Beards, Blazers & Glasses: Justin Timberlake Or Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles
100 years ago, a deranged Pole with a superior command of the English language wrote:
...before I could come to any conclusion it occured to me that my speech of my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility. What did it matter what anyone knew or ignored? What did it matter who was manager? One gets sometimes such a flash of insight. The essentials of this affair lay deep under the surface, beyond my reach and beyond my power of meddling.
-Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
But sometimes your ability to question this futility, this inability to meddle is questioned severely and shockingly, inside of a VIP suite at the plush Boulevard 3 nightclub in Hollywood, tucked onto the second floor overlooking Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine doing feeble imitations of musicians, parading pathetically across a black wooden stage. To my right, Paris Hilton couch-danced on a plush white sofa, screaming "whoo" abrasively into my right ear. Five minutes previous, Timberlake, backed by a group of talented session musicians, had broken into a tepid and nausea-inducing version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit. " The entire time he spent mangling one of my favorite childhood songs, I had considered Kurt Cobain and his shotgun.
And how with three precision-placed bullets, anyone could play their own version of Dick Cheney goes hunting. Except rather than take out some lame-duck Texas lawyer, the assassin in question, could carefully snipe Timberlake, Levine and Hilton, thereby eliminating three of the power players in the scab-infested world of pop culture in 2006. It was a question almost akin to being in Berlin, Germany in a beer hall in the late 20's. Some jackass with a Junior varsity mustache is approaching you, telling you his name's Adolph and that he hates the Jews and those filthy gypsies. We all know that murder is wrong but still....
Now I'm not advocating the murder of innocent-in-name only pop stars, nor am I really comparing cultural holocaust to a real one. Those are wild accusations to make, even for me. Though watching this sham show, that old refrain from Bob Dylan popped into my head: "if my thought dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine."
Paris Hilton: Concrete Proof That There is No GodYou're probably wondering what dragged me out to the William Rast party to watch a Justin Timberlake concert. To appropriately answer that you'd question you'd need several dozen hours and a highly-paid team of Swiss psychiatrists, but the short answer was both a desire to burrow into the belly of the beast and the promise of free whiskey. Both of which I received in spades. Thank the heavens.
Because the only way to handle something like this was under the influence of some substance, no matter how mundane. Good god, to see Timberlake doing a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit?" There aren't enough drugs in the world to handle such spectacle. But I'm rambling now, which is easy to do when you're trying to forget the sight of Will I.Am. staggering on-stage to perform a duet with Timberlake, a duet abominably named "Damn Girl."
Within seconds, Will.I. Am. proved once again why he's in the running for the title of "America's worst rapper," butchering syllabes and rhyme schemes wearing an outfit more suited to a geeky Batman villain reject: lime green shoes, candy cane socks and an oversized newsboy hat that made him look like the most poorly dressed 11-year old in the world.
Wyclef Jean =Bob Marley For Retards ; Will I. Am= Wyclef Jean For RetardsBut the concert continued with Timberlake doing a sans-TI version of his hit single "My Love," complete with unctuous writhing that included him rubbing his chest repeatedly. I'm not sure what that had to do with his love, but I didn't want to know. At this point, the crowd (consisting of your typical array of Los Angeles club-goers: blondes with fake breasts and the men who love them, mixed with a smattering of celebs) was going wild. The dance floor below me was filled with women shouting out Timberlake's name like a tribe of poorly trained seals, the men trying to hit on them played it cooler, tapping their feet rhythmlessly, as if to show solidarity with the musical massacre taking place.
But the VIP suite was even more hectic, as Hilton returned from a prolonged "trip to the bathroom" suddenly filled with all sorts of energy, presumably the result of a reunion with the good ol' Bolivian marching powder. Re-joining her party, which included Nicky Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Nick Cannon, Hilton grabbed Kardashian and made her start couch-dancing and grinding with her, approximately one foot away from me and my friend.
At this point, my friend, whispers to me, "this is your chance to tell Paris Hilton whatever you want to say to her." Alas, what I want to say would take up several novels and perhaps a few movies, so I held my tongue and watched Hilton start faux-spanking Kardashian. It was weird. But as Hunter Thompson once eloquently stated, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Nick Cannon: Showing Off the Face He Made When His Woman and Paris Hilton Renacted the film "Bound"
Indeed, watching the two celebutards grind was infinitely more entertaining than watching Timberlake play musical dress-up, strapping on a guitar at one point and giving some strumming that could at best be described as punk, at worst described as the musical equivalent of a man trying to milk a horse. At one point, Timberlake went behind the keyboard, clattering off-kilter like a drunken man discovering a baby grand at a hotel bar.
In an effort to flesh out the performance, Timberlake also trotted out Adam Levine and JC Chasez at various junctures during the evening. The three of them seemed to form an unholy triumvirate, all of them desperate to show exactly how much soul they had. (Answer: very little). Indeed, it was particularly uncomfortable watching the extraordinarily talented backing band being forced to smile and nod at their tuneless caterwauling. Making the whole thing even more awkward was the fact that every member of the 10-person backing band was black, while each performer was white (except for a 30 second sequence when Timbaland was brought out to dance alongside Timberlake, as though he were his errand boy). It's not really my place to raise any accusations of culture stealing (after all, we have the Source for that), but if I were black and I were watching these lily-white pale men do imitations of black men, I would've been enraged.
As it was, I was angry for different reasons. I was angry because the truth is that between Hilton, Levine and Timberlake, this performance was the most accurate representation of my generation thus far. All that was needed was for Kevin Federline and Britney Spears to have arrived clutching cans of Red Bull and fingers stained neon-Cheeto orange. 40 years ago they had Hendrix and Dylan. Now we get Maroon 5 and N' Sync.
Ma and Pa Federline: Only There in SpiritSo the night continued on into the stiff fingers of a cold dawn, every fracturing note crashing hard around my drunken head, The party kept on filling up with celebs by the second. Cameron Diaz, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Busta Rhymes. Eddie Murphy, head shriveled and eyes guarded by dark sunglasses, engaged in a long conversation with Paris Hilton. Good lord, things were going awry. Then as the performance ended, Paris Hilton finally climbed down from the couch where she had been dancing for the last 45 minutes, and turned to smoke a joint with her entourage.
Perhaps the most peculiar thing about it was that the entire time Hilton was dancing, her face was locked into a frozen and joyless pose. As though she was only going through the machinations of having fun. More important was being prepared for her close up, which everyone around me was only too happy to provide, snapping impromptu shots of Hilton from every angle.
Meanwhile, back on-stage, Timberlake was engaged in a similar manner, dropping the ad-libs that he was supposed to say, gyrating around the way Lou Pearlman had taught him so long ago, everything perfectly arranged and decided beforehand, as though his life had only been clean, sanitary and organized. His performance was like one long karaoke show, with all the artifice and mimickry of a great performer, yet none of the substance. This was most clearly displayed when he did a cover of the Stones' "Miss You," where in comparison to Mick Jagger's soulful pitch, Timberlake sounded like a lost and scared child abandoned to the elements.
Finally, the set ended, Hilton, Kardashian, Cannon et al. left to join Timberlake's cordoned -off after-after party, but as for me I'd had enough of my harrowing descent into musical hell. With a whiskey-afterburner taste lingering distastefully in my mouth, I walked back to my car, sober, tired and reeling from this rendesvous with the worst minds of my generation. But then again, every now and then you need to bury yourself deep into the clogged arteries of the beast to realize that it has no heart.