, get married, gain some new insight and be clear about what he wanted to do musically when he came back. Maybe that’s why his album had no hint of the dance-pop every artist thinks that people are only willing to buy nowadays (You too Usher…damn you David Guetta!). It gave us some time to miss him instead of thinking, as with most musicians out now, “Can they sit down somewhere!?”

If you have true fans and real talent, you can come and go from public view as you please, so for those doing the most right now, use all that money to take a vacay and LIVE. Give us time to get excited about your work and talents once again.

As for those with no real talent…Hey, you better not go anywhere because irrelevancy could be waiting for you when you come back…


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  • Justin leaves us wanting more and takes the time to develop his hits. Too often artist believe they have to strike while the are hot which is why they release album after album which often has less quality than it’s predecessors. I guess when you don’t feel you have staying power or the ability to evolved you have to oversaturate(sorry for spelling) the masses with mediocre.

  • aprettylove

    Maxwell did the same thing

  • Kenedy

    Thank you for posting this article! I commented about this issue in a previous article about Justin, and got thumbed down…not sure why

  • i don’t know anything about the music business. i guess artist do whatever works for them personally.

  • Jerzeegurl

    Yeah some stars *ahem* Beyonce, Rhianna *ahem* need to read this.

    • Brit

      Nicki and Wayne also.

      • Jerzeegurl

        Well I think that they pretty much know that if they go away they will probably never come back.

  • Candacey Doris

    Have to admit this is true. When an artist i really like comes back nothing can stop me from getting his/her new album! But when someone is always in my face with something new every year i don’t even bother to download it illegally (i usually pay, promise!). I just get tired of it after awhile. I put myself on a break from them and come back to it in a few years.

  • Same with Sade, she takes FOREVER to put out a new album and in my opinion her music always sound good. Havent gotten JT new album, but I did like his last one so I’ll get it soon!

    • Jerzeegurl

      I agree I practically SALIVATE when I know a new Sade album is coming out.

  • Jay

    I hear he’s releasing two albums this year so I guess he’s making up for lost time. If he keeps doing week-long appearances on television then I’m sure we’ll all get our fill.

    I think the album is good, he didn’t deviate too much from his old sound. I’m glad he is successful in a time where ppl dont buy music.


    Agreed. Usher did the same; took breaks in between albums. Nowadays they bring out a watered down single/album every Tuesday morning. I guess women know their “beauty age” in the industry is limited so they are afraid to take such long breaks. Men get a pass when it comes to that.

  • You have to have actual talent and be really popular before taking a break. Because if people didn’t care about you before, they won’t care if you come back.

  • Taj

    I agree with most of this post with the exception of the statement concerning “Chingy and Ashanti”. I haven’t heard or been into Chingy’s music, however, Ashanti has been a pretty much mediocre singer who only gained fame through promotion, sampling, and the songwriting skills of her writers when her first album came out. Therefore, I wouldn’t use her as an example. However, I remember after Jill Scott released her first album, it was a long time before she released her second album. In the case of Musiq Soulchild, it was almost four years before he released his fourth album. Therefore, JT is not the first and certainly won’t be the last artist to take hiatus between making albums. I guess this drive to churn out albums every year must with mainstream artist trying to garner mass appeal. However, if you had talent in the first place, why would you need to stoop to such frantic measures in the first place?

    • Vandellish

      ‘Ashanti…only gained fame
      through promotion, sampling, and the songwriting skills of her writers’
      Don’t forget good-looking and slim. Ashanti seems friendly and all of that but if she was looking like Kelly Price she’d get no mainstream love.
      There are cases of artists who’ve taken TOO LONG to come back out. Lauren Hill, Dr. Dre, D’Angelo, Maxwell, Johnny Gill, etc… I’d say at least 2 or 3 years in between albums would be ideal but we have to remember these artists have to get in where they fit in and you can’t always drop exactly when you want to because of competition and record label stuff.

      • Taj

        True. . . but I think we can both agree that there needs to be a balance. With the ongoing promotion of certain artists, some people such as myself have been turned off by the music industry. I, like many, have my favorite artists. However, I am not going to listen to the same albums or songs all of the time nor do I care to hear what goes on in a music artist’s personal life. So why do some artists (or their teams) have this attitude or “behavior” that a person is going to want to listen to his/her music ALL of the time ? However, at the end of the day, music is a business and an artist can’t enter it without understanding what he/she is getting into.

    • Angela

      Ashanti is a songwriter herself.

  • kickash

    I would say Rihanna should do this because she puts out like 5 albums a year but if she did she would have probably become irrelevant. The record company knows she’s disposable so the music just has to keep coming.

    • Candacey Doris

      No, she has the pipes to take a rest. It’s just she would have to actually come with some songs that show it off if she took a break. Lord knows half the stuff she sings is just dance music. Terrible when talented people sit back and just make money.

      • Brit

        Compared to real vocalists, I’d have to disagree. She’s got the image and popularity-voice is questionable.

      • Chey

        Rihanna? Pipes? laughable!

        • Candacey Doris

          It’s there, this isn’t Ashanti we’re talking about. I didn’t say that she uses them properly. She sits back on her sex appeal and makes money. She has the body and youth to do that but it won’t give her a long lasting career. I would be so happy if she decided that she wanted to show off what she’s got.

          • Chey

            That’s my point. She has no pipes to use properly. Regardless of her appearance and/or age Rihanna can not sing well, which is why she uses her sex appeal and youth.

  • jjac401

    I wish Bey would read this article. Folks can’t catch their breath good before she is out with another project.

    • Kenedy

      oh oh…some stans thumbed you down, lol

      • jjac401

        19 yea and 2 Nay. The numbers speak for them selves. Bey should read the article. This is what I believe.

    • Angela

      2003 – Dangerously In Love
      2006 – B’Day
      2008 – Sasha Fierce
      2011 – 4

      Can’t catch their breath?

  • greentea516

    Musicians stopped being artists and became machines bc of the money. I’m glad JT took his time to come back with something different sounding than what’s out. Usher used to do that too, come out with an album then wait a few years for the next one, but now he’s out with one too close to each other it’s not good for his longevity. Rihanna can do that, Usher shouldn’t

    • Alecia Murphy

      I so agree with this comment and Usher not taking as long is why I got disinterested with his music. Really, I haven’t been feeling his music in a real way since Confessions. And the same goes with Beyonce’ she needs to take more time and she has a child now- she can afford to spend time doing less consuming projects.
      But I am glad JT took time off- it makes it more interesting when he comes out. Glad he took a a page out of Sade’s book.

  • LaLa

    Full Disclosure: I have no love for Justin “Punk-@$$” Timberlake due to the way he left Ms. Janet Jackson to take the brunt of the backlash of NIpplegate. That being said – the premise of this article – the need for artists to take a break and let their fans MISS THEM – I TOTALLY AGREE. Honestly, as much as I respect the work ethic of Beyonce – I’ve been ready to miss her since Dangerously in Love dropped. She’s not the only example, but she’s the one that jumps to front of my mind when discussing this subject.

    • Vandellish

      Damn Lala,

      I agree with everything you said here. Great post.

    • Vandellish

      Justin fans disagree. Hey go check the tape. He’s the one that said he ‘was appalled’ after the incident which he took part in. Just another case of a person’s true colors shining through when up against adversity.

    • Kenedy

      For me it would be Rihanna…she has released an album every single year since she got signed….every single freakin year, and sometimes twice a year…I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s probably released more albums combined than Beyonce has in her long career

  • Sagittarius81

    I was pregnant with my daughter (now 6) when his last album came out, always been a fan of JT ever since his NSYNC days. I just brought his album and I’m glad he didn’t do like other artists who be releasing albums from twice a year to every year, I will get tired of you very fast!