This Sunday at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Justin Timberlake is going to be receiving the coveted Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. The most prestigious of all Moonmen, the Video Vanguard Award is given to artists or directors who've particularly pushed the limits of music videos and advanced the art form. It's an award that's not even handed out annually, making the few who receive it all the more significant. Timberlake's been a staple of MTV for the past 15 years, exactly half as long as the VMAs have been on-the-air themselves, so we at the Weekly have decided to look back at Timberlake's most memorable video moments.
N*SYNC – “Tearin' Up My Heart” 1998
Just a few years removed from his stint on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” young Timberlake was more than ready for the synchronized dancing and infectious harmonies that would take him to the top of the pop charts. It was in “Tearin' Up My Heart” where we first witnessed Justin as part of N*SYNC who would soon be seen feuding with rivals Backstreet Boys over the top two spots on MTV's “Total Request Live.”
N*SYNC – “Bye Bye Bye” 2000
As the millennium changed, N*SYNC was proving to be the choice of a new generation as their sophomore album No Strings Attached moved a record setting 2.4 million copies in its first week. The video for the first single “Bye Bye Bye” gave perhaps the most memorable image of the group as marionettes, as well as exchanged the washed out faded tint of the group's previous videos for the vibrant glossy colors that would come to be Timberlake's crisp trademark over the rest of his career.
Justin Timberlake – “Like I Love You” 2002
Soon enough, it was time for Justin to grow up and, while there were plenty of doubters at the time, putting his sound in the hands of Timbaland and The Neptunes allowed his sound to mature. Of course, visually he was brought into a more adult light through much steamier interactions and the monologue near the end where he stares into the camera and we see him become a man before our very eyes.
Justin Timberlake – “Sexyback” 2006
Remember that weird time in the mid-2000s when sexy went away for a while and everyone was content with a general void of sexiness? No? Probably because when Timberlake successfully brought sexy back with “SexyBack,” it made us wonder what we ever did without it. Aesthetically speaking, along with a four-years-older Timberlake looking like a man's man, “Sexyback” would become the archetype for music video sexiness for the next half-decade. From the rippling strobe effects to the casual-Bond attire to the almost noir-esqe cinematography, “Sexyback” somehow made sexy sexier.
Justin Timberlake – “Mirrors” 2013
Seven years later, Timberlake returned to music. After an extended stint in front of the camera, Justin brought this newfound onscreen gifts into some truly great video performances. “Mirrors” is a stunningly directed and fantastically edited tribute to how the human memory reflects on relationships. Timberlake's up for Video of the Year for this clip, and even though this year the competition is as stiff as its been in quite some time, it wouldn't be surprising to see Timberlake walk away with the night's top prize as well.
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