With his latest music video, Justin Timberlake has logged an entry in the ongoing public debate about what constitutes art by featuring a trio topless, and at times nude, female dancers. Timberlake, along with his frequent collaborator and producer Timbaland, appear in the video fully clothed. The dancers are never in the same scenes as the men and appear to have been shot completely separately.
The nearly 7-minute clip is simply shot on sound stages, with some post-production elements and a smoke machine as the only high tech elements to speak of. The stark setting suits the lyrics; watching the clip certainly does enforce a sense of tunnel vision while watching.
This treatment is what generated such controversy around Robin Thicke’s uncensored video for “Blurred Lines,” with some commentators remarking that the problem with the nudity was not the nudity itself but the fact that the men in the video were dressed — which suggests a position of power over the naked women.
Timberlake’s clip is significantly more artful in its presentation, but even so it’s an interesting and unexpected choice for him. Things become more problematic near the end of the track when the phrase, “I know you like it” is repeated and even written on the screen as Timberlake and a dancer mouth along. The politics of naked women chanting that phrase are challenging, at best.
The clip has already caused a stir on YouTube, with over 20,000 likes and over 1,000 dislikes and a rash of comments from users discussing if the video is pornography or art. Some feel Timberlake is selling sex, while others find the clip to be sexy without being overtly sexual.