Judging by the insane lines outside of Hollywood’s 1500-capacity theater, the Avalon, Justin Timberlake’s pre-Grammy soirée (sponsored by Rolling Stone and VCast by Verizon Wireless) promised to be a packed and glorious night. So much so that only 45 minutes after the party had started, even artists were having trouble getting in. Kid Rock, with Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger in tow, had to circle the block three times while his team made arrangements for a drama-less entrance. Grey’s Anatomy’s Sara Ramirez (with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s Jai Rodriguez), on the other hand, had to make do on her own and simply push through the crowds. Same with Maroon 5’s James Valentine. Was it worth the hassle?
In a word, yes. One thing you hope for when Justin Timberlake agrees to host a party is that maybe some of his friends (like Nelly Furtado, Timbaland, the Black Eyed Peas, etc.) will show. Well, not only did they make it there (and fortunately, they all got in okay) but they also treated a sweaty and likely cranky crowd to a series of high-energy performances and spontaneous jams.
P. Diddy creation Danity Kane got things going before handing off the mic to Pharrell protégé Kenna, who was, in turn, joined by Timberlake on drums. Impressed by JT’s prowess on the skins, I turned to his ’NSync groupmate JC Chasez, who happened to be standing next to me, to ask what he thought. “Justin can hold his own — he’s bangin’,” he said with pride.
Fergie came next, doling out another delish “Fergilicious” from the same stage she was on last night for the Peas’ annual Peapod benefit. The girls were certainly down with the universal guilty-pleasure-of-the-moment (I saw Taryn Manning get her groove on with Tara Reid chanting along nearby) and a subsequent mini-set by the Peas, but things hit a feverish pitch once again when Justin joined in for “Where Is the Love?” I couldn’t help but think about the simplicity of that song, especially since the Peas, or Will.I.Am specifically, have really pushed the envelope with so many left-of-center hits like “My Humps” and the aforementioned “’Licious.” The message still rings loud and clear, but the sound has certainly come far.
And speaking of taking music in different directions, Timbaland was on hand once again to demonstrate his Midas touch. He joined Nelly Furtado for “Promiscuous,” natch, then called Justin back up to the stage for his new single, “Give It to Me.” That made for a perfect segue into “FutureSex/LoveSounds” and the rest was Timberlake history. I should mention that by this point, celebrities had swarmed the place. Paris Hilton made a bee-line for a VIP perch, where she sat and tinkered with her Sidekick for the rest of the night. That ’70s Show alumni Wilmer Valderama, Danny Masterson and Laura Prepon were gathered on a balcony, while the ’90s boy-band crew of Lance Bass, Nick Lachey, et al. partied across the way. Ivanka Trump, Seth Green, and James Blunt with girlfriend Petra Nemcova were there, and so was, believe it or not, Kevin Federline, who watched his ex-wife’s ex-boyfriend rock the house, no doubt enjoying the free drinks.
So let’s get to it, the grand finale. Or, as Timbaland put it, “the moment you’ve all been waiting for — you’ve already had Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry on this stage!” Um, okay… Well, you can’t fault Timbaland for being a little high on himself (He continued with, “Me and Justin, we’re the new shit. We’re bad, don’t you all agree?”). The man is up for a gajillion Grammys this weekend and has consistently cranked out hit after hit, one of the most addictive being Justin’s final joint of the night, the inescapable (and Grammy-nominated) “SexyBack.” Even Paris Hilton got up for that one.
I would say I was disappointed that Justin only did two of his own songs (plus a little beat-boxing), but the truth is, it was nearing 2 a.m. and he looked visibly exhausted. Still, there was talk of an after-party (or at least Nick Lachey was looking for one). It is Grammy weekend after all, and the fun’s just begun.