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"Sexy Back" was certified three-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and three-times platinum by Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA)."Sexy Back" is one of the best selling singles of all time."This is such a departure from the first record," said Timberlake."More people might like it, less people might like it, but you can't call me a chicken." "Sexy Back" was commercially successful in the United States.Glenn Gamboa of Newsday was complimentary towards the song, writing that it was "Timberlake at his best, mainstreaming a combination of the wild, edgy dance-pop style of Basement Jaxx with Missy Elliott's more experimental hip-hop to create a boldly inventive sound that still pleases the masses." Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times wrote: "...'Sexy Back', a twitchy, emaciated track that shot to the top of the charts and also became an irritating catchphrase.(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."Sexy Back" became Timberlake's first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, staying seven weeks at the top spot.It also topped several of Billboard magazine's other charts, including the Mainstream Top 40, Hot Dance Airplay, and Hot Digital Songs, and entered the top ten on most singles charts.
Both the guitar and bass were digitally imported in Pro Tools during mixing, and only a section of the guitar recording was copied and pasted throughout the song.Andrew Murfett of The Age wrote that the song was a "raunchy club banger that slyly suppresses" Timberlake's customary falsetto.