Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2: Album Review

October 3, 2013 § Leave a comment


When Justin Timberlake announced his mega-comeback to the music industry after submerging himself in acting for the past 7 years, the world breathed an excited sigh of relief. The first half of The 20/20 Experience dropped in March, and the Budweiser/tequila endorsements, stadium tours and media appearances followed almost immediately – dare I say it was…corporate-planned? It was a solid mix of a throwback sound with a futuristic underbelly.

The lengthy record (despite it having only 12 tracks) was just enough. Soon after the album dropped, Timberlake announced 20/20‘s volume two. By then, the entire experience was overkill. The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 reflects just that – it’s less about the music and more about making the money. Instead of leaving us with suspense, Timberlake and Timberland hit us over the head with more and more…and more music in a move that is overindulgent.

The album opens up with “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want).” It takes a note from Bruno Mars‘ “Gorilla” and steps into the jungle for this jumbled tune. It is overtly simple and almost laughable with lyrics like “Show me your teeth and then spread your wings/ Down and dirty, you’re loving me so loud.” Not to mention the strange accent that Timberlake tries to pass off as a “Sexyback” 2.0 but ultimately fails. Timberlake tries (and fails) to recreate a “Thriller”-esque sonic journey (yes – he even mimics Vincent Prince’s famous laugh) with “True Blood.” Clocking at nine minutes and thirty seconds, “True Blood” is painfully unnecessary and a drag to listen to. The zooming synths combined with the unsteady bassline and odd auto-tuned vocals all come off as messy.

“TKO” is one of the album’s few standouts, which is a shame since the opening line is the horrible “She kill me that coo-coochie coochie-coo.” Yet it still sounds like a track from the FutureSex/LoveSounds cutting room floor. But you can’t act for too much, right? The dull boxing-ring metaphors are saved by the pristine, Southern-tinged production.

Despite the song being a slight disappointment when it was released back in July, the first single “Take Back The Night” rushes in like a breath of fresh air after the album’s weighty first half. It draws disco/funk influences from Michael Jackson‘s Off The Wall combined with Luther Vandross‘ “Never Too Much” – so it definitely has the potential to become a dance party staple. 

Timberlake recently joked this record was the slutty sibling to the first half’s virgin. But its more pervy than slutty, thanks to songs like “Murder” – where Jay Z calls Yoko Ono’s genitals “chocha.” With FutureSex/LoveSounds Timberlake’s ultra-sex came off as genuine and was a complete turn on. However, this new album makes him comes across as unnatural and a bit corny. Kind of like that shady distant uncle that makes inappropriately sexual remarks to you at the family cookout.

But the album is not a complete loss! The highlights from 2 of 2 comes courtesy of the record’s second half with songs like “Drink You Away.” The honky-tonk mid-tempo is Timberlake’s version of Lady Gaga’s “You & I” – it’s bluesy, slightly melancholic and quite beautiful.  “Only When I Walk Away” serves as the sole tune that finds Timberlake in a refreshingly different sonic realm. The angsty, electric guitar-laden tune starts off with the singer frustrated yelping into a static microphone (finally, some raw emotion!) and finishes off with a sticky-icky, reggae-tinged outro.

The experience finally ends with “Not a Bad Thing,” a song that sounds like a bonus cut from an unreleased ‘NSYNC record. It’s insanely nostalgic, and the hidden track “Pair Of Wings” drives the fifth-grade ignorance (more than blissful) wonderment home.

The Timberlake-Timbaland duo was once great, almost unstoppable and beautifully fresh-sounding – but that was seven years ago. In 2013, Timbaland’s productions are becoming tired and Timberlake sounds like he’s trying too hard to maintain that “It” factor he gained thanks to signature songs like “Cry Me A River,” “Sexyback” and “What Goes Around (Comes Back Around).” The second half of The 20/20 Experience would have benefited immensely if the two stepped out of their limiting comfort zone and tried their hand at different sonic influences. Hell, it would’ve been great if Timberlake gave Pharrell a much-needed call.

Overall, a majority of The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 is a complete throwaway. Timberlake should have placed a small handful of songs on the first half of the experience instead of transforming it into a cash cow. This is definitely his weakest work to date, but we all now he’s capable of doing so much more. Hopefully his next project will find him in a more experimental place with wide-eyed producers/songwriters – after he goes back to his “acting” career for the next 7 years, or whatever.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Songs On Repeat

“Drink You Away”
“Only When I Walk Away”

Songs To Skip

“Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)”
“True Blood”
“Not a Bad Thing”

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