"Can't Stop the Feeling"
You can almost hear all the other would-be contenders for the so-called "Song of the Summer" contest groaning in disappointment. Why? Because when Justin Timberlake decides he's going to drop an ear-wormy tune into the pop music mix in May—one that's on the soundtrack to the hip kids flick Trolls—it's probably curtains for other pretenders.
Timberlake's disco-funk-dance track "Can't Stop the Feeling" doesn't sound much like Pharrell Williams' 2013 smash hit "Happy" (which was from Despicable Me 2). But it has the same kind of impossible-not-to-smile-and-dance-along vibe. (Which is exactly what "ordinary" folks do in "ordinary" places in the video.) It's all about having a good time and getting your dance on.
I Got a Feeling
Boiled down to perhaps its primary essence, pop music is about making people feel something. And this song is about what that feeling, um, feels like. According to Justin, it feels awesome. There's really not much more to this song, the story of a guy losing himself in good vibrations on the dance floor with friends … and a pretty young lady he's fond of.
"I got this feeling inside my bones/It goes electric when I turn it on," JT tells us at the outset. "I got that sunshine in my pocket/Got that good song in my feet/ … I can't stop the feeling/So just dance, dance, dance/ … I fly so high, no ceiling, when I'm in my zone."
Of course, songs like these typically don't have much patience with the idea of limits. After all, when feelings are this good, you never want to stop, uh, feeling them. (There's that word again.) "Ain't nobody leaving soon," we're told. "So keep dancing." A tad later: "I don't need no reason, don't need control."
There's also a woman in the picture, as I mentioned above, who might be seen as something like a "feeling amplifier." Things never get too hot and heavy in the song itself. But there are several pointed hints that Justin wouldn't at all mind if they did a bit more when all that dancing is eventually done.
"Under the lights, when everything goes," he whispers, "Nowhere to hide when I'm getting you close." That seductive teasing mingles with suggestive fantasy as he tells her, "So just imagine, just imagine, just imagine." As for Timberlake's imagination? Well, it's already fully in motion as he ponders "all those things I should do to you."
Trolling for Deeper Meaning
In 2016, those kinds of lyrics aren't at all controversial. They weren't even in 1966. The vast majority of listeners are going to be happily, uncritically embracing and internalizing them all summer—including a lot of kids who have no idea what's really being said here. (Remember, this is the theme song for an animated kids' movie.) So I find myself needing to risk sounding like I'm pouring cold water on a superficially innocuous ditty.
But I'd like to suggest that this is exactly the kind of song we should be studying a bit more closely.
After doing that, I wish I could feel as good about the bubbly bauble as Mr. Timberlake himself obviously does.
Alas, I'm not quite feeling it.