I've said before I don't care for hip hop. I still don't. Rap doesn't grab me, either, except to inspire a spasmodic lurch for the tuning knob to set the radio to almost anything else.
That said, I just read the news blurb about last night's episode of Saturday Night Live. Back in the day I used to watch SNL and enjoyed it, if I could keep the volume down low enough to not wake up the parents.
I really enjoyed watching Al Franken and Mary Gross - I'm not surprised at all that Al would go on to become a member of Congress, the guy's too smart to not be in charge at some level - in the middle 80s, but I was also saddled with Jon Lovitz' "compulsive liar" character, which irritated me no end, not least for the many many imitations it spawned in day-to-day life.
What's all this about? Justin Timberlake was the guest host for last night's episode of SNL, his fifth appearance in that role. That catapults him into a lofty, rarified stratum indeed, where few other celebrities have ever been. Those other celebrities include Tom Hanks, Candice Bergen, Alec Baldwin, etc. Not a lot of people, but enough that you realize it's a helluva hit parade of heavy comedic hitters. And they were all on the show last night.
The whole list of five-timers, as they appeared:
Dan Aykroyd (not really, but he's an original cast member so seeing him on the stage is a huge rush)
Martin Short (also not a five-timer but a member of the extremely popular Three Amigos sketch)
Tom Hanks (big cheers for these last two)
It's worth noting that Aykroyd's acting during his portion of the Five Timer's Club skit was top-notch. The others were cheerfully hamming, but Aykroyd had actual subtlety.
Later in the show we're treated to a rendition of JT's latest song, "Suit & Tie," which again I must say isn't to my musical taste. But watching him perform I am struck by one thing: Justin Timberlake may be this generation's Michael Jackson.
His stage presence, his musical ability, even his dance moves all combine to offer up a performer who hits the trifecta, the magic bullet of performing charisma and raw talent, polished with years of experience - don't forget he joined the cast of the Mickey Mouse Club alongside other recognizeable names like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears back in 1993 - that adds up to a seriously capable force in the cutthroat live entertainment industry.
I'm not a professional entertainer by any stretch. I've done a little acting and thoroughly enjoyed it, partly because it distracted me from the grind of my real job. I don't sing in public, which is a public service - though I do enjoy singing, which makes it a little ironic. I don't dance. Ask me to sing and dance and I will quickly become out of breath and trip on something. so much for singing and dancing.
What I can see, though, from my small peek behind the veil of a little bit of entertaining, is that JT seriously works at being the best entertainer he can. Obviously he'd have to or else no one would pay to see him. But his dance moves are sharp, his singing is edgy, and the presence on the stage, even though it isn't music I generally like, is electric. He even acts in movies, and does it well - not like Michael Jackson's cartoonish Scarecrow in The Wiz. Timberlake's characters have depth and personality.
This generation's Michael Jackson. I said it, I stand by it. I just hope he doesn't melt down like Jackson did.