Nearly seven years ago, Justin Timberlake wowed us with his sophomore offering FutureSex/LoveSounds. It sky-rocketed his solo career and set him up to be the reigning male pop performer. What did Justin do with all this success? Well, of course he seemingly abandoned music to shift focus to acting. There was no doubt that during his musical hiatus, Justin’s fans were anxiously awaiting his return to music–then “Suit & Tie” was abruptly released. Now with unwavering support and immense buzz, Justin looks to once again wow us with his latest effort The 20/20 Experience. But does it hold up?
Those longing for a Justified or FutureSex/LoveSounds won’t get it with this album. The latest offering does once again see the return of the dymnaic partnership Justin has with producer Timbaland, but instead of offering a collection of radio ready singles, The 20/20 Experience looks to offer just that–an experience. With each track of the album averaging a seven minute run, all ten songs are structured around themselves to have various moods and movements. For any wanting the instant satisfaction his past albums gave, this one might have to grown on you, but let it, as every individual track has intricacies that can’t be overlooked or denied.
1. Pusher Love Girl
Starting off the album, the ease of this track demonstrates Justin’s effortless approach to music. With its drug metaphor, Justin boasts, “you gave me a taste now I know there’s no getting off you.” The track appropriately sets the tone for the album and with its instrumental switch up during the middle of the song (which occurs throughout the album), we’re forced to understand that no track following will be simple–this is after all, “music you can see.”
2. Suit & Tie
The single that started it all. With an impressive rise to popularity there is only one way to describe this track: feel good. With his signature silky falsetto, Justin thrills in track about confidence and style with Jay-Z’s assistance. One of the most radio-friendly offerings on the album, the track did exactly what it needed to do to garner attention.
3. Don’t Hold the Wall
“Dance! Don’t hold the wall,” screams this track with its dark primal sound. Timbaland’s unique production talent and gifted use of drums is on displayed here as this track has so many elements, it takes several listens to understand everything being thrown at you. The natural sounds of the song makes Justin command to lose all inhibitions that more convincing.
4. Strawberry Bubblegum
The album goes back on a lighter path with this track, it’s an easy R&B tune that has Justin’s vocals serenading us in a tale of how unique a girl’s love is. There is an eery calm about the record that can spark a trance during a listen–that is until its funky transformation midway through.
5. Tunnel Vision
Classic Timbaland, “Tunnel Vision” gives a small taste of the old Justin we’ve grown to love. The confident vocal delivery of the track has Justin proclaiming how he only sees one in his heart.
6. Spaceship Coupe
There’s just something about this track. Think a hipper, cooler “Until the End of Time”. With its outlandish concept, the track is an ode to a classic R&B love song and even has an appropriate guitar solo. It’s sultry and demonstrates Justin’s ability to create a sense of atmosphere with his music.
7. That Girl
Perhaps one of the best moments of the album. “That Girl” is the albums shortest track, but manages to pack the most punch. It’s pure soul, with minimal production in comparison. There’s no midsong shift, no true intricacies aside from the pure vocal delivery Justin gives. “That Girl” is a shiner and perhaps one of Justin’s finer moments in his career.
8. Let the Groove Get In
Afrobeat, soca, calypso–this is a world’s song! There is no denying where the influence of this stellar track comes from (Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”). “Let the Groove Get In” is exactly that, a groove dying to get in and take you away. It’s a feel good track and another album highlight begging to be performed.
The most romantic offering of the album, “Mirrors” is undoubtedly about Justin’s new wife Jessica Biel. The airy track glides effortlessly right to its breakdown that draws back to the elegance of the breakdown in his past “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows”. The production itself oddly has similarities to “Cry Me a River” but with stark lyrical difficulties. That was a track about pain, while this is a track about maturity and love.
10. Blue Ocean Floor
The album ends with its “serious song”. But unlike other serious moments of his past records, “Blue Ocean Floor” relies on the strength of Justin’s musical maturity. With little production and little melody, the somber track is ambient and contemplative. It definitely stands on its own as it’s stripped of the funk and sharpness of previous tracks but all the while, it’s appropriate and fitting.
Strawberry Bubblegum, Spaceship Coupe, That Girl, Mirrors, Let the Groove Get In, Blue Ocean Floor
Will you be buying The 20/20 Experience?