TKO (Justin Timberlake song)

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"TKO"
Single by Justin Timberlake
from the album The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2
A-side"Not a Bad Thing"
ReleasedSeptember 20, 2013 (2013-09-20)
FormatDigital download
Recorded
GenrePop,[1][2] R&B[3]
Length7:04 (album version)
4:49 (radio edit)
LabelRCA
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Timbaland
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon
Justin Timberlake singles chronology
  • "TKO"
  • (2013)
 
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"TKO"
Single by Justin Timberlake
from the album The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2
A-side"Not a Bad Thing"
ReleasedSeptember 20, 2013 (2013-09-20)
FormatDigital download
Recorded
GenrePop,[1][2] R&B[3]
Length7:04 (album version)
4:49 (radio edit)
LabelRCA
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Timbaland
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon
Justin Timberlake singles chronology
  • "TKO"
  • (2013)

"TKO" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake for his fourth studio album, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (2013). It was written and produced by Timberlake, Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley and Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, with additional writing from James Fauntleroy and a sample of Barry White's "Somebody's Gonna off the Man". The song was distributed on September 20, 2013 by RCA Records, as the second single from The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2. A remix of the track by rappers J. Cole, ASAP Rocky and Pusha T, known as the "Black Friday Remix", was also released. The lyrics use boxing metaphors to explain how somebody being knocked out feels to them when they see their ex out with another guy.

"TKO" failed to crack the top 40 on most international charts, excluding the US Billboard Hot 100 where it reached number 36. However, the song sold well enough in Canada to be certified Gold by Music Canada. Reviews of the song were mixed, with some finding a track as a modern update from Timberlake's previous music, while others found it underwhelming. The seven-minute official accompanying music video was released in October 2013, and stars Elvis Presley's granddaughter Riley Keough as Timberlake's love interest.

Production and composition[edit]

"TKO" was written and produced by Justin Timberlake, Timbaland and Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, with James Fauntleroy also serving as co-writer of the track. The song samples Barry White's "Somebody's Gonna Off the Man". Jerome Harmon performed as keyboardist, while Elliot Ives played the guitar. Justin Timberlake handled production and arrangement of his vocals, which were recorded at Larrabee Studios in North Hollywood. The track was engineered by Chris Godbey, and mixed by Jimmy Douglass, Godbey and Timberlake at Larabee Studios, with assistance from Alejandro Baima,[4] The song contains heavy drums and "scratchy" studio effects, which according to a staff writer of Consequence of Sound, is reminiscent of a "slightly more refined Justified."[5] For Jocelyn Vena of MTV News, "Timberlake wasn't lying when he said that this album would be 'more dangerous' than part 1 of the 20/20 Experience, as evidenced by 'TKO,' writing that, "The track is a Timberlake/Timbaland joint, with signature bleepy production and dark undertones, a far cry from the album's lead single, upbeat throwback jam 'Take Back the Night'."[6]

Lyrically, "TKO" leans heavy on boxing metaphors, specially with the title "TKO", which means technical knockout, to describe the feeling of being knocked out when he sees his ex out with another guy,[7] with lines like "I'm out for the count, yeah girl you knock me out."[8] During the song, Timberlake sings, "It cuts right on my eye, yeah it hurt, won't lie/ Still can't see, think I saw you with another guy/ Can't fight, knocked down, then I got over you/ Can't fight no more, you knock me out/ What am I supposed to do?." The song is punctuated by beat-boxing and Timbaland repeating the line, "Kill me with the coo-coochie-coochie-coo."[6]

Release[edit]

After releasing "Take Back the Night" as the first single from the second part of the The 20/20 Experience album, Timberlake faced the song's moderate impact on the charts[9] and its controversial title, due to the "Take Back the Night foundation".[10] After that, on September 19, 2013, the singer teased his fans with an Instagram post, saying, "Should I release a new single today???."[11] Later, he posted another photo, saying, "Get Ready...", attached to a photo of him in the studio recording a song.[12] Five hours later, Timberlake posted a tease of the track with a 15-second snippet.[13] To finish the teasing, the singer posted the single's cover art, saying, "You ready to hear it in full???," also revealing its title: "TKO".[14] On September 20, 2013, the single was released.[8]

A remix of "TKO", subtitled the "Black Friday Remix", premiered on November 29, 2013. It features new rap verses from J. Cole, ASAP Rocky and Pusha T. Cole starts the song off and responds to Kendrick Lamar's "Control" verse while also borrowing the Migos flow à la Drake on the "Versace" remix. Rocky jumps in next and delivers some slick bars before Pusha addresses what everyone will be talking about come December. "All this album of the year talk/Niggas claiming they the best out," he barks before making his own case.[15]

Critical reception[edit]

"TKO" received mixed reviews from music critics. In a favorable review of the song for PopCrush, Amy Sciarretto wrote that "TKO" "would have been quite comfortable nestled in the track listing of Justified or FutureSex/LoveSounds," however, Timberlake isn't recycling old music material, but giving it a modernized update. She added that the song is essentially this decade's "Cry Me a River".[7] According to James Shotwell of Under the Gun Review, the song is "not what you would call a conventional single choice," but an infectious Timbaland-built production: "There is something about how the heavy bass and snare blends with JT’s signature voice that taps into the soul of every pop music fan when Timbaland is in the mix that simply cannot be denied." He also expressed his opinion that "TKO" was far superior to Timberlake's previous single, "Take Back the Night".[1]

In a less enthusiastic review, Tom Breihan of Stereogum commented that the song "works as a midtempo club track that doesn’t have much of the old-school loverman slickness that Timberlake brought to the last album," referring to The 20/20 Experience, and that "the melody doesn’t quite stick the way you’d hope a Timberlake melody would."[16] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called the track "another underwhelming single" and "a retread of Timberlake's past work with longtime collaborator Timbaland." However, he commented that the second half of the song is slightly more sonically interesting.[2] Annie Zaleski of The A.V. Club wrote the song is "sunk by both its tired boxing clichés and chattering Timbaland beats that break no new ground."[17] Kyle Jackson of Common Sense Media was disappointed, writing that, "JT is notably lacking the swagger that has made him an icon. The lyrics are repetitive and heavily reliant upon weak metaphors and predictable songwriting, and the production is uninteresting at best, monotonous at worst."[18]

Commercial performance[edit]

In its first week of release, the single sold 79,000 downloads in the US, debuting at number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[19] On the chart issue date December 14, 2013, the song reached a peak of number 36.[20] The song did better on other Billboard genre charts, such as the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Pop Songs chart, where it reached number 9 and 12, respectively.[21][22] In Canada, the song only managed to reach number 28.[23] Elsewhere, the single didn't manage to even reach the top-forty, peaking at number 58 on the UK Singles Chart, in Switzerland number 68[24] and France 163.[25]

Music video[edit]

American actress and model Riley Keough (pictured) is Timerlake's love interest in the video.

A music video for the song, directed by Ryan Reichenfeld, was released on October 29, 2013.[26] Timberlake's love interest in the video is played by Elvis Presley's granddaughter Riley Keough, with the video lasting for 7 minutes.[27] The video was written by Timberlake and director Ryan Reichenfeld, and it splices scenes from a cushy loft—where Timberlake and Keough engage in various adult activities—and a not-too-distant future where the singer is roped behind a moving truck driven on a dusty road by his lady.[27] In another scene, Keough delivers a cast-iron skillet to Timberlake's cranium. Through it all, Timberlake keeps his chin up and continues to sing even while being dragged to his death.[27][28]

The video received positive reception from most critics. Carl Williot of Idolator wrote that Timberlake "dropped another epic visual from 'The 20/20 Experience' with 'TKO,' and while the subject matter couldn’t be further from that of his instant classic 'Mirrors' video, this one is just as sprawling and beautifully shot."[29] Billboard Magazine wrote that the video is " a knock-down, drag-out good time, with the singer getting into a bit of a mess with co-star Riley Keough in a slickly produced and thematic seven-minute clip."[27] Erika Harwood of The Michigan Daily called it "Disturbing and captivating, [...] another well crafted addition to the Timberlake canon."[30] However, Melinda Newman of HitFix didn't like the violence on the video, writing that, "[...] this is a misguided look at domestic violence and there’s really no way you can make it work unless you take a much more obviously cartoon-y look than they do here (they already pull all their punches- the sex is pretty antiseptic, no blood after the skillet hit, he almost seems to be enjoyed being dragged) or you really commit and go all out (and run a link to a domestic violence hotline afterwards)."[31]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "TKO" – 7:04
  1. "TKO" (Black Friday Remix) (featuring J. Cole, ASAP Rocky and Pusha T) – 4:32

Personnel[edit]

Credits from liner notes of The 20/20 Experience:[4]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

RegionCertificationSales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[52]Gold5,000^
Summaries

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

CountryDateFormatLabel
France[53]September 20, 2013Digital downloadSony
Germany[54]
Italy[55]
United Kingdom[56]RCA
United States[57]
United States[58]September 24, 2013Contemporary hit radio
Italy[59]October 18, 2013Sony

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Shotwell, James (September 20, 2013). "Required Listening: Justin Timberlake – "TKO"". Under the Gun Review. Retrieved September 23, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Cinquemani, Sal (September 20, 2013). "Single Review: Justin Timberlake, "TKO"". Slant Magazine. Retrieved September 23, 2013. 
  3. ^ O'Brien, Jon (September 23, 2013). "Weekly Singles Review: Justin Timberlake, Haim & Jonas Brothers". Yahoo! UK & Ireland. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 (booklet). Justin Timberlake. New York City, NY: RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. 2013. 
  5. ^ "Listen to new Justin Timberlake: "T K O"". Consequence of Sound. September 20, 2013. Retrieved September 23, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Vena, Jocelyn (September 20, 2013). "Justin Timberlake Knocks Fans Out With New Track, 'T.K.O.'". MTV News. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Sciarretto, Amy (September 20, 2013). "Justin Timberlake, 'TKO' - Song Review". PopCrush. Retrieved September 23, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Staff, Billboard (September 20, 2013). "Justin Timberlake Hits Fans With 'TKO': Listen". Billboard Magazine. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
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  14. ^ "You ready to hear it in full??? #TKO #newsingle". Instagram. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
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  54. ^ "TKO [Explicit]" (in German). Amazon.com (DE). Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  55. ^ "TKO [Explicit]" (in Italian). Amazon.com (IT). Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
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  57. ^ "TKO". Amazon.com. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
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