Timbaland x Genius.com Interview, Talks ‘Boy Band’ & Swizz Beatz Beat Battle
"I'm looking for staying power—people who understand that this is not about a show." Timbo spoke with Genius about the season’s top contenders and his favorite boy band from the ‘80s. He also discussed the inspiration behind his beat battle with Swizz Beatz: meditation is a big factor. You can see Timbaland on ABC’s “Boy Band” on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.
Genius: How did you get involved with Boy Band in the first place?
Timbaland: [The network] showed what they was tryna do and I thought it was a perfect match for what I am trying to do, so it worked out perfect.
What really sold you on it?
Just working with kids. Being involved with young talent of today and seeing them rise to the occasion and what they’re tryna do in their life. I’m all about helping the young musicians and artists of today.
What’s the one thing you’re looking for in the perfect boy band?
I’m looking for staying power—people who understand that this is not about a show, that this is going to be a lifestyle that can be forever if you want it to be—and try to create a sound that just doesn’t go away. Finding unique voices and unique charisma, and putting it all together. When you have that… like you have ‘N Sync and there was a dope charisma of people and just different types of textures or sounds which made that band last the way they lasted. That’s what I’m looking for.
Speaking of, what’s your favorite boy band of all time?
I think my favorite boy band has to be ‘N Sync. No, I think Jodeci. Jodeci was my favorite boy band.
Any favorite songs?
“Forever My Lady.” That was a great song. You’d never heard it like that… a slow ballad, it was just produced different.
Back to the show, you seemed very moved by Jaden Gray’s first audition. Has he stayed a front runner for you?
He’s great because he comes from the same background―we both come from church―and he has a unique voice with a lot of runs. But it’s so unique to have somebody like that. You really see, is this a competition, or are you just trying to be seen, or are you really understand the significance of being in a boy group? He’s trying to show the world, really show us, that ‘I’m just not a church boy.’
Have any of the other contestants shown you something completely unique?
Brady has been one of my most looked at―there’s been a couple like Brady, Marcus―because they’re not loud but they’re loud. It’s hard to explain. They’re not upfront but their charisma, something about them, it keeps them in the front and center. Brady has this unique tone and I think he’s starting to understand that people really like his opera tone so now he’s getting into the charisma of singing with it. Marcus shows great leadership and he just has that star look…the way he moves he just seems like he’s been there before. Some people are just gifted, you can just see it, and that’s what I’m looking for. Something that you can see on a billboard, something you can see all around the world… they gotta have those faces that you don’t get tired of looking at and that voice you don’t get tired of hearing. We haven’t seen that in a while with boy bands and I believe that when you look at them on TV, you can just tell who you want to see.
Besides longevity, what other qualities do you think you’re gonna see in the winning boy band?
You’re gonna see a boy band that can develop. It’s going to really shock you because this is―even for me―it’s a competition but we’re putting them in front of America’s face. It’s not like it’s pre-recorded, so when you really wrap your head around what we’re doing, it’s right on the spot. It’s going to be up to us, the architects, once they see how serious we are, this is where we take it to another level. Once they see what we’re looking for and once we address it, there’s no room for error. When you see the band that’s put together, you will see four boys who have never worked as hard as they have worked in these last few weeks. I hope they will take that journey and continue it.
What’s been your favorite performance thus far on the show?
I don’t really have a favorite yet. I feel like we just now really kicked into gear. I liked the Rihanna cover, but I believe it’s not my favorite yet because the first performances were for me to see what I see in each individual person. I believe performances are going to go into another gear because they’re all comfortable with each other. The best performance is yet to come.
Let’s pivot to your beat battle with Swizz. What was the inspiration behind the beats?
The first is one, I like movies, so I try to think about, if I was in a movie. See when I do music, I see it in colors. I see it in stages. I see the world, I see the people as colors. So when I heard the first beat on the vocals, I was thinking if I was on a mountain, you know how they have mountains in L.A., but it was just me sitting up there thinking. I wanted the sound to feel like thoughts. When I created the whole mash-up of vocals, and I wanted it to feel like it was in the clouds. That’s how I came up with that, I wanted it to feel like I was in a cloud. Not drug clouds, but in the clouds.
Meditating, that’s what I got from that beat, because if you hear it live it has major sounds in it. The rhythm flowing, water, but it’s still dance-able. I saw myself dancing, meditating, but still moving. Waiting for the next chapter of my life, if that makes any sense. That’s how I look at my music now—trying to envision places I want to be, a certain color with a sunset, the Northern lights, what would sound good with the Northern lights? The way I see music now is way different. I have it elevated to another level that I never understood what I was doing. When I’d done interviews before I could never really speak on it because I never understood my gift. I never understood what was I feeling or what I was doing, but now God has taken it to another level where I see it.
Are you familiar with what synesthesia is? It’s the relationship between color and sound. And when you hear a sound it evokes a color for you and certain people will respond to sound in that way.
Yes. I never knew the name. I know there’s always a name for everything that we think about, but I just embraced it, and I knew it was something. I heard of that word, that carries what I’m saying. You just said it.
That’s dope. I’m excited to see the rest of the show to see who prevails.
Yeah, I think it’s going to be cool because we’ll make it interesting now. America’s going to look in the same eyes we’re looking in. Some people are going to disagree to agree. And that’s the beauty about it because we doing it with America.
Anything else you want viewers or fans to know?
I want America to know that this is a choice. This is not a regular TV show… this is really making America’s boy band. I’m an assistant coach, but America you are the coach. We are putting the players in for you to see, and we are telling you what we think, now what do ya’ll think? This is a participation between the architects and America and I believe that we’re gonna create the most amazing boy band and it’s going to be a part of America.