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"I wanted to sing the song like a rock and roll singer, not an R&B singer.That's the approach." He was "keen for a new musical direction" following the release of his first album, Justified. Everything's [sic] got so repetitive, everything sounds the same. 'Sex Machine' is the closest reference." In addition, he admitted that the song was not going to be titled "Sexy Back", saying, "We weren't originally going to call it 'Sexy Back'.
And then there's the unique thing of Timbaland acting as a narrator, saying things like 'take it to the bridge', or 'yeah'. It's two guys interacting." Timberlake said that the chorus was "very James Brown-ish, call out and repeat, like 'Sex Machine'." He wrote the track "from top to bottom. In the Billboard magazine review of the album, contributor Katy Kroll wrote that Timberlake "claims to be bringing 'sexy' back to pop music, and indeed he is.(Suddenly everyone was bringing Adjective Back.)" Dagny Salas of North by Northwestern commented that Timberlake and Timbaland trade ridiculous lines, with "Get your sexy on/Go ahead, be gone with it" and "Dirty babe/You see these shackles/Baby I’m your slave/I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave." Salas continued in her review that it was not a song that should be good, "but does that really matter when it’s good in the way that songs are during the summer [...] That kind of good makes songs like 'Sexy Back' completely irresistible." Matt Burns of The Post wrote, "Take the polarizing summer single 'Sexy Back', a repetitive song with little structure that doesn't know when to stop, all centered on a ridiculous declaration.Somehow, it works." Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Justin Timberlake, we didn't even know that sexy was missing until 2006.It was released on July 18, 2006, to US mainstream and rhythmic radio stations by Jive Records as the lead single from the album.The song was written and produced by Nate Hills, Tim Mosley, and Timberlake himself.
Hills played the Akai MPC3000 and other virtual synths on his Macintosh computer, while Timbaland performed instruments on the Ensoniq ASR-10 sampling keyboard.