Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience 8.5/10
Following a six-year hiatus, with his new effort The 20/20 Experience, it is safe to say that Justin Timberlake has brought sexy back yet again. In the few short months since the mysterious announcement and release of the first Jay-Z assisted single, anticipation has built up to a near frenzy. Perpetuated by SNL and other late night show appearances, the same question was on everyone’s mind; does he still have it? Thankfully for us and all his loyal followers, he most certainly does.
In any industry that relies on a popular audience, it is safe to say that taking 6 years off is rarely a good idea, but in JT’s case his flourishing acting career and his celebrity romances kept him more than relevant. Even so, musically, he hasn’t dropped a beat, but that is also thanks to his most faithful collaborator: pop and r&b producer extraordinaire Timbaland. The sometimes silent (everyone knows about those interspersed “uh huhs” and “whats”) Timbaland makes a triumphant return with a little co-production help from J-Roc on two tracks. The production is immaculate, sounding enough like vintage Timbaland, but also evolved to the present time. JT and Timbaland truly are a match in heaven. A track like the banger “Tunnel Vision” harkens back to the olden days, whereas the excellent intro track “Pusher Love Girl” shows a very different, more mature and evolved side to the partnership. It is no coincidence that Timbaland started falling off around the time Justin took his musical break, as they bring out the best in each other.
Overall, each individual song sounds just as good on it’s own as it does within the context of the album. There is great balance between the more ballad-esque songs and the more hype I-wanna-hear-it-in the club cuts. The 20/20 Experience is a rather self-indulgent album, which goes in no way to discredit it. The shortest track is nearly 5 minutes long, with the average time spanning at over seven minutes. Almost every song has two distinct parts, which goes further to display Timbaland’s virtuoso production skills as he manages to segway tracks into different time changes seamlessly and making them less straight forward and that much more interesting. He treats every song like an album, with it’s own intro, structure, bridge and outro.
“That Girl” has some Latin flair to it a la “Senorita” blended with jazz horns, making it a contender for the next single. “Strawberry Bubblegum” takes an ambient route full of dark synths and electronic blips in which Justin carries the minimalist beat with seductive layered crooning. The second single, “Mirrors” is still the standout track, as pop sensibility meets booming base and vocal embellishments to crate the rich moment when it all comes together perfectly. Surprisingly, the first single, “Suit and Tie” is the weakest track, never reaching its potential and worsened by a verse by a disinterested and bored sounding mogul.
The 20/20 Experience was worth waiting for, and is a worthy follow up to the stellar Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds. The odds were certainly against JT considering his disappearance from the scene and Timbaland’s drop in popularity, but they have rekindled their former association and created a full, complex and extremely enjoyable album. Play on playas.