It’s been seven years since Justin Timberlake put out the then groundbreaking FutureSex/LoveSounds, ones whose futuristic production styles made it something unique, without taking away his polish. In the seven years that it’s taken for The 20/20 Experience to come out, no male pop star has really went out of his way to put out quality music. Sure Bieber and Mars has filled up the whole quite nicely, but nothing really came close to Timberlake status.
However, there is a big problem with being Timberlake status; if it’s not perfect, it end up being a bit of a letdown. That’s where The 20/20 Experience gave me; a mixed bag of real pop gold that is unquestionably worth the wait, and moldy, gaudy mess that left me scratching my head. Is this REALLY what Justin was waiting to put out for us?
Call me a sucker for the big band style of music, but that’s when Timberlake sounds the best on this album. The opening two songs “Pusher Love Girl” and the single “Suit & Tie (feat. Jay-Z)” shows off the Timberlake that we’re all accustomed to, with a brilliant falsetto voice and catchy delivery style. “Strawberry Bubblegum” doesn’t have the horns or big band behind Timberlake, but the subtle poppy rhythm that backs him complements the songs’ overall message perfectly. “That Girl” is a rather sweet love song that rides rather sexy guitar parts thanks to The Tennessee Kids backing him. The closer “Blue Ocean Floor” sounds like an introspective ballad with sudden fade ins that helps give the song a dream-like state of itself.
If you’re no fan of the horns and band sound, then get ready for a futuristic, around the world style mess. “Don’t Hold The Wall” holds an awful position following “Suit & Tie,” bringing in Timberland’s Egyptian-esque overproduction that sounds like it’s trying to outdo Timberlake on his own album. That become awfully apparent halfway through, where the “How you like it” break down section comes in. “Spaceship Coupe” started off well, but the inclusion of awful moaning immediately takes me out of the song. “Let The Groove In” has a solid Latin flavor beat behind it, but the delivery of four lines/chorus made the song too repetitive to be enjoyable.
The biggest red flag on the album (besides some production choices from Timberland) is the length of the songs. With only ten songs on the normal version of the album, stretching the songs out to seven and eight minutes makes some of the songs irritating to listen to fully. “Mirrors” WAS a decent pop song about realizing what he wants in his life, with an almost NSYNC-feeling beat to it, but the last half of the songs is terrible. You could’ve cut the song in half and it would’ve been a nice song towards the end of the album, but it just kept going. Other songs like “Let The Groove In” and “Don’t Hold The Wall” suffer similar fates, though without the extended bit on the former, it wouldn’t be too much of a song. The only exception on 20/20 is the opener, as the four minutes tacked onto “Pusher Love Girl” actually gave it a different swagger that was quite enjoyable.
If anything, The 20/20 Experience left me wanting more suave, big band Justin Timberlake, instead of the overly gaudy, futuristic (to an extent) Timberlake, which felt rather t. There are many more flaws that one could point out, like the cheesy lyrics Timberlake croons (“Just like the movie shoot, I’m zooming in on you” from “Tunnel Vision”), but that gives him the charm that we’re all know of and admire about him. You can also knock him for the persistent use of Timberland production, but it was rather hit and miss (and those hits REALLY hit). At the end of the night, I will probably still be revisiting some of these songs from time to time throughout the rest of the year. This is probably one of the hardest albums to grade; I did get true enjoyment from listening to the album, but the flawed songs that I came across soiled my listening experience. Take the good from the bad, JT is back. And with rumors of a new album coming in November, I can only hope that it will bring out what we all expect from a Justin Timberlake project – pop perfection.
No matter how illogical that statement might actually be.
Final Grade: C+
Go Download: “Pusher Love Girl”