Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience: Album Review

March 19, 2013 § 7 Comments

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After 7 years of sitting through his movies impatiently waiting for new music to drop, Justin Timberlake surprised everyone when he announced his return to music with his third album – The 20/20 Experience. The singer continues with the concept album theme like with his last record, FutureSex/LoveSounds. But instead of being ultra-sexy, The 20/20 Experience is lush. Timberlake dismissed the short attention span our pop culture has today, and created a complete record with lengthy songs that create beautiful visuals. The 20/20 Experience has a film score feeling that is truly an experience – set to the best production of 2013.

“Pusher Lover Girl” is the opening track that sets the tone for the full “experience”, transporting you back to the heydays of soul music. It shows Timberlake pushing past the fashionably ultra-modern vibes of FutureSex/LoveSounds and focusing on classic R&B with Motown influences. The song, like many others on the album, is about his new wife Jessica Biel – comparing her love to a drug:

“You gave me a taste, now I know there’s a bit of you. I don’t wanna ever come down off this type of lovin’ you.”

His voice has definitely matured over the years, but he has still kept that flawless falsetto intact – which is interwoven throughout the entire record.

Compared to the other stunners, “Suit & Tie” is one of the weaker and safest tracks on the record. Yet (ironically) it is the most mainstream-sounding song – which is why it was chosen as the first single to ease Timberlake back into the music game with the help of friend Jay-Z.

“Don’t Hold The Wall” is a slinky track that finds Timbaland bringing back Middle Eastern-inspired sounds from his early Aughts days with Missy Elliot.  The Indian influences make the track seductive yet slightly menacing – giving off a Bond vibe. Combine that with Timberlake’s confident vocals and you have an instant club banger. “Strawberry Bubblegum”, a breathy mid-tempo with a bubbly rhythm, will have you bouncing in your droptop come summer. Timberlake sounds incredibly carefree on the record, mirroring his growth as a solidified force in this industry.

FS/LS was a definite influence for this record, and “Tunnel Vision” is the epitome of that. It has futuristic elements, something that Timbaland has mastered over the years. The sole uptempo song “Let The Groove Get In”  is a Latin-fusion stomper that is completely out of place. The brash track (a mix of heavy percussion,  big brass and repetitive chants) enters the record without warning and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

“Mirrors”, another track dedicated to his wife, has echoes of “Cry Me A River” and “What Goes Around/Comes Around” – just flipped for a more positive theme. The song is very uplifting and has the possibility to be Timberlake’s most epic and signature song. The second half is slowed down just right to reveal Timberlake’s vulnerable side, showing that his days of payback songs are long now – he has found the one. It makes you  long for (or wish for) a significant other.

Timberlake seems to pull reference from Frank Ocean with the unexpected album closer “Blue Ocean Floor”, a somber ballad that pulls you into the melodic waves, Timberlake reveals a different side of him. One that is a reflection of all his sophisticated, 32 years of maturity.

With The 20/20 Experience, all of the Robin Thicke references can be laid to rest. Justin Timberlake takes what he has learned from his past two records and matured those sounds for this record. The production quality is out of this world, further proving the dynamite partnership Timbaland and Timberlake has developed over the years. As with FS/LS, the tracks are lengthy with transitions that change the tracks from smooth to chopped and funky with ease. While he does not take any risks with this album, it is clear that had fun with this record instead of worrying how to top FS/LS . He is not trying to please anyone but himself and his fans – which is what truly matters.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Songs on Repeat

“Strawberry Bubblegum”

“Tunnel Vision”

“Mirrors”

Songs to Skip

“Let The Groove Get In”

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