From his ignominious beginnings warbling country songs on TV talent shows to the triumphs of multiplatinum Grammy-winning albums, Justin Timberlake’s two-decade career has taken him from the depths of creative penury to the heights of music stardom.
1992: An 11-year-old Timberlake, performing as “Justin Randall,” made an appearance on the syndicated talent competition “Star Search.” At the height of country music’s “hat act” craze, Timberlake donned his best Western duds and growled through a version of Alan Jackson’s “Love’s Got A Hold On You” that failed to impress the judges.
1993: Timberlake joins the Disney Channel series “The All-New Mickey Mouse Club.” Producers of the show had a keen eye for talent; cast members from this period would also include budding stars such as Timberlake’s future *NSYNC bandmate J.C. Chasez and girlfriend Britney Spears, singer Christina Aguilera, and actors Ryan Gosling and Keri Russell, among others.
1996-2002: Formed by now-disgraced music impresario and convicted money launderer Lou Pearlman in 1995, boy-band *NSYNC provided singer Timberlake the platform for international success. Finding fame, first in Europe and then in the U.S., at the end of the millennium, the group would go on to sell 42 million albums. Despite a split with Pearlman, the group continued to enjoy success into the early '00s with albums like the massive No Strings Attached, and the Timberlake-dominated swan song Celebrity. The group would eventually go on hiatus (which turned into a full-fledged breakup) in 2002, after Timberlake elected to pursue a solo career.
2002-06: A more mature Timberlake emerged with the 2002 solo debut Justified. The album reached the top of the charts, thanks to radio hits like “Cry Me a River” and “Rock Your Body” (significantly, Timberlake managed to escape serious career-damaging rebuke for his role in the Super Bowl XXXVIII “nipplegate” controversy). However, it would be his 2006 sophomore effort, Future Sex/Love Sounds, that would reshape Timberlake’s sound and image into that of a more serious R&B/pop performer. Crafted by a legion of talented hip-hop producers such as Timbaland and will.i.am, the album spawned the singles “SexyBack” and “What Goes Around.../...Comes Around” and improbably turned Timberlake into a critical favorite.
2006 to present: Although Timberlake hasn’t released a new studio LP in five years, he’s turned up as a guest collaborator on songs by Madonna, T.I, Ciara, 50 Cent and Sheryl Crow and has written tunes for Rihanna and Leona Lewis. To date, Timberlake has racked up 17 million in worldwide solo sales and a total of 29 Grammy nominations.