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Justin Timberlake brings friends - er, loose acquaintances - to Mandalay Bay

Alicia Keys, TLC and Snoop Dogg join JT on stage for all-star concert

Justin Timberlake had a few friends over Saturday night to play some music at Mandalay Bay.

Naturally, there was more to last night’s get-together than a jam session: It was a star-studded and very high-profile party for 8,000 at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

“An Evening with Justin Timberlake and Friends” marked the end of the singer’s weeklong namesake charity golf tournament and further supported the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Timberlake invited eight so-called “friends” to join him onstage last night for an all-star concert: Snoop Dogg; Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, TLC, Timbaland, Ciara and Jay Sean.

He invited a whole different group of so-called friends last year -- including current rumored love interest, Rihanna, as well as the Jonas Brothers, Will.i.am, Adam Levine and 50 Cent – but apparently none of the 2008 buddies were invited back.

None of his former Mouseketeers (ex-girlfriend Britney Spears, former ‘N Sync bandmate JC Chasez or Christina Aguilera) were invited, either – though Timberlake was spotted hanging out with his former boyband brother, Chris Kirkpatrick, at LAX on Thursday.

It all begs the question: What, exactly, is friendship in the music business? And what does it take to be Justin Timberlake’s friend?

For Ciara, it’s about mixing business with pleasure.

“We happen to share one of the same managers,” she said.

The songbird first met Timberlake “two or three” years ago, at one of her concerts.

“It was very brief, backstage,” she recalled. “I had a song out called ‘Promise’ and I remember him telling me how much he loved that record and the melodies.”

“I met his mom and family, as well,” she added – though she couldn’t remember any of their names on Saturday when she was asked.

“In a sense he’s a friend from afar,” she shrugged. “It’s not so much of an every-day, talk-on-the-phone, you know, kind of friendship or whatever. … He’s really like my brother in music. I know if I needed to reach him for advice or ask him something or, you know, call him and ask him to listen to something.”

Ciara noted that she knows fellow Timberlake and Friends performer Snoop Dogg far better.

“I’ve met him several times,” she said. “Snoop’s awesome.”

“I’ve been on one of his shows that he did for MTV,” she added, referencing Dogg After Dark.

“We did an (Adidas) event with David Beckham together. … That was the most recent,” she continued. “We took pictures. He’s always so fun.”

Ciara said she knows Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins of TLC better than Timberlake, too.

“I met her through one of our mutual friends, actually. We’ll run into each other now and then,” she said. “I’ve known her, probably, for two years. (When) she was doing soundcheck, I wanted to run back by and see her really fast, and just wave at her and say hi.”

“Ciara’s from Atlanta, she’s an A-town girl,” Watkins added.

“We’re really cool with Alicia Keys,” Watkins’ bandmate, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, chimed in, explaining, “We did work with her for the BET Awards.”

The two surviving members of the former threesome said they have known Timberlake since his ‘N Sync days.

The women knew everyone on Saturday night’s bill except for two people.

“I’m looking forward to meeting Taylor Swift,” Thomas said.

“Yeah, I’ve never met Taylor Swift or Jay Sean,” Watkins said. “Those are the only two we don’t know.”

Sean said he wasn’t close friends with a lot – OK, any – of the artists Timberlake hand-selected for last night’s show.

“I’m from England; we really don’t bump into (celebrities on the street) that often,” he said.

“In the music industry, you bump into people all the time, but you don’t really get a chance to vibe,” he said. “I bumped into Ciara before, in L.A., … a couple of months ago at this party at Nobu. … Snoop Dogg I haven’t met before, TLC I haven’t met, Taylor (Swift) I haven’t met.”

In fact, he didn’t even really know Timberlake before this weekend.

“We’re very new friends,” he laughed. “This is the first time I’ve really met him and got to engage with him.”

The two bumped into each other at soundcheck on Friday.

“We’re friends now,” he smiled.

And he has plans for his new BFF.

“I need him to teach me how to play golf. I’m very bad; I’m very bad,” he joked. “And I want him to teach me some dance moves.”

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Melissa Arseniuk

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