By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop star Justin Timberlake has brought his trademark sexy crooner voice back with his first new song in five years, receiving a warm welcome from fans and critics on Monday on his long-awaited return to music.
The singer released "Suit & Tie" featuring Jay-Z on Sunday night, and within hours, the song had topped the U.S. iTunes chart. The new single also came with the announcement of a new album, "The 20/20 Experience," to be released later this year.
The new song, produced by Timberlake's long-time collaborator Timbaland, features the singer's falsetto voice over a laid-back, hip-hop beat, fusing R&B and pop sounds.
Critics drew on Timberlake's newly married status - the singer wed actress Jessica Biel last October - as a possible inspiration for the track.
Rolling Stone Magazine reviewer Jody Rosen called the single "a gift to the world's wedding DJs ... an ode to dressing to the nines and going dancing."
Pitchfork music website reviewer Stephen Deusner said the track was "one hell of a wedding reception jam, as bubbly as champagne," while Billboard's Jason Lipschultz called the song a "sleek, wholly assured dance number."
Timberlake, 31, who teased fans with cryptic Twitter messages last week, quickly became a trending topic on social media, along with the song.
MTV Buzzworthy's editor, Tamar Anitai, said the avid online response was no surprise, given Timberlake's vast fan base and the long wait for new music.
"None of his fans have gone anywhere. He's the type of artist who can take 7 years between albums and his fans are still waiting outside his studio door," Anitai told Reuters.
The singer's last album, "FutureSex/LoveSounds" in 2006, produced six hit singles including "SexyBack," which brought the singer four Grammy awards.
ROOM FOR TWO JUSTINS IN POP MUSIC?
Timberlake rose to fame as one-fifth of 1990's boy band N'Sync, becoming a pin-up for his good looks. He dated fellow singer Britney Spears.
After N'Sync parted ways in 2002, Timberlake launched his solo career with a new look and edgier sound in his debut solo album "Justified," with songs like "Cry Me A River" and "Rock Your Body," becoming chart hits. The album won a Grammy award.
His "FutureSex/LoveSounds" album arrived at the forefront of a new sound in the pop charts, fusing pop, R&B, hip hop and dance.
"'FutureSex' is what people are holding onto because it had that really futuristic sound from Timbaland," Anitai said.
Timberlake took a musical hiatus the last five years to focus on his acting career. He appeared in 2010 Facebook film "The Social Network," 2011's "Friends with Benefits" and last year's "The Trouble With The Curve," alongside Clint Eastwood.
During Timberlake's time away from music, a new Justin blazed a trail onto the pop charts, Canadian teenage pop phenomenon Justin Bieber, who has drawn comparisons to Timberlake for his inclusion of hip hop and R&B in his music.
Bieber, who has more than 32 million Twitter followers, tweeted a tip of the hat to Timberlake after the "SexyBack" singer posted his teaser on Thursday, saying "i have heard some stuff. u got a good reason to be ready. #greatmusic."
"There is room for two Justins, but Justin Timberlake is the original Justin and I think there's always going to be room for him," Anitai said.
(Editing by Philip Barbara)