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Justin Timberlake On First Oscar Nomination: “I’m Really Humbled”

Deadline logo Deadline 1/25/2017 Anita Busch
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EXCLUSIVE: Prior to today, Justin Timberlake had been nominated for every top award in music except for … well, the two — Oscar and Tony. Today, Oscar danced, danced, danced into his pocket with a Best Song nomination for “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” from the soundtrack of the DreamWorks Animation pic Trolls. And it happened on the first soundtrack that he produced. That song was the most downloaded of 2016, a remarkable feat in that it bowed halfway through the year in May.

Timberlake not only performs several songs on the soundtrack (some in duets), wrote four original songs but also voiced the character Branch for the film, which was distributed by 20th Century Fox. In addition, he served as executive music producer, recruiting Max Martin (named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the best pop songwriters in history) to help. Together with Johan Schuster of Shellback, they churned out a major hit that climbed quickly up the Billboard Top 100 in the U.S. and became a smash around the globe.

“The ironic part is that Max and I worked together before I was really a songwriter,” Timberlake told Deadline. “I worked with him and Dennis Pop when I was 16 (in the band NSYNC) and we hadn’t worked together since, I think, the year 2000, so it’s been a decade and a half before we worked together again.”

The combination, Timberlake said, was “honestly kind of serendipitous in the chronology. I was getting a hold of Max because I just really wanted to create some music, and it seemed like almost the next week that Jeffrey Katzenberg called and asked us to come in for Trolls … and I said, this could be really cool.” The result was that Timberlake was hired on, responsible for the music for the entire movie, and also gathered together some of the strongest voice talents out there with Anna Kendrick, Gwen Stefani and Ariana Grande.

He said his mentors always told him to just trust the process.

Trolls is a musical and that was the most challenging part in writing … the movie itself felt like a pop song and we wanted it to feel that way all the way through,” he said. “The song itself had to service this huge moment in the plot and also speak to the characters, (plus) we wanted the song to also work outside of the movie itself. Maybe we kinda put that kind of pressure on ourselves, but that’s how we were thinking about it, and it just all came together.”

Uh, yeah, it came together alright. In fact, the song with the catchy “dance, dance, dance” lyric and rhythmic pop beat not only rose to heights in the U.S., it topped the charts in Canada and Mexico as well as Brazil and Argentina. Other countries in which it hit No. 1: Russia, South Africa, France, Germany, Sweden and Israel to name a few.

So how did he get today’s news? “I was recovering from a late night at the studio so when I woke up there was a whirlwind of emails and texts, but my wife broke the news to me which was even sweeter,” he said. (He is married to actress Jessica Biel.) “We were just giddy this morning, and I’m still like in a tornado. I’m just really honored and grateful they recognized the song. I’ve honestly been walking around today thinking, ‘Did that happen?’ Obviously it was a great year for Max and Johan and myself with the success of the song. I’m having a pinch-yourself moment.”

He added, “I’m really humbled by the whole thing. I think most of all, I was excited the whole year that people responded to the song. Now more than ever we need something that puts a kick in someone’s step and unites us through a good feeling. I think that is what I was always most happy about that it gives people a good feeling. For the Academy to recognize this song? Wow. Yeah, I’m pinching myself.”

Here’s a listen to the song which combined with the official Timberlake video has been listened to about 400 million times:

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