Their second album, No Strings Attached, set a record for the most copies sold in a single week - 2.4 million.The follow-up, Celebrity, sold 3.3 million copies in its first three weeks of release.

I was treated to an early playback of the album in an LA recording studio last week, where several journalists had assembled.

One emotional music critic observed that we were "listening to the album that Michael Jackson should have made".

But then, it shouldn't be such a surprise that Timberlake has talent - indeed, he isn't your typical boy band bimbo.

It takes two PR executives, one musical director and a very large bodyguard to protect Justin Timberlake from just two words: Britney Spears.

In the living room of the bungalow in Los Angeles where we meet, the members of Timberlake's entourage shuffle in their seats and stare at the floor whenever the conversation strays away from "the music".

Timberlake is here to discuss his debut solo album, Justified, and it's clear that this is the only subject that his "people" want us to talk about.

Unfortunately, for Timberlake, the British public have so far been less interested in his creative endeavours (even though he is one fifth of America's biggest boy-band of the moment, *NSync) than his romantic life: and, in particular, the fact that he is the man who dated the princess of pop (and self-proclaimed virgin), Britney Spears, for three years, before their break-up six months ago.

Until now, almost everything that has been written in the British press about the 21-year-old from Tennessee has been a reference to his (more famous) ex-girlfriend.

We know that he had his first taste of celebrity at the age of 12 as a "Mouseketeer" on the children's television show The Mickey Mouse Club; he starred alongside Britney, and they shared their first kiss on the programme.

We know that Britney once supported *NSync on tour, and that they performed together at last year's Superbowl. Because Timberlake is already hugely successful in his own right.

Last year, Rolling Stone magazine described *NSync as "the biggest band in the world".