Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Keepsake from the ultimate champs of the '90s boy-band competition

Long ago and far away, serious young men regarded boy groups as a dire threat to their musical way of life. But that was before 9/11 and American Idol taught us first what a threat was and then what crap was. This modest 12-song summation tops anything Boyz II Men could muster, and though it lacks a masterpiece to equal Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," everyone this side of Nick Carter's mama knows that Justin Timberlake was a lead singer of vastly superior chops, emotional delicacy and wit. "I Want You Back," "It's Gonna Be Me" and "Bye Bye Bye" fire up prefab rhythm at its most efficient. And ballads that were once icky as inescapable objects of obsession are now kinda touching as artifacts.

Blender, Dec. 2005