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Madonna and Justin Timberlake might not be the most obvious musical pairing ever but they made one of the most memorable hits of the 2000s together: “4 Minutes.” Madonna revealed that the track only existed because she liked one of Timberlake’s songs so much. She went so far as to call Timberlake a musical genius. 

Justin Timberlake was part of yet another Madonna rebrand

First, a quick refresher on the pop music of the 2000s. First, Gwen Stefani teamed up with hip-hop producer Pharell Williams to create the massive hit “Hollaback Girl.” From then onward, much of the era’s pop music was the result of female singers teaming up with hip-hop producers. Fergie, Nelly Furtado, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears all jumped on the bandwagon. Madonna was a little late to the party with 2008’s Hard Candy. It’s a pop/hip-hop hybrid produced by Williams, Timberlake, and Timbaland.

Of course, Madonna changing her sound might feel like pandering to a younger audience. However, the Queen of Pop changed her sound numerous times by that point, evolving from a dance-pop goddess to an R&B balladeer to a Broadway belter to a techno maven to the most dubious cowgirl of all time. By 2008, change was practically a tradition for the Material Girl.

During a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, the singer explained why she wanted to work with Timbaland and Timberlake on Hard Candy. “I always go, ‘OK, who’s making music that I like right now?'” she said. “I really, genuinely like the music of Timbaland and Justin. Justin is a brilliant songwriter. I mean, ‘What Goes Around… Comes Around?’ Brilliant. I thought it would be a challenge to work with him.”

What Madonna thought of her collaborators

In the same interview, Madonna was asked if she could sense the ambition of other artists. “Yes,” she said. “There’s people like Justin Timberlake, who’s really good-looking and laid back. He’s sort of a Cary Grant. I love him, I love working with him, but I don’t recognize myself in him.”

The question was interesting because Madonna might be more associated with ambition than any other singer from her era. She even embarked on a tour called the Blond Ambition World Tour. If Madonna saw Timberlake as ambitious, he was probably planning on taking over the world.


Why Britney Spears Was Nervous When She Recorded This Song Written by Justin Timberlake

How Justin Timberlake’s ‘What Goes Around… Comes Around’ performed

“What Goes Around… Comes Around” was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week, staying on the chart for 25 weeks. It came out when Timberlake was at the top of his game, releasing huge hits while garnering critical acclaim for his maturing musicianship. By contrast, Timberlake only seems to make headlines today because of his personal life, including revelations about his former relationship with Spears.

“What Goes Around… Comes Around” appeared on the quintessential Timberlake album: FutureSex/LoveSounds. That record was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for two weeks, remaining on the chart for 106 weeks in total. FutureSex/LoveSounds remains his most popular album as a solo artist.

“What Goes Around… Comes Around” was a big hit and it paved the way for one of the best songs of Madonna’s later career.