Since Justin Bieber first batted his baby eyelashes, everyone’s been equating him to that other Justin. But with the release of Bieber’s bravado-dripping single “Boyfriend”—which finds the now 18-year-old Biebs spitting all Breezy-like over the track, refusing to retire the word “swag” and crooning saccharine nothings in a JT-esque falsetto—the comparisons have ramped up. They’re bound to keep mounting as Bieber gets his testosterone up and more tunes trickle out from his upcoming sophomore album Believe. With Timberlake busy chasing Tinseltown checks, romancing Jessica Biel and merely teasing us about a pop homecoming, Selena’s boy toy has the momentum. But does he have the crown yet? Sure, arguments like these rarely get settled, but that didn’t stop VIBE staffers from debating which Justin has the edge: the Canadian pop tycoon or the N’Sync king? Are you seething yet? Type your furious two cents in the comments section and click to see how the argument panned out. --Clover Hope
Team Timberlake: “FutureSex/LoveSounds changed music and cultivated an entire pop landscape. The way he exercised his vocals on that album was insane! Yeah, Timbaland played a big part, but Justified was a Pharrell collabo and it was the same. That falsetto…”
Team Belieber: “Timbaland changed music. It’s Timbaland’s genius. It’s a great album because it’s a great partnership. Put Bieber in the studio with Timbaland and you have a classic.”
Head To Head: Bieber’s given us chart-bludgeoning singles like “Baby” (from his debut My World 2.0), perfect for skating around a rink. No classic yet, but there’s time. Meanwhile, everything about FutureSex was on point, from the peculiar title to the disco art album packaging to the strangely gripping lead single “SexyBack” to the sequencing to the track transitions to the Britney slandering—shall we go on? It’s a timeless feat that sounded like nothing else out.
Team Belieber: “Bieber’s better because he’s starting at a younger age. I really feel like he’ll be able to catch up to Timberlake.”
Team Timberlake: “Justin Timberlake was in Mickey Mouse Club. He’s been talented from jump, just not on a solo level.”
Head To Head: Timberlake was 21 when Justified dropped. And since JT has barely sung a peep during his hiatus, there’s no telling what type of impact he could make if/when he finally dusts off his pipes. While JT had group support, Justin’s been rolling dolo (musically) since we met him. And he just turned 18. Can he maintain that grown man edge in a way that’s more MJ than Bow Wow?
Team Timberlake: “Bieber doesn’t have swag on his own. He has hip-hop production. Timberlake had that whole soul element.”
Team Belieber: “I don’t feel like Bieber was manufactured like JT was. I don’t think it was a sound that was manufactured like, ‘Do this.’ Think about Confessions vs. FutureSex. The reason Usher felt Confessions was so much better was because it wasn’t this construction of sound.”
Head To Head: Both Justins push bubblegum pop. But there were times when it seemed like Timberlake was trying too hard—see: his cornrows phase. VIBE’s 2003 Timberlake cover even posed the question: “Can the blue-eyed soul man get N’Sync with urban music?” Well, he did just that, with a unique gumbo of pop, R&B and soul. JT gradually shed the contrived clothing, whereas Bieber, cosigned by Usher from the outset, doesn’t appear to grapple with the same identity issues. Does his coolness and hip-hop savvy seem more genuine?
Team Timberlake: "Ultimately, and I hate to say it, this comparison has a lot of that same Kim vs. Nicki vibe to it. It’s not a matter of talent, really, because they both supersede mediocre skills. But there’s a respect factor for who came first, who paved the way.”
Team Belieber: “The Biebs lived harder life than a lot of rappers as a child. Adding to that, he can really play instruments and is just getting warmed up. By the time he’s old enough to drink, there will only be one JUSTIN we talk about.”
Head To Head: Baby Bieber was spotted killing it on the drums in his documentary, Never Say Never, and a 12-year-old Timberlake was introduced to us via Mickey Mouse Club. Bieber’s vocals could use fine-tuning, but it’s a matter of age and preference. Plus, time is on his side. Who'll be remembered more?