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Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z kick off 'Legends of the Summer' tour
The partnership between Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake may seem a bit strange.
Jay, after all, has ruled hip-hop for years, while Timberlake, even at his edgiest, has rarely ventured beyond the poppier side of R&B. Timberlake's 2006 duet with Jay-Z's wife, Beyoncé, "Until the End of Time," was far more expected.
However, when Timberlake made his surprise return to music in January, after years of focusing on acting, it was with Jay-Z by his side for "Suit & Tie." And they quickly solidified their relationship by announcing a stadium tour, which kicks off Wednesday in Toronto and runs through Aug. 16 in Miami, stopping at Yankee Stadium for shows July 19 and 20.
So why did these two hook up? Was it for artistic reasons? Perhaps. Was it the influence of Timbaland, who worked with Timberlake on "The 20/20 Experience" and Jay-Z on his new album, "Magna Carta Holy Grail"? Maybe.
Most likely, it was a combination of those reasons and the new realities of the music industry, where even superstars have to find new ways to get the public's attention and encourage them to buy albums and concert tickets.
"We don't have any rules," Jay-Z says in a commercial for Samsung, which doubled as the announcement for the release of "Magna Carta Holy Grail" earlier this month. "That's why the Internet is like the Wild West, the Wild, Wild West. We need to write the new rules for what's going on right now."
In Jay-Z's world, those new rules include getting Samsung to pay $5 million for 1 million copies of "Magna Carta Holy Grail" that the company would offer for free to owners of its Galaxy phone -- guaranteeing the album will be a platinum-selling hit, even before its release. Those new rules also may include teaming up with an artist like Timberlake, whose core audience is radically different from his, to make a summer stadium tour viable.
Gary Bongiovanni, president and editor in chief of concert industry trade publication Pollstar, expects the "Legends of the Summer" tour to do well, since "neither of them has toured extensively and there's a pent-up demand." However, he adds that if Jay-Z and J.T. didn't combine forces, they probably wouldn't have been able to fill stadiums across the country.
"There are very few artists out there playing stadiums right now -- Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney -- and even then not in every market," Bongiovanni says. "And those who could potentially play stadiums, like the Rolling Stones, are opting to play indoors, because, unless you're very close to selling out every show, you'd be better off in a financial sense playing indoors because there's lower overhead."
Of course, even the best business strategies can't make a tour work without the music.
Timberlake, for his part, told Ellen DeGeneres in one of the few interviews he's done to promote the album and tour that music is still important to him.
"It's my favorite thing to do," Timberlake said. "That's probably why I do take my time putting out records, because they really are special."
"With my first two solo records, coming from a group, I think I probably felt like I had a lot to prove," Timberlake said later in the interview. "With this one, it just came out of nowhere, and it turned into 20 songs."
Because both Timberlake, whose "20/20 Experience" is the year's biggest seller so far, with more than 2 million copies sold, and Jay-Z haven't done a lot of talking about the "Legends of the Summer" tour, no one is really sure what to expect. After all, when the tour was first announced, people didn't even know Jay-Z would release a new album before the tour began. (There's been no need to elaborate, since most of the dates nearly sold out when they were announced.)
Considering how Timberlake's few TV appearances since the album's release and his private show at Roseland Ballroom have all been with the backing band the Tennessee Kids, also billed on the song "That Girl" from "The 20/20 Experience," it seems likely they will be part of the stadium-size spectacle J.T. and Jay-Z are planning.
Beyond that, though, it's hard to predict. Timberlake had his first run-in with censors -- beyond that whole Super Bowl fiasco with Janet Jackson -- this month when YouTube banned and then unbanned his video for "Tunnel Vision," which features topless female dancers. Jay-Z's performance on top of the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater scheduled for last week, as part of "Late Show With David Letterman" was approved by the city officials and then canceled, citing security concerns.
Trying to play that unique venue, where Paul McCartney played four years ago, shows how Jay-Z is still interested in trying new things. "That ain't supposed to work -- not against these lush sounds and this live instrumentation," Jay tells a group of producers, including Pharrell, Rick Rubin and Swizz Beatz, during a Samsung commercial. "That's what hip-hop is. It's the emotion."
WHAT "Legends of the Summer: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z"
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. July 19 and 20, Yankee Stadium, 1 E. 161st St., The Bronx
INFO $43.50-$279; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake don't take the title "legend" lightly. Both of them have plenty of the bling musicians crave most: platinum records for sales of 1 million units.
PLATINUM SINGLES (6) "Empire State of Mind" (2009, triple platinum); "In Paris" (2011, triple platinum); "Run This Town" (2009, double platinum); "99 Problems" (2003); "Numb/Encore" (2004); "Otis" (2011)
PLATINUM ALBUMS (14) "Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2" (1998, five times platinum); "Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter" (1999, triple platinum); "The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse" (2002, triple platinum); "The Black Album" (2003, triple platinum); "The Dynasty: Roc La Familia" (2000, double platinum); "The Blueprint" (2001, double platinum); "Reasonable Doubt" (1996); "Vol. 1: In My Lifetime" (1997); "Unfinished Business" (2004); "Collision Course" (2004); "Kingdom Come" (2006); "American Gangster" (2007); "The Blueprint 3" (2009); "Watch the Throne" (2011)
(In addition to his solo awards, Timberlake has three platinum albums with 'N Sync.)
PLATINUM SINGLES (5) "Sexy Back" (2006, double platinum); "Dead and Gone" (2008, double platinum); "Suit and Tie" (2013, double platinum); "My Love" (2006); "Summer Love" (2006)
PLATINUM ALBUMS (3) "FutureSex/LoveSounds" (2006, four times platinum); "Justified" (2002, three times platinum); "The 20/20 Experience" (2013, double platinum)