Justin Timberlake, "Take Back the Night": stream new song from upcoming album. (AUDIO)

Justin Timberlake Wants to “Take Back the Night” From Something

Justin Timberlake Wants to “Take Back the Night” From Something

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
July 12 2013 1:36 PM

Justin Timberlake Wants to “Take Back the Night” From Something

JTimberlakeTakeBackTNight
A screengrab of the "Take Back the Night" single art

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We’ve known for a while now that Justin Timberlake was planning to release The 20/20 Experience Part 2, a sequel of sorts to his comeback album of the same name from earlier this year, on Sept. 30. Then earlier this week, he teased a new single, “Take Back the Night,” with “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-like flash cards offering decidedly little new information other than the title of the new song.

Now the full song has arrived, and it’s a much livelier introduction to the upcoming album than the smooth jam “Suit and Tie” was to The 20/20 Experience. Singing and riffing over a funky guitar riff and vibrant strings and horns, Timberlake sounds even more like Michael Jackson (circa Off the Wall) than usual, if that is possible for a performer who has embraced comparisons to the King of Pop since his solo career began. And while he continues the last album’s trend of long-form pop songs (this clocks in around  6:30), “Take Back the Night” doesn’t include any big shifts or transformations; aside from a rather insignificant breakdown of handclaps, the rhythm and tempo remain constant throughout.

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The song is a fun party track, even if the name is a tad unsettling. “Take Back the Night,” as some have already noted, is also the name of an annual rally held around the world to bring awareness to violence against women, a gathering that laid claim to the phrase as long ago as the mid-1970s. Timberlake presumably meant no harm in using the phrase, but it’s a bit surprising that no one in his camp flagged this as a potentially awkward connection. For some, hearing “They gon’ try to shut us down/ But I’ll be damned if we gon’ let ’em take back the night” will sound more provocative than it is probably meant to.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.