Justin Timberlake Does Michael Jackson Doing Gene Kelly in “Take Back the Night” Video

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
July 30 2013 12:58 PM

Watch Justin Timberlake “Take Back the Night”

timberlake take back
Justin Timberlake in the video for "Take Back the Night"

YouTube

When Justin Timberlake released his first song from the upcoming second half of The 20/20 Experience, the title, "Take Back the Night," was a little disconcerting. Sure, the song was a funky, upbeat dance track that sounded like an outtake from Off the Wall, but we had to wonder whether the singer was completely unaware of the phrase's decades-long association with worldwide protests against sexual assault. Apparently, it was a glaring oversight on the part of Timberlake and those within his circle; he acknowledged the song title as a "coincidence," and said he hopes it "will bring more awareness to [the] cause."

Oddly named song title aside, Timberlake has continued his "Take Back the Night" push with an accompanying video. It starts off promisingly enough: Timberlake channels Gene Kelly and Michael Jackson while grooving on a Chinatown sidewalk. It's JT at his musical best, dancing and having fun; it lacks the silly pretentiousness of the artsy spectacle that is "Tunnel Vision" (in which, for whatever reason, naked models pose and "dance" awkwardly through shadows imposed on the singer's face).

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Beyond that, though, the video for "Take Back the Night" is rather static, and adds little visually to the music. (Unless you count his weirdly fascinating shirt, which makes him look like he's wearing a bulletproof vest.) Much like the song, which runs for nearly six fairly monotonous minutes, the video jumps right out at you and then just levels off. Once again, Timberlake has a good idea, and then he coasts, failing to mix things up.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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