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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With the initial tidal wave of Michael Jackson memorializing—glittery, star-studded and centered around a golden coffin—now behind us, it's only natural to begin considering who will replace Michael as the King of Pop. The world needs heroes, after all. Cue the media speculation.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Monica Guzman asks whether Shaheen Jafargholi, a tween contestant on Britain's Got Talent, is "the next Michael Jackson." MTV doesn't think so, saying, "For years now, Usher has been tapped as “the next Michael Jackson." On the other side of the world, a Filipino news service claims both those suggestions are wrong, positing that Jackson's adopted son, Prince Michael II, better known as Blanket, will be his father's successor. And those are just the first three predictions that turned up on Google News.

Over the years, other suggested replacements have included everyone from Chris Brown (before his legal troubles, which might actually help his case for replacing Jackson) to Ne-Yo to American Idol punch line Sanjaya. Who ever said pop music was easy?

Nevertheless, the pack racing to replace MJ includes a clear front-runner: bubble-gum wunderkind Justin Timberlake. Regardless of your feelings about the 28-year-old singer-cum-actor, there's no arguing that he and Jackson share strikingly similar back stories.

Born of the kind of modest, Middle American households that would belie their future superstardom, both Jackson and Timberlake toiled for years in treacly boy bands which they would later recall with more anguish than joy. Both would emerge from their respective groups as the clear leaders, far more talented than their former band mates. Both would attempt solo careers. Both would succeed.