“If I get jealous, I can’t help it / I want every bit of you, guess I’m selfish,” he sings on “Selfish,” a laid-back R&B joint about embracing a lover. “It’s bad for my mental, but I can’t fight it / When you’re out lookin’ like you do / But you can’t hide it, no.”
The song was released at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning with a music video directed by Bradley Calder. The video begins with Timberlake finishing a performance in front of a crowd before he starts to sing the sultry tune by himself in an empty studio lot.
Timberlake has been teasing a return to the spotlight. Not only did he wipe his Instagram feed of all photos (a modern trend by artists to hint at new music or projects), but he also announced a one-night only performance in his hometown of Memphis. He formally announced a new album on Jan. 19 with a short video narrated by Benicio Del Toro before announcing the new single on Monday.
“Selfish” is Timberlake’s first new song since he was embroiled in controversy surrounding his ex-girlfriend Britney Spears’s 2023 memoir “The Woman in Me.” Spears wrote she had an abortion because Timberlake didn’t want to be a father and that he dumped her through a text message, which prompted outrage from fans.
Spears also wrote that Timberlake cheated on her during their relationship — something that Timberlake had previously accused Spears of, which inspired the music in his early solo career.
Timberlake’s career popped off when he was the frontman of the 1990s boy band ‘N Sync, which had multiple hits on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as eight Grammy Award nominations. The band went on hiatus in 2002 as Timberlake sought his own solo career.
As a solo artist, Timberlake has amassed five No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as 19 songs in the chart’s top 10. He has earned 10 Grammy Awards on 39 nominations, including best pop vocal album for 2002’s “Justified” and best music video for the 2013 single “Suit & Tie.” He’s also been featured in several feature films, including the Oscar-winning film about Facebook’s early days, “The Social Network.”
In 2016, Timberlake released the Grammy Award-winning single “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” which headlined the Billboard Hot 100 and became the top-selling song that year (it is also a staple on most wedding playlists). The success of that song didn’t carry over into his fifth studio album, though, as 2018’s “Man of the Woods” — a woodsy exploration into Timberlake’s emotions — was critically-panned.
Since his last album, many wondered what Timberlake would do next. There was speculation that he and ‘N Sync were staging a comeback late last year, when the band released a song called “Better Place” for the 2023 film “Trolls Band Together.” (Timberlake has been a voice actor for both “Trolls World Tour” and “Trolls Band Together.”) But the hype was drowned out by the release of Spears’s memoir and his pursuit, once again, of a solo venture.