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SXSW 2013: Justin Timberlake's MySpace gig sparks rumors, buzz

March 16, 2013|By Randall Roberts | Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • Justin Timberlake performs during a taping of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" at Rockefeller Center on Monday.
Justin Timberlake performs during a taping of "Late Night With Jimmy… (Theo Wargo/Getty Images )

Justin Timberlake is certainly making up for lost time. This week he released “The 20/20 Experience,” his first new album in six years, and christened it with a double-whammy hosting/performing stint on "Saturday Night Live" and a full week of performances on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

REVIEW: Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience"

He’ll conclude the week with a midnight performance in Austin, Texas, as part of the annual South by Southwest music festival.

Not that Timberlake has been out of the spotlight. After the singer, who got his start a Disney child star and as a curly-haired teen idol with 'N Sync, released his 2006 smash album “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” he set his sights on acting. He earned experience, bank and face-time in roles both acclaimed (“The Social Network”) and not (“The Love Guru”). And, in a curious entrepreneurial move, Timberlake in 2011 invested some of his wages in the floundering social network site MySpace.

Timberlake said last year that one of his goals in banking on MySpace was to better understand and interact with his fan base. "I think about it as blurring the gap and how much you can discover through your fan base and how much you can discover about yourself as an artist," he told MTV. 

It wasn’t hard to spot evidence of MySpace in Austin this week. The network, which unveiled its music-heavy new interface in late 2012, secured one of downtown’s most central spaces, a big brick warehouse a block from the festival’s central corridor. On Thursday painters scaled ladders to repaint the building’s facade black, in the process fashioning it with a bold white company logo.

PHOTOS: The scene at SXSW 2013

No doubt the lines will surround the building come midnight, when Timberlake will appear on a bill that also includes Roots drummer and genius DJ Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and beat producer RJD2, best known for his track "A Beautiful Mine" -- a.k.a. the “Mad Men” theme.

Will there be surprises? Seems likely. On Friday, Timberlake’s label-mate Usher made a surprise appearance at the Fader Fort during rock/rhythm/blues band Afghan Whigs' early evening gig; one wild rumor circulating on Thursday, in fact,  had the Whigs serving as Timberlake’s backing band. But that’s doubtful. Timberlake’s embarking on a summer tour with Jay-Z, and unless he’s hired the Whigs as his full-time band, He will likely be rehearsing with his touring outfit. But -- as is often the case in Austin -- who knows? Pop & Hiss will be there front and center to find out. 

ALSO:

SXSW 2013: Mid-festival report from Austin

SXSW 2013: A curse for the pope, an ode to 'Heaven's Gate'

SXSW 2013: Music, not tech, powers South by Southwest party

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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