Why Justin Timberlake Will Never Be MJ

In the race to replace Michael Jackson, Justin is the clear front-runner. But he won't win.

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And the similarities don't end with their routes to stardom. Also notable are Jackson and Timberlake's comparable performance styles: rhythmic pop songs perfect for choreography, impossibly high falsettos, grandiose stage shows and the dancing. Oh, the dancing—quick, airy stuff that entertained as much as it confused, often leaving awestruck audiences asking, "How'd he do that?"

The comparisons and the similarities are no coincidence, of course. Timberlake himself has admitted to emulating Jackson in a number of ways, from his footwork to his fashion—they're also obvious to anyone who pays attention to popular music.

At the BET Awards immediately following Jackson's passing, Entourage actor Jeremy Piven jokingly proclaimed, "If not for Michael Jackson, [Timberlake] would be selling curly fries in the Valley." Though it's doubtful that Timberlake would have been filling your McDonald's order under any circumstances, there is an underlying truth to Piven's comment: By design, Justin Timberlake is the closest facsimile to Michael Jackson working in music today. If you can accept that, is it time for you to also accept Timberlake as your new King of Pop, the superstar who will pull the sequined glove from the stone and begin his reign?

One thing keeping JT from being the next MJ: a lack of inventiveness. And that's not to say that the *NSYNC alum isn't a remarkably talented performer, but it's undeniable that his skill set is the derivative of his predecessors. The beatboxing? That's from Biz Markie. The ostentatious, unashamed sexuality? Little Richard perfected that. The high notes, fast feet and fedoras? Well, clearly that’s Michael.

Michael Jackson took the music video from hasty, ramshackle necessary evil to epic, enthralling mini-movie; he shattered the idea that performers shouldn't make use of the entirety of the stages on which they sang; he originated one of the most thrilling dance moves in history. Cynics might rightly suggest that, like most celebrities, much of Jackson's most successful decisions were probably made by advisers, but they certainly all weren't, and a few of his moves hint at true brilliance. Conversely, Timberlake does a bang-up Michael Jackson impression, but beyond that, there's not much else. Ultimately, it seems more "filler" than "Thriller."