Justin Timberlake's return to music has been one of the biggest stories of 2013. Not just because he was a big star who took a seven year hiatus, came back with The 20/20 Experience, and sold extremely well, but because as recently as last year it seemed like JT would rather act than sing.

Suddenly, this January, Timberlake said he had a new album, went on an all-out marketing blitz, dropped said album, and is now slated to hit the road this summer with Jay-Z for the Legends of The Summer tour. Why the sudden change of heart? 

Well, The Hollywood Reporter has some theories. They're reporting that the reason JT put an album out was because of a deal he had with Live Nation which he had to make good on.  

One entity that was putting money on the former 'N Syncer's musical future: Live Nation. In 2008, the concert industry giant entered the business of Timberlake when it acquired Signatures, a leading merchandising company that counts the pop star among its exclusive licenses. Months later, it announced a multiyear agreement to feature 901, the premium tequila brand Timberlake launched, as the official tequila of Live Nation venues.

According to multiple sources, a 2009 partnership with Timberlake, structured after Jay-Z's game-changing $150 million Live Nation 360 deal and Timberlake's AEG-promoted, $126 million-grossing 2007 FutureSex/LoveShow tour, was quid pro quo for a touring commitment to Live Nation. In exchange, Timberlake received about $20 million—$5 million of it free and clear, or "a gimme," as one insider describes it. (Worth noting: Timberlake could have returned it had he not toured.)

Says one high-ranking source, "There is a due date by which you have to start touring—at some point, [Live Nation] has to call in the loan."

That's not all, the story theorizes the reason the album was made in 20 days was so there would be an album to go along with the tour. And the reason JT is teaming up with Jay-Z is because insiders were worried about whether or not Timberlake chould still fill stadiums up.

All in all, it just sounds like Timberlake's hand was forced and he opted to make some music instead of giving up $5 milllion dollars which might explain the lukewarm reception to the album. Still, we can't say we wouldn't do the same. Either way, we'll see what JT does on his next album.

[via The Hollywood Reporter]