Traditionally, there aren't usually many big releases coming out in January, so it's a great time for the superstars of yesteryear to attempt to remind the world that they still exist. Even if they haven't been around for a while, big established names are great clickbait, and since everybody has some weakness for nostalgia, we all win, right? Well, at least until the reality sets in that most of these comeback attempts just aren't that impressive.
Justin Timberlake - Suit and Tie
Did anyone else gag a little when they read JT's "open letter"? Luckily, the song itself isn't nearly as pukey, but let's face it - he's doesn't appear to be bringing sexy back this time. On the other hand, according to Billboard the song is selling a crapload so far, despite mostly inspiring a big shrug on the part of critics (and the internet in general). It's a little hard to tell if he's using the song to sell his revamped Myspace, or if the new Myspace is just a way to help sell the track. I guess this is what they call "synergy"?
It's not really that bad, just not that interesting. The slowed down bits are pleasingly weird, but the lifeless uptempo main beat feels like a cheap keyboard preset. Jay Z isn't exactly bringing his A-game to his guest appearance, but it's not awful either.
Verdict: Justin Timberlake's music career has a better chance at a comeback than Myspace, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.
David Bowie - Where Are We Now?
Can we please stop pretending to be so amazed that Bowie managed to keep his return to the recording studio a secret? It's really not that big a deal. Also, while it's nice that he managed to hit #6 on the UK singles chart with this gloomy glam ballad, isn't it kind of depressing that this was his first UK top ten in twenty years? Has it made any kind of impact in North America, outside of anglophile music critic circles?
The production is actually quite nice, but that Tony Visconti touch isn't enough to make up for the fact that Bowie neglected to write a decent chorus. It's also a little dismaying that Bowie is so willing to play the nostalgia game by bringing back former collaborators like Visconti and video artist Tony Oursler (who's projection-face treatment was last seen in the Little Wonder video). Say what you will about his drum'n'bass experiments in the 90s - at least back then he was still interested in looking forward rather than reliving the past.
Verdict: We're still curious about the album, and cautiously optimistic, but disappointed that Bowie appears to be embracing nostalgia.
Destiny's Child - Nuclear
Speaking of nostalgia, this new Destiny's Child just reeks of the 90s. Somewhere between Soul II Soul and Janet Jackson, Nuclear isn't exactly what fans were hoping for, but isn't embarrassing either. Though like Bowie and Timberlake's comeback attempts, this one is also lacking a memorable hook. It feels like any second there's going to be some change to bring it up to the next level, but instead it just floats along lazily.
If this is supposed to get us excited for their much-hyped Superbowl appearance, it's not doing the trick. If it were just an album track sitting alongside some catchy singles, it would be a different story, but it just doesn't have the feel that a big single should have.
Verdict: It's growing on us, but there's no way this has any chance to become a true R&B anthem.
Suede - Barriers
Finally, a comeback song with an actual chorus! Brett Anderson's wail is sounding pleasantly flamboyant, and Richard Oakes's guitar licks bring back fond memories of Bernard Butler's earlier work with the band. It must suck to be constantly compared to the guitarist you replaced in 1994, but there are worse things in life.
Barriers sounds better than anything the glam revivalists have done in many years, but some might argue that's very faint praise. Compared to early songs like Animal Nitrate, it feels a touch lifeless, which should perhaps be expected: they were a hell of a lot younger back then.
Verdict: Much better than we anticipated, but still unlikely to transform them into a buzz band again.